Kenya: Bishops Conference celebrates the World Day for Migrants and Refugees with urban refugees
31 January 2018

Rt. Revs. Joseph Alessandro and Virgilio Pante, flanked by Rev. Fr Daniel Rono, unveiling the document containing the pope's proposals for the Global Compacts on Migrants and Refugees during the World Day of Migrants and Refugees at St. John the Baptist Riruta parish, Nairobi (JRS)
After the colorful liturgy, the bishops were led to the parish grounds next to the church where they planted trees, three fragile seedlings containing our hopes that this earth to which they were entrusted and which we all share will one day truly become a home for everyone

Nairobi, 31 January 2018 - St. John the Baptist Riruta Parish in Nairobi was the venue chosen by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) to celebrate the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees on 14 January 2018. The area where the parish is located has among the highest concentration of refugees in Nairobi. Many of these refugees come to the parish for spiritual and material support and JRS social workers use the parish, where an office is provided for them, as a base for refugee outreach activities in the parish’s vicinities.

“Welcome, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees” was the theme of a day which opened with a colorful Eucharistic celebration at 12:00 pm. The main celebrants were Rt. Revs. Joseph Alessandro, bishop of Garissa and Virgilio Pante, bishop of Maralal, respectively chairman and vice chairman of the KCCB’s Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Seafarers, assisted by Rev. Fr. Daniel Rono, the Secretary General of the KCCB.

bishop Joseph AlessandroMigrants and refugees are “our brothers and sisters who have the same human dignity and rights as everyone else because we are all children of the same father who is in heaven”, said Rt. Rev. Joseph Alessandro in his homily. This, he said, has been at the heart of Pope Francis’ message since his election. He went on to show how the pope “is going from country to country to meet especially the refugees and migrants and to counsel the leaders of the countries and to speak in the name of God”. Reflecting on the call of Samuel in the first reading of the liturgy, he pointed out that “God always sends some people to lead others to Him” and that in our own times God “has chosen Pope Francis as the head of all Catholic Church, representing Jesus himself, to teach us God’s will, to teach us how we should tackle, in a concrete way, the suffering of so many people displaced, being migrants or refugees”.

Indeed, Pope Francis continues to play a key role as the conscience of the world in matters related to migrants and refugees, reminding us that “today there are 250 million migrants  scattered around the world, of whom 22.5 million are refugees, who are men and women, children, young and elderly people who are searching for somewhere to live in peace. And in order to find that peace, they are willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and full of perils, to endure hardship and suffering and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from reaching their goal”. Indeed, for refugees and migrants, the world grows more dangerous each day, with many facing death by drowning at sea, exploitation and sexual abuse, at times even being sold into slavery. In contrast, the pope calls for a response based on the values of hospitality, solidarity and respect for the dignity and rights of every individual.

Every life is precious and Rt. Rev. Joseph Alessandro guarded against seeing migrants and refugees as “anonymous masses” but to see them as God sees them adding that “God knows them by name” and “has a plan for each and every one of them”. But this plan requires the participation of all in order to be realized as we are all called to be “our brothers and sisters’ keepers”. As members of the same human family, therefore, all are called to realize God’s plan by extending hospitality and solidarity to those in need, particularly refugees and migrants.

After the colorful liturgy, the bishops were led to the parish grounds next to the church where they planted trees, three fragile seedlings containing our hopes that this earth to which they were entrusted and which we all share will one day truly become a home for everyone.

Thereafter, the celebrations continued in the parish hall where refreshments were served while the audience was treated to music and dance performances by refugees from various countries. Rt. Rev. Joseph Alessandro then briefly presented Pope Francis’ proposals towards the two Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants due to be adopted by the international community at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018. The proposals are contained in two sets of 20 pastoral and actions points which will guide the Church’s own response as well as her positioning on issues affecting migrants and refugees. In a symbolic gesture, Rt. Rev. Joseph, as chairman of the KCCB Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Seafarers, flanked by his vice-chairman, Rt. Rev. Virgilio Pante, presented to each partner present a copy of the document to use as a tool for advocacy and for raising awareness.

     Rt. Rev. Joseph Alessandro explainings the pope's proposal for the Global Compacts on migrants and refugees                Ms. Audrey Auma, JRS Nairobi project director, receiving the document containing the pope's proposal from Rt. Rev. Joseph Alessandro

Left, Rt. Rev. Joseph Alessandro explainings the pope's proposal for the Global Compacts on migrants and Refugees; Right, Ms. Audrey Auma, JRS Nairobi project director receiving the document containing the pope's proposals from Rt. Rev. Joseph Alessandro as Fr. Daniel Rono looks on (JRS).

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has deliberately put himself at the service of migrants and refugees in whom he recognizes the face of God. In his pronouncements, on his tours around the world and through numerous gestures of kindness the pope has shown the way. The world he envisions is within reach, one act of compassion at a time, one step at a time in the direction of the other, one encounter at a time.  

 







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