Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
on the Move - N°
85, April 2001
Regional Meeting of National Directors
for the Pastoral Care of
Migration in African Countries
( Cape Town, South Africa, 7-9
The meeting was convened by the Pontifical Council for
the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, represented by Archbishop-President
Stephen Fumio Hamao; Fr. Loreto De Paolis and Ms. Nilda Castro, both of
the Migration Section. It gathered together representatives from various
Churches in Africa: Br. Herbert Liebl (Angola), Bishop Boniface Setlalekgosi
(Botswana), Fr. Abraham Okoko-Esseau (Congo Brazzaville), Mr. Silverio
Chidumu (Malawi), Bishop Adriano Langa (Mozambique), Fr. Simon Amy Gornay
(North Africa - CERNA), Rev. Paul Gahutu (Rwanda), Archbishop Lawrence
Henry, Fr. Isaia Birollo and Fr. Mario Tessarotto (South Africa), Rev.
Marcel Kaberwa (Tanzania), Mr. Vincent Sebukyu (Uganda) and Sr. Stella
Takaza (Zimbabwe and IMBISA). The Archbishop of Cape Town, H.E.Msgr. Henry,
welcomed the participants and the President of the Pontifical Council,
H.E.Msgr. Hamao, illustrated the aims of the meeting.
The second in a series of regional meetings (the first
was the regional meeting of Asia and the Pacific held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
in September 1999, and the other two are the planned regional meetings
of Europe and the Americas) which will conclude with a general meeting
in Rome on October 10-12, 2000, the meeting in Cape Town aimed to define
the African situation, reanimate and reinforce the initiatives that are
already being done and formulate a better link in the field of migration
between the local institutions and the Pontifical Council.
1. Migration in Africa
In his introductory address, the Archbishop-President
pointed out that the theme on migration was intentionally chosen in order
to call the attention of the local Church to the problem of migrants which
the refugee question, because of its emergency character, has ended up
in pushing to the margins. The Pontifical Council itself has indeed closely
followed the refugee situation in Africa, where it organized several meetings
on the refugee issue. However, this commitment has not kept it from paying
attention to the migration phenomenon. Although it is not as urgent as
the question of refugees, the migration phenomenon merits just as much
attention not only because of the significance of the movements that are
already taking place, but also and above all because they are expected
to become more complex and continuous.
Although the migration phenomenon does not have
the emergency connotations that the refugee question has, it is nonetheless
just as serious and as urgent especially because it is structurally intertwined
in the problems of the local society. This is even more so considering
that the causes that provoke conflicts and wars forcing people to look
for refuge outside the boundaries of their own country are simply variations
of the causes of migration: inequality in the possibility of sharing in
political processes, in economic resources (land, water, mineral, etc.),
in income and opportunities to work, in social conditions (access to social
services, schooling, health, etc.).
Among the various elements mentioned in his talk,
a point that merits to be underlined is the peculiarity of the pastoral
care for migrants that distinguishes it from ordinary pastoral care. This
specific characteristic derives from the definition which the Instruction
De Pastorali Migratorum Cura gives to migrants: "We include as people
who migrate all those who live outside their homeland or their own ethnic
community and need special attention because of real necessity."
According to this definition, a migrant is a person who lives outside
his Christian community of origin, where he received his education. In
the new community of arrival, he is culturally a stranger. In the foreign
land, the migrant needs those elements that in some way rebuilds the conditions
in which his Christian formation took place. Hence, the need for a pastoral
care that is carried out in his own language, meaning not only his tongue
but also his culture and the forms by which it is expressed. Such a pastoral
care should not be confused with what parishes organize for various categories
of people that comprise the community (for example, newlyweds, youth,
workers, children, etc.). Nor is it fully accomplished in the charitable
assistance that parishes reserve to the needy, whatever their origin or
religion may be.
To define the situation of the pastoral care of
migrants in Africa, each delegate presented a country report on the extent
and causes of the migration phenomenon and the praxis currently being
followed in the pastoral care of migrants. Msgr. Luigi Petris, Director
General of Migrantes, the Office of the Italian Episcopal Conference for
the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, offered a few tips, based
on the experience of the Italian Church, on how to develop the pastoral
care of migrants in the local Church which is not to be strictly followed
by the Churches in Africa but adapted to the local situation.
Migration is a widespread phenomenon in Africa.
Traditionally emigration countries which were sources of labor supply
for countries with mineral mines are presently experiencing immigration
of nationals from other African countries.
With the political crisis and violence exploding
in war-torn countries, it is difficult to clearly distinguish between
refugee flows and economic migration. At times request for asylum or declaration
of being a refugee is resorted to given the difficulty to apply for immigration
in many African countries.
Although there are regular emigrants who leave
the country to work, most migration in Africa are either illegal, cases
of internal displacement, or refugee movement. Emigration is usually done
individually, although once settled, the emigrant calls his family to
join him. It is only when migration is related to trade or work for humanitarian
organizations that migration entails the movement of entire families.
Brain drain is an on-going phenomenon. Africans
who study in Europe or in the Americas do not want to go back home depriving
their countries of origin of that human capital badly needed if they are
to pursue the road of development.
Widespread wars and other kinds of violence are
garnering their victims in highly traumatised persons, especially children.
2. Church structures for the pastoral care of migration
Many African Churches are in poor countries and
this is reflected in the Church structures for the pastoral care of immigrants
who come into the country. Such structures are either poorly-developed
or simply non-existent. In the few cases where there is an Episcopal Commission
for the pastoral care of migration, its role is not well-defined. This
is due to poverty both in terms of financial restrictions as well as in
personnel, both priests and religious. Another cause is the lack of awareness
of the problem on the part of the Episcopal Conference or the Ordinary.
In some cases, the Church is simply absent in the area. In war-torn areas,
Church buildings were destroyed. Due to the emergency situation in the
continent, resources are usually concentrated in responding to the needs
The scarcity of priests in the local Church makes
it difficult to send priests to follow migrants abroad or in refugee camps.
This is accompanied by the scarcity in financial
resources to fund pastoral programs in this field.
It is necessary to distinguish between social
and charitable assistance and pastoral assistance. Although they come
hand in hand, social and charitable works do not exhaust the exigencies
of pastoral care. It has its evangelization component.
A great portion of the forces of the Church is
used in facing emergencies. While it is necessary to continue doing this
(giving bread and blankets), it is however also necessary to communicate
ideas, form people and evangelize.
Given the lack of specific structures for them,
migrants are expected to form part of small Christian communities where
they receive necessary social and spiritual support. This however becomes
particularly difficult when the migrants speak a different language from
the natives. Even more so when migrants are of a different religion.
Some cultures in Africa uphold welcome to migrants.
The Church could build on these cultures and teach Christians that it
is their responsibility to receive migrants and help them settle.
3. Relationship between Church of origin and local
In Africa, there is practically no collaboration
between the migrants' Church of origin and the local Church due to lack
of priests and institutionalized structures. At most, migrants refer to
their Church of origin only when they need Church documents to receive
the sacraments, and sometimes even that is not possible, so that sometimes
sacraments are administered to migrants 'sub conditione'.
In fact, it is not always easy to identify the
countries to which African emigrants move. However, once this is achieved,
contact is attempted with priests of the migrants' nationality who are
in the receiving countries so that they could take care of their fellow-countrymen
there. If this is not possible, the local Church and the National Directors
in the receiving countries are expected to help out.
To make up for this deficiency, Bishop Promoters
for migration regularly visit their country's emigrants in their host
4. Issues to be addressed
It is necessary to keep watch against the creation
of networks of clandestine migration. However, immediate repatriation
of undocumented migrants at the borders without giving them the chance
to explain their case is not acceptable although it is often difficult
to distinguish between those who are real victims of unbearable situations
and those who are simply pretending to be so.
The fundamental right to freedom of movement leads
to the realization of other rights such as the right to education, work,
health care and access to courts of law. Any form of restrictions will
inhibit the migrant's ability to develop proper coping mechanisms.
The right to work, particularly the right to self-employment
for migrants and refugees, should be guaranteed by both local and national
legislation. Restrictions on this right promotes vulnerability. Migrants
and refugees should be allowed to work and compete for jobs for which
they are qualified.
Obstacles to integration, like settlements separate
from the local population, should be removed. Intermarriage between migrant
and host populations is a powerful means in integrating the two cultures
The majority often wants to absorb the minority.
This has to be avoided.
It is considered opportune to state in this section the recommendations
expressed by the participants. Some points have already been mentioned
in the preceding parts as observations and could thus seem to be a repetition.
That the whole Christian community - from the local
Ordinary and major religious superiors to the last faithful - in every
country be sensitized to the welcome of migrants into the community.
A means could be by sending them documents from Rome, like the Messages
for World Migrants Day, accompanied by a brief summary that would
facilitate their reading.
That bishops be informed and sensitized on the concerns of the Episcopal
Commission for migration so that they may be encouraged to appoint chaplains
and diocesan directors for the pastoral care of migration. Sensitizing
major religious Superiors would facilitate the assignment of religious
men and women to this specific apostolate.
In the Church, the awareness of the significance of the migration
phenomenon is lacking. There is a risk of the pastoral care of migration
to be considered a secondary and temporary pastoral action which does
not belong to the pastoral plan of the diocese. It is important that
there be a pastoral care of migrants in the diocesan set-up as there
is a pastoral care of the family, of the youth, etc.
That the appropriate structure for the pastoral care of migration
be set up in the Episcopal Conference if possible, through the creation
of an Episcopal Commission for the pastoral care of migration and the
appointment of a National Director.
That the National Director insist with the Bishops that there be
a Diocesan Director for migration (clergy, religious brother or sister,
or a lay person) who should collaborate with the other offices of the
diocese, e.g., the Office for the family, Office for youth.
That there be a national co-ordinator for each ethnic group. Priests
taking care of migrant communities should be given the same salary as
That the Diocesan director act as mediator between the local Church
and the migrant groups.
Thus it is important for the National Director to meet the diocesan
That financial and other kinds of support be given for the purpose
of setting up or promoting the work of the Episcopal Commission for
Migration of the African Churches which are usually poor churches.
That collaboration between the sending and receiving Churches be
fostered. In this regard, it is important to encourage the sending of
even a few but good priests to take care of their emigrant countrymen.
That bishops of the migrants' country of origin be informed regarding
the areas where emigrants from their country are present.
That priests and religious who are outside their own country be encouraged
to get involved in the pastoral care of their co-nationals abroad.
That diocesan priests who are abroad be encouraged to come back to
their country of origin to staff the local Church structures for the
pastoral care of migration.
That pastoral visits by the Bishop Promoter and/or a clergy, religious
or lay pastoral worker to emigrant communities abroad be done regularly.
This is an effective substitute for the scarcity of priests-chaplains
for migrants. Even when the situation is such that in effect nothing
can be done, simply being there with them, in an apostolate of presence,
is remarkably efficacious.
That contact with the Bishops of the country of origin be fostered.
That bilateral meetings of the National Directors and clergy, religious
and/or lay pastoral agents be held regularly to hear the viewpoints
of both sending and receiving Churches and send the minutes to all bishops
to inform them.
That catechists and other lay pastoral agents be trained for pastoral
work among migrants in Africa. This is an important step in making up
for the lack of priests and religious men and women that can be involved
in the pastoral care of migration.
That formation in seminaries include specific training for the pastoral
care of migrants. Priests should know how to win the confidence of migrants,
especially those in illegal situations, and thus facilitate the latter
in opening up to them.
That pastoral agents, whether clergy or lay, be open to learning
from those for whom they work. They have to let the people be the authors
of their lives and not impose on them another mentality.
That migrants themselves be involved in reflecting on, planning and
working out the pastoral care for migrants.
That the "missionary characteristic" of migrant communities
be tapped as a resource for evangelization.
That migrants be involved in the activities and life of the local
Church in the host country.
That a distinction be made between social and ecclesial integration.
Social integration may take place without ecclesial integration. The
local Church is to facilitate the insertion of the migrant in the local
That education and training, health care and community work be given
a high priority in programmes for the benefit of migrants in Africa.
That women, youth, children and the disabled be given special attention
in formulating programmes for migrants and refugees since they are usually
overlooked in policies and plans.
That migrants be made aware of their rights.
That migrants' rights be defended and advocacy effected.
That migrants' language and culture be respected.
That programmes of support be worked out
for those who refuse to pay a "passeur" or enter the
Mafia network so as not to be dependent on it in the future
for those who would like to go back home with dignity after being
disappointed or disillusioned with their migration experience
That counseling programs and therapy for all those who have been
traumatized by the experience of war, especially children who grew up
during the war, be planned and promoted. For children-soldiers, this
is even more urgent since they have to be helped acquire the correct
proportion of every event and situation and aided in starting anew.
That cooperation between the Church and State regarding questions
related to migration, whether voluntary or forced, should be promoted.
That preventive measures with respect to emigration be studied and
That research be done to know the causes of the problems related
That networking be made with the Catholic universities in Africa.
That awareness of the fact that migration is not just a problem but
is also a source of enrichment be promoted.
6. General Evaluation
This was the first time that an initiative on the pastoral care of migrants
was attempted at the level of the whole African continent. In this report,
we collected the main comments contained in the reports and expressed
in the discussion and exchange of ideas that followed. They represent
important aspects of the question, presented with competence, order and
a profound pastoral sense. However, the general picture that is drawn
at times appears uncertain and often incomplete.
There is no mention of figures or statistics; the experiences
seem to be restricted; co-ordination appears to be limited and the structures
hypothetical. Some of these limitations are explained in the course of
this report. Others are to be attributed to the fact that the participants
were not numerous enough to represent the whole wide extent of the African
continent, all the countries comprising it, and the variety of situations
and the complexity of the migration phenomenon existing in this immense
On the other hand, it is necessary to underline the
interest and the good preparation of each and every participant, demonstrating
that among us there are pastoral agents who are determined to tread along
the path of an effective pastoral care of migration. There are sufficient
grounds to believe that if and when a similar meeting will be held in
the near future, the void mentioned above can easily be filled, provided
that a wider participation is ensured through a minimum funding program.
There were quite a few elements that led to this conclusion.
External aspects demonstrated the seriousness by which each delegate participated
in the meeting: punctuality and constant presence from the first to the
last session; fidelity and seriousness in preparing a written report regarding
the work done in their own country; their comments after every exposition;
an attentive, active and lively discussion. It was very clear that the
delegates were well-prepared both in general knowledge as well as in the
specific sector on the pastoral care of migration.
It was especially striking to see how keenly they followed
the discussion regarding some key points in the pastoral care of migration:
the definition of migrants based not only on their social condition but
also on the fact that, whatever the reason may be, they live in a community
whose culture is different from their own; the concept of a specific pastoral
care; the various structures required by the different situations; the
principal forms of collaboration between the Churches of origin and the
Churches of arrival; the definition of a National Director and his specific
functions; the responsibilities of the missionary for migrants and his
duties with respect to the Church of arrival as well as to the Church
of origin, etc.
It was a meeting of a few but committed persons ready
to face a phenomenon considered as a structural component of their society.
They are well-aware of the waves of mass exodus similar to those taking
place in the Great Lakes, but they did not seem to worry too much. These
are emergencies that politicians have to bring to an end as soon as possible.
They instead feel that the task entrusted to them is a mission that opens
to the future of their country and their church. The refugees whom they
talk about are those who utilize the term only as a screen behind which
the unpleasantness of poverty hides. The participants themselves define
them as economic refugees.
The gratitude that was conveyed several times to the
Pontifical Council for having given them the opportunity to meet together
was neither formal nor pretended, but sincere and heartfelt.
The experience begun in Cape Town needs to be repeated
as soon as possible. It is necessary to assure the participation of delegates
from the countries that are most severely hit by the migration phenomenon
(some twenty of them) through a grant covering the minimum requirements
necessary to be able to participate. The groundwork laid down in Cape
Town assures the undertaking of a high-level initiative both in terms
of a serious commitment as well as in the expected results. It could make
Churches aware that a common care for migrants could be one of the most
fruitful and privileged reasons for initiating or intensifying cooperation
and integration among the Churches in the African continent .