South Africa: JRS and its Partners Celebrate World Refugee Day 2018
06 July 2018

Women dancing at the World Refugee Day celebrations 2018.

Johannesburg, 6 July 2018—Last month, Jesuit Refugee Services and its partner organizations, invited refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and members of the community to gather and celebrate World Refugee Day. The activities of the day were centered around Pope Francis’ call for our shared response toward refugees and migrants: “to welcome, to protect, to promote, and to integrate”.  The day started with a Mass for Migrants and Refugees at the Cathedral of Christ the King, where Fr. Pablo presented the theme using a teddy bear and other props. Children were involved in presenting the gifts and petitions were presented in many different languages. 

Following the Mass, men, women, and children, dressed in traditional clothing, gathered together for a program full of poetry, song, and dance. While many different cultures were represented there, the tone of the event was one of unity and solidarity. A Congolese-South African woman gave a speech about her experiences and shared her own sentiments of unity, “we are all African”. After that, children from Three2Six, an afternoon education program for refugee and asylum seekers who face challenges accessing the education system, shared a dance they had prepared to a Zambian song. One girl in grade three gave a speech about her experience growing up in South Africa as a child of Zimbabwean refugees.

Many different groups shared performances from their own traditions. The Rwandese group shared music and a joyful dance. All who gathered enjoyed hymns from the Zimbabwean Choir and Nigerian Choir. After light refreshments and remarks from Mr. Robison Sathakege, representing the City of Johannesburg, and Ms. Lusungu Kanyama Phiri, from Lawyers for Human Rights, the celebrations continued. The Malawian Choir, Congolese Choir, and resident Cathedral Choir came in with high-energy and enthusiasm. It wasn’t long before everyone was on their feet dancing together and smiling.

Mr. Thifulufheli, one of the event’s MCs and organizers said it best, “Can you spot a refugee from where you are sitting? No. We are all humans.” This event was a day of celebration and solidarity. It was a place where people could forget their struggles for a few hours, dance, sing, and share in their experiences. Let’s continue to grow in welcoming, protecting, promoting, and integrating our refugee and asylum-seeking brothers and sisters.

JRS would like to acknowledge the contribution of our partner organizations namely Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees, Caritas South Africa, CoRMSA, Justice and Peace, and Bienvenu Shelter for making this a special and memorable day for refugees and asylum seekers in Johannesburg.

Sarah Garwood

Intern Advocacy & Communications Officer, JRS South Africa

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