It all started at their last AGM. The members of the Swaziland Council of Catholic Women (SCCW) told me about their with to commemorate "Refugee Day" (June 20) at the "Malindza Refugee Centre". Caritas Swaziland has been the implementing partner for many years. "We would like to do it on Saturday 18 and we would be very happy if you, bishop, join us for the celebration of the Mass".
I had other plans. I had planned to leave on Friday for the Vicariate of Ingwavuma and be available to help with the final preparations of the ordination of the new bishop. I told them so but added "as soon as you tell me the date has been confirmed... I will rearrange my commitments and will be there."
Though the following Sundays the communities were asked to help with food, clothes and toiletries, I did not know what to expect.
By the time I arrived everyone was there including five priests. The hall was packed with members of the SCCW and refugees. It was, as expected, a joyful celebration. It was a celebration of a faith able to strengthen the hope of those who are going through a tough time. It was a celebration of a faith that becomes "love in action" as their banner said.
In their speech after Mass they said:
We are from the Swaziland Council of Catholic Women. We are affiliated to the World Council of Catholic Women's organisation. our mission is to promote the presence, participation and co-responsibility of Catholic women in society and the church in order to enable them to fulfil their mission of evangelisation and to work for human development.
We are here because of
the mandate from Pope Francis, who himself is always demonstrating the Church's love for the displaced people by simple acts such as sending gifts and providing shelter for them. We are carrying the message of love. Even though there is no clear message of how we should respond to your plight we take the lesson from the story of the Good Samaritan (which without knowing I had chosen as the Gospel for the Mass);
the celebration of the celebration of the year of mercy which compels us to live in the light of the Word of the Lord: "be merciful been as your Father is". The year of mercy is an invitation to love, kindness and unbounded generosity. Pope Francis is offering us the opportunity to encounter the incredible mercy of God;
the social teaching of the Church which calls us to promote human dignity especially the call by Pope Francis to pray and support those who by different reasons find themselves in foreign land like you are today;
the Christian vocation: we are called to love others as Christ loved us and to see Christ in every personThey then added:
To the refugees we are saying: while your path has been full of twists and turns and uncertainty to get here, be courageous and remember that Christ himself and the Holy Family were refugees as they fled to Egypt to escape the terror of Herod
For more photos, click HERE