Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - "Saint John the Baptist Scalabrini is a great model to whom we can turn in prayer, because he lived what we live as Church with migrants and refugees in South Africa", said Msgr. Joseph Mary Kizito, Bishop of Aliwal and responsible for the pastoral care of migrants of the South African Catholic Bishop Conference (SACBC), in his message for the first celebration of the solemnity of St. John the Baptist Scalabrini, Thursday, June 1.
"Saint Scalabrini defended the human rights of migrants. That is why we are so grateful today to have a patron saint of migrants who can intercede for us...a defender of the poor ", remarked Msgr. Kizito, who called on the people of God "to walk in the footsteps of Saint Scalabrini and call for an end to xenophobia. Saint John Scalabrini had a great vision for a better world, he wanted to see the world as a global village where all people belong".
During a seminar on cross-border migrants held in the diocese of Aliwal, Msgr. Kizito highlighted the plight of undocumented children. Although the diocese has assisted hundreds of undocumented minors in the past, the bishop of Aliwal said the diocese still has to help "many stateless minors".
"We have made some progress on the issue of undocumented children, but we are facing new challenges, especially with final year students who are still undocumented. Many of them have not received a document that allows them to take their final exams. So this is the challenge that we are facing".
During this seminar, a delegation from the Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Lesotho, together with officials from the Ministries of Interior of South Africa and Lesotho, met the Basotho migrant community (population living between Lesotho and South Africa) of the diocese of Aliwal.
According to Msgr. Kizito, more than 500 citizens of Lesotho attended the seminar for migrants, refugees and stateless people. "Lesotho is our neighbour. We wanted to emphasize family unity, but they face the problem of children who do not have birth certificates and cannot go to school", he added.
Following the seminar, delegations from the South African and Lesotho Department of Home Affairs will work to assist undocumented Basotho residing in South Africa to regularize their stay.
"There are already talks and and a review of the bi-national agreement to facilitate the movement of the Basotho who work and study in South Africa and the cross-border workers who commute daily between the two countries", explained Msgr. Kizito, who had recently called human trafficking a "scandalous industry" during a seminar of IMBISA (Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa, which brings together the bishops of Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa and Zimbabwe). (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 2/6/2023)