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Praying with Refugees in North Kivu
Monday, September 01, 2014

Displaced people living in Lubushere camp earn a bit of money by selling produce they have grown. (Peter Balleis S.J. — Jesuit Refugee Service)

(Masisi, Democratic Republic of the Congo) September 1, 2014 — The crisis in North Kivu has come to the attention of people around the world in various stories and pictures. The different perspectives we receive from the ground present not a distortion of the reality but a sign of the complexity of this crisis. 

Many people have left their homes and their land to save their lives. In new areas, their presence is often perceived as a source of possible conflict in the future. Displaced persons are often forced to squat, to work without fair pay — essentially doing whatever they can to find food and survive. This is the difficult reality that most displaced persons go through daily here. 

It is here in the Masisi territory of North Kivu that I have been newly assigned. I am a Congolese priest from another area of the Democratic Republic of Congo. From the media reports I used to receive, life here seemed completely impossible. It is certainly true that life is an enormous challenge, but God can reveal to you new things out of the ordinary: from daily life, daily sufferings, even daily conflict.

One day, when I was celebrating Mass for a feast day and something remarkable struck me. This Eucharistic celebration brought together internally displaced persons from the camps alongside the host population. These two communities speak different languages. 

When the time came for thanksgiving after Communion, the Congolese liturgy traditionally includes a song of praise inviting people to give thanks to the Lord. It was a song in the language of the displaced community and the entire congregation joined in, singing and dancing together.

Then this psalm came to my mind: "How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?" (Psalms 137:4). That which seemed impossible to the psalmist, I saw made possible.

I believe that yes, you can sing, even in a foreign land, a song to your Lord. When you integrate wherever you go, when people develop a spirit of hospitality: there, yes, you can sing to your Lord.

Let us open the doors of our churches to all. Then we can be able to open our hearts as well as our homes to others. And then God will help us to find opportunities for a better future, for all of us. 

Fr Cyprien Nkoma Kamengwa, Masisi Project Director

Reflections for Prayer

How can we challenge ourselves to pray in a way that gives room to the refugees and displaced persons in our communities? 

There is a call for change to welcome the displaced in our world. What are my personal commitments towards that? How can I, as a member of a host community, express solidarity for and show hospitality to others?

Today I find myself a refugee. What can I do to contribute to the foundations for peace back home? How may I go about living peacefully where I am today?

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Psalm 125: 1-2

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then we thought we were dreaming. 

Our mouths were filled with laughter; our tongues sang for joy. 

Then it was said among the nations, "The Lord had done great things for them."