Each year Easter offers us an opportunity to reconnect with our mission in a special way. To borrow Pope Francis’s expression, we are invited to “encounter” Christ whom we see every day in the faces of the men and women we serve. The power of the risen Lord is at work in such encounters. People like Catherine and Hope, two young refugee girls from South Sudan who dared to dream and gave up everything just so they could be in school. Or Shemsia from Somalia who was forced to leave her husband behind as she fled her country searching for a safer place to raise her 10 children and give them a better future. The suffering of our refugee brothers and sisters reminds us that, in dying, Christ fully identified with them. And his resurrection enables us to hope that death does not have the last word.
This year, as we commemorate 50 years since the adoption of the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention on Refugees and 10 years since the 2009 Kampala Convention on internally displaced people (IDP), The African Union has placed 2019 under the theme of Refugees, Returnees and IDPs, signaling renewed urgency around the issue of forced displacement on the continent. This also comes on the heels of the adoption in December last year of the Global Compacts on refugees and migrants. The Compacts are both a vision and a road map, a vision of a world that welcomes and integrates refugees and migrants and a road map to the realization of this vision through concrete pledges and actions such as those provided in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). Clearly there is good will to improve the plight of refugees, returnees and IDPs, and this gives us greater incentive in our work.
There is a broad coalition forming around a common desire to improve the treatment of refugees and migrants and we are part of it. Let us continue to heed Pope Francis’s call to fight the forces of “death” which spread fear and exclusion, and open ourselves to the living and risen Son of God who knocks on our doors and invites us to break bread with Him. Our desire should always be to do more not less, and to always opt for the greater universal good. May the Easter joy and hope inspire us to take bold steps and go where others shy away from. This is how we will make a radical difference.