South Africa's Archbishop Buti Thlagale of Johannesburg with Bishop Atanasio Amisse Canira of Lichinga in Mozambique. South Africa's Archbishop Buti Thlagale of Johannesburg with Bishop Atanasio Amisse Canira of Lichinga in Mozambique. 

Mozambique and South African Bishops seek formal relations to serve migrants better.

Mozambican migrants working in South Africa’s mines have challenges integrating into South African society. Now the Bishops of South Africa and Mozambique want to formalise and improve the pastoral care for migrants and refugees in South Africa.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.

Mozambique’s Bishop Atanasio Amisse Canira of Lichinga Diocese, who doubles as President of the Commission for Migrants, Refugees and Displaced Persons (CEMIRDE), has been visiting Mozambicans living and working in South Africa. Many of the migrants work in South Africa’s mining industry.

While in South Africa, Bishop Atanasio met the Archbishop of Johannesburg, Buti Joseph Tlhagale OMI, who has been active in caring for migrants and refugees. Others that met with Bishop Atanasio were Bishop Joseph Mary Kizito of the Diocese of Aliwal. Bishop Kizito is the liaison Bishop for migrants and refugees at the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops Conference, (SACBC).

Bishop Robert Mogapi Mphiwe of Rustenburg, South Africa, attended the meeting with Bishop Atanasio as head of a diocese with many mines that also employ Mozambican migrants.

Formal relations to serve migrants

“It was a very useful meeting between ourselves here in the Archdiocese, in Johannesburg and the representative of Mozambican Bishops Conference, Bishop Atanasio. He comes to Johannesburg because there is a big Mozambican community here in South Africa, especially around the mines,” Archbishop Tlhagale told Sheila Pires of Radio Veritas.

Archbishop Tlhagale continued, “Bishop Atanasio makes this pastoral visit to Johannesburg every year. So we discussed a number of things between ourselves and Mozambique. We discussed the possibility of having a contract between the Catholic Bishops Conference here in South Africa and Mozambique to facilitate the appointment of Mozambican priests to South Africa, especially in Johannesburg, to work with and become pastors to the Portuguese-speaking communities.

Give more time to families visiting SA

Bishop Atanasio is also seeking the SACBC’s help to lobby the South African Government to extend the time for Mozambican families visiting relatives working in South Africa. At present visiting families are allowed only a maximum of one month. The Mozambican Church wants the visiting period extended to at least three months.

In the meeting with Bishop Atanasio, the Ordinary of Aliwal Diocese, Bishop Joseph Mary Kizito spoke of the need for dioceses in countries that originate migrants to take up initiatives that prepare young people for life as migrant workers.

Lesotho, Malawi and Nigeria

One such crucial initiative, Bishop Kizito pointed out, was the need for young people to acquire identity and other travel documents before they set off for South Africa.

“I think the countries of origin have a lot of responsibilities to create awareness about the importance of IDs and documents… If a young person arrives without any document, it becomes very difficult to help them,” said Bishop Kizito.

Bishop Kizito praised the Mozambican Bishops Conference for their efforts in accompanying migrants and refugees in South Africa. He encouraged the conferences of Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria and others with large migrant populations in South Africa to work closely with the SACBC office of migrants and refugees to enhance pastoral care of these nationals.

A new pastoral model for migrants

For his part, Bishop Robert Mogapi Mphiwe of Rustenburg Diocese in South Africa spoke of the need for a new pastoral model that recognises that most Mozambican migrants who come to work in the mines for brief periods inevitably end up settling in South Africa. Though initially, the intention is to one day return to their country of origin, the reality is that many end up making a life in South Africa. This calls for a different pastoral approach geared towards integration.

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25 August 2022, 12:18