By Princess Fakudze
In a world where millions of people continue to be displaced by situations of political violence, war and persecution on the grounds of race, religion and political affiliation there is an increasing need for countries to receive, protect and integrate asylum seekers and refugees. Swaziland is home to about 2 000 refugees and Caritas as a social arm of the Catholic Church is in a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to protect refugees in the country.
On Saturday 24 June the tripartite and other stakeholders commemorated World Refugee day by hosting a celebratory function. In attendance, to name but a few were representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Chief of Malindza (the refugee host community), the United Nations (UN) family, the Roman Catholic Church in Swaziland, the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF), members of the Malindza community as well as Swaziland based refugees.
The day was observed with speeches, song, dance and poetry performances from various groups which included the Roman Catholic refugee community, the refugee youth, Lutsango from Home Affairs and a children’s dance group from the Refugee Reception Centre, dubbed “The Voice”. Through an impassioned poem, one of the youth performers highlighted some of the traumatic experiences which forced them to flee from their homes. She also indicated how Swaziland was a place of solace and a hospitable environment towards people who have travelled long, exhausting and often dangerous journeys seeking refuge.
Some of the notable speakers at the event included, the Minister of Home Affairs, Her Royal Highness Princess Tsandzile, His Lordship Bishop Jose Luis Ponce de Leon represented by Father the Diocesan Vicar Fr Mahazule who also conducted a mass at the beginning of the event and Ms Veronica Irima Modey-Ebi, the UNHCR Deputy Regional Representative. In the true spirit of standing together with refugees, the Swaziland Council of Catholic Women (SCCW) presented the heads of every household at the reception center with hampers which comprised of clothing, food and personal hygiene items.