600,000 refugees in Kenya

Though much is made of the thousands of refugees / economic migrants trying to reach Europe there are several African countries where people have fled to for refuge. Among them is Kenya on the east African coast. According to the UNHCR, Kenya ranks fourth in the world for the number of refugees it welcomes [after Pakistan, Iran and Germany].

During a Mass celebrated to mark World Refugee Day the Vice President of the Kenyan Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Virgilio Pante, encouraged the more than 600,000 refugees in that country to not lose hope despite their difficult living conditions. He was speaking at St John the Baptist Church in Riruta, Nairobi.

In urging the refugees to not lose hope despite their daily difficulties he urged them to “be strong in faith and believe in God. Remember that even Jesus Christ sought refuge in Africa“. Bishop Pante encouraged Kenyans to welcome the refugees, to avoid tribalism and racism, and instead help refugees to have access to school and work.

Refugees in Kenya come from Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan and Uganda.

The bishop of Maralal also asked the Kenyan government to assist the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees but not to force those who don’t want to go out of the country. He was speaking in reference to the fact that the Kenyan authorities had decided to close Dadaab Camp, home to 350,000 Somali refugees. Al-Shabaab – a Somali terrorist group – has launched attacks on targets in Kenya [Westgate Shopping Mall attack and killing 147, mostly Christian students at Garissa University]. These, and other attacks, are Al-Shabaab’s response to Kenya’s attempts to stop the Islamist group from crossing into the country and kidnapping Kenyans and tourists. Kenya is also cooperating with the African Union [AU] force trying to support the UN-backed Somali government.

In many of their attacks the group single out Christians for killing, and anyone who cannot recite verses from the Koran [the Muslim Holy Book]

The Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation [SCCRR] was founded in 2009 by Father Patrick Devine SMA. Along with Fr Oliver Noonan SMA and a large team of staff and volunteers they focus on the root causes of violence in the tribal lands of eastern Africa. One of their core values is to promote non-violent societal transformation. There is no doubt that where there are large groups of refugees and internally displaced persons there is always the danger of violence. SHALOM seeks to bring people together to ensure a peaceful coexistence and the common advancement of all peoples.

Two facts to remember:

  • every fifteen minutes a person becomes displaced in the world. In South Sudan alone there are more than 4 million displaced people relying on international aid and voluntary agencies to help them;
  • there are 50 million refugees in the world [i..e people who have had to leave their own country and flee elsewhere].

Report compiled with the assistance of FIDES News Agency – 23 June 2015