Welcoming the Refugee
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV)
The Ugandan policy towards the refugees is to incorporate them into all forms of public service such as schools, health care facilities etc. These services are all shared with the local community as well. The Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC), went to visit Kiryandongo and discovered the wonderful hospitality of the community and yet, at the same time the great strain on the local resources in the community.
One of the greatest challenges is health care. The influx of refugees has over stretched these facilities. The health center is a level 3 yet; it is operating like a hospital without the necessary infrastructure and many of the basic provisions or staff. The head of the health care facility shared with us they deliver on the average 15 babies per day, they see 400 out patients and have 100 inpatients. There are still so many more people that need their services but they do not have the staff nor basic items such as enough beds, mattress, sheets or blankets in the health center. The OAIC has discussed with a doctor and hospital in Kampala the capital city the possibility of getting a team of doctors to go at least every three months to assist with the many medical needs in the area.
Because the needs are so great in many of the refugee settlements we forget about the many challenges the environment goes through because of the number of new settlers. With such a large number of people settled in the area it also means the increase demand on fire wood used to cook. Trees are cut down to burn charcoal at an alarming rate as a source for cooking. The OAIC “Tree for Life” program not only accompanies the community to replenish the trees but also work with the women to find alternative cooking sources. The OAIC is working along with the inter-religious council in Uganda, the local government, the OAIC Uganda chapter to mobilize the community to plant trees during the upcoming short rainy season. We will also work with the community to start tree nurseries. Reverend Joshua Kitakule, the Secretary General of the Inter-Religious council of Uganda will work along with the OAIC in finding how schools in Kiryandongo can install bio-digesters. This is a great way of mitigating the cutting down of trees by turning human waste into methane gas for cooking and electrification.
Our visit to the refugee settlement in January this year, reminded us of the many biblical accounts we read regarding refugees. We were reminded of Abraham and the famine that was so great he had to flee to Africa where he lived as a refugee. Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus were refuges in Africa as they hid from the vindictive, ruthless Herod. The people from South Sudan reminded us how difficult it is to be away from their home land yet, they are grateful for the welcoming arms of Uganda. The community of Kiryandongo in spite of the strain on the area because of the refugees we are impressed with their hospitality. They are living examples of the teaching in throughout the bible that reminds us of the how to treat the stranger, provide support and not oppress the sojourner but offer them hospitality. The OAIC is grateful for the community in Kiryandongo for being a biblical example of how to live with those who find themselves as refugees in their land.
- Pray for the millions of refugees that have fled Southern Sudan and are forced to live as refugees.
- Pray for Kiryandongo refugee settlement and the surrounding community.
- Pray that God would open doors for doctors, hospital equipment, and other basic items urgently needed by the hospital
- Pray as we work with the community in finding alternative sources of fuel for cooking
- Pray for the thousands that flee their countries all over the world for various reasons, who are forced to live as refugees.
God we pray for the many women, men, and children all over the world that are forced to flee their home land because of various reasons. We bring before you the many countries that receive the refugees. Bless the communities they settle in, help them to practice biblical hospitality. God of the alien, strengthen all the people we met working day in and day out with very little resources, to provide services to the community. We pray your blessings on every child that met us with smiles, the local leaders in Kiryandongo, and the hospital staff. Amen.
Rev. Phyllis Byrd serves with the Organization of African Instituted Churches as the Director for the Just Communities Program. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.