Different nationalities gathered at the Cathedral on 24 June to commemorate World Refugee Day.
The event was organised by the Department of Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees, Bienvenu Shelter, the Department of Justice and Peace, the Jesuit Refugee Service and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa.
Mass was celebrated by the episcopal vicar for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees, Fr Pablo Valesquez and Fr Thabo Motshegwa. They were assisted by deacons Raymond Oupa Matseke and Philippe Lukusa-Lumpunga.
Wishing to drive home the importance of the four pillars that Pope Francis speaks of in his 104th letter for the World Day of Refugees, he enlisted the help of children to help dress a teddy-bear. This was aimed at welcoming, protection, promotion and integration of refugees.
Fr Pablo drew parallels between St John the Baptist and refugees in that John was regarded as an outcast, was persecuted, jailed and even killed.
Robinson Sathakge from the City of Johannesburg said as South Africans, we need to understand the push and pull factors that drive refugees to flee their native countries and the challenges they go through. He encouraged South Africans to understand, embrace, welcome and protect them until their issues are resolved. “Together with organisations like Pastoral Care, the City host events, dialogues and promote social cohesion in communities,” he said.