In December 2017, Jude Nnorom the coordinator of our Spiritan JPIC desk in Rome visited Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania. Nyarugusu refugee camp is located in Kasulu district in the Kigoma region of Western Tanzania, which hosts part of lake Tanganyika. Nyarugusu is home to over 140 thousand refugees, from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries in Africa. It is a huge camp!
Spiritan pastoral care in this refugee camp through the initiative of the province of Tanzania, began in 1994. Responding to the refugee situation emanating from the Rwandan genocide, Spiritans took up residence with the refugees, helping them reimagine their lives according to their present reality. As conflicts continue to ravage the great lakes region, refugees from others parts of the region poured into Nyarugusu. Our confreres Deockary Massawe, Paul Flamm and Dickson Kilula live in Nyakitonto and often make the 50 kilometers trip to Nyarugusu to be with the refugees and minister to them. Mariano Espionaza from Paraguay was also a member of this team before he returned to his province last year.
The camp is divided into zones and our confreres minister to the refugees following the structures of the camp. However, they have given Christian names to the small Christian communities in these zones, seeking to create some normalcy in the spiritual lives of the refugees. One needs permission from the authorities to enter the camp.
Inside the camp, it is amazing to see the dexterity of the refugees. Many are farmers growing maize and other crops, others are car mechanics, nurses and still many others have numerous professions. There are also football clubs within the camp and watching them play on Sunday evenings gives a preview of the future stars of European premier leagues! Sunday liturgical celebration is a joy! You would think you are in a “normal” parish with the altar servers well prepared, the choir singing very well in Kirundi and Kiswahili, the Church Wardens ensuring that kids behave in church, and our confreres exuding smiles and confidence in the midst of uncertainty.
“Spiritans are responding to the needs of our local church in Nyarugusu where it is impossible for us to provide pastoral care.”Knowing that our confreres travel far to be with them, the refugees prepare meals every Sunday which they share with our confreres. In the words of Bishop Joseph Mlola of Kigoma diocese “Spiritans are responding to the needs of our local church in Nyarugusu where it is impossible for us to provide pastoral care. Kindly thank the Province of Tanzania and the Superior General for assisting our diocese in responding to the pastoral and spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters from across our Tanzanian borders.”
Featured photo: Sign posts on the way to Nyarugusu