People Of Africa On The Move



Theme: The Response of the Church to Globalisation in Africa

Migration: the People of Africa on the Move in the Context of Globalisation

Paper presented by Fr Oskar Wermter SJ

Pastoral Department IMBISA Secretariat, Harare, Zimbabwe

Rooted in the Land of their Ancestors

The people of Africa are attached to their home village. Traditionally land was no marketable commodity , but precious all the same. “They had inherited it from their ancestors who were buried in this land. The present owner would pass it on to their children, to find their final rest in it” [1]. After decades of working in faraway cities they would return to their home village in old age. Even those deceased in foreign lands, their bodies are brought back for burial at home at great cost. Deprived of their land by colonialists, the wars of independence were often about regaining the ancestral land.

And yet on the move

The Bantu speaking people moved from Central Africa southwards. In the 19th century the Nguni people moved northwards to what is now Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Mzilikazi led his Matabele warriors across the Limpopo to occupy what is now the South-west of Zimbabwe.

“Nearly all Zimbabweans are migrants – the Shona people moving here after
about 1200 AD, the Ndebele arriving in strength after about 1830, the
whites from about 1700 (Portuguese and others) and the Anglophile
migrations starting after about 1850 in the form of missionaries, hunters
and adventurers. We all come from somewhere else.”[2]

The colonial powers forced rural African men into paid labour on mines, farms and factories, even across state boundaries.

Migration in Independent Africa

Independence has by no means put an end to migration. Both highly educated, professional people and less skilled or unskilled people are on the move within Africa, or leave Africa and seek work and a better way of life overseas. In 2010 “South Africa was the single largest asylum destination in the world followed by the USA. South Africa received 222 000 out of the 922 000 applications” for asylum[3].

Fr Michael Bennett SPS, Tzaneen Diocese, reports about ordinary Zimbabwean refugees trying to enter South Africa: “Chipo has one child. She was abandoned by her husband who had taken another woman. She came to South Africa in August 2007, crossing the dangerous Limpopo River near Beit Bridge in the process. (Most cross where the water is low and cut through the fencing wire on the South African side. Despite this, a number of ZImbabweans are known to have drowned in crossing. Some have been eaten by crocodiles.) She reported that at that time there was a barrier across the river at one point which acted as a mesh for trapping any material carried by the waters. This was regularly checked for bodies of dead Zimbabweans. Because the bodies lack identity they usually receive a pauper’s burial. – Rumbidzai has four children in Zimbabwe. She crossed the Limpopo River in August 2009. She referred to gangs of ‘tsotsi’ (thieves) on the South African side, waiting to dispossess unsuspecting Zimbabweans of their possessions and transport money.”[4]

The Zimbabwean Bishops quote a report by Medicins san Frontieres, “Last night we learned of a large group of women and children who attempted to swim across the crocodile-infested Limpopo river to reach South Africa, only to fall prey to local bandits known as ‘gumaguma’. Five of the women who crossed were raped, and two babies were literally taken off their mothers’ backs and thrown into the river to drown.” [5]

23 Zimbabwean illegal miners, all young men below 30, died in disused mineshaft. “There are reports that the Zimbabwean miners unwittingly exposed
themselves to deadly gas in a bid to evade arrest by the South African
police force…..South African police were reportedly waiting for the miners to emerge from the shaft to arrest them, as they had no proper documentation to live in South Africa.
A businessman said the tragedy should be a message to the South African
government to recognise that `illegal’ foreigners had the potential to
contribute positively to the country’s economy and regularise their stay
in the country.”[6]

Any kind of war or armed conflict drives people to safe places. “Since mid-January, an estimated 2000 people have fled fighting between the government and former rebels in Mozambique [|Frelimo and Renamo], spilling into neighbouring Malawi.” [7]

Sending and Receiving Countries

Rich countries attract people from poorer countries, productive economies attract workers from regions with great unemployment, more open societies attract people living under oppressive regimes. Developed industrial countries attract people from less developed, pre-industrial regions. Labour ( note the impersonal expression) moves as if under physical pressure.

Many of the prosperous societies are on the defensive, like “Fortress Europe”.

Pope Francis addressed the problem primarily of the receiving countries when he visited Lampedusa, the little island in the Mediterranean which refugees from Africa try, and very often fail, to reach. Just at that time hundreds had drowned in the sea. Francis spoke to the people of the western world,” God is asking each of us: ‘Where is the blood of your brother which cries out to me?’ Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters. We have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite whom Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan: we see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: ‘poor soul…!’, and then go on our way. It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort …. results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. “

But the problem exists also within Africa. South Africa is a receiving country because it is more developed and people from the north hope to benefit from its progress. Xenophobia was the reaction to more and more foreign jobseekers competing with the locals.

The fate of refugees, economic or political, features in much of Africa’s literature. “Outside, the sight makes his stomach turn. A weapon-brandishing crowd. Spears. Machetes. Sticks. Axes. Knives. Knobkerries. Fleeing bodies. Falling bodies. Bloodied bodies. Screams, pleas for mercy; please please please! And the shouting: Go, get out, go back to your countries! Go! Method does not move from underneath his blankets, though people are inside his shack, screaming at him. ….Then he feels something wet and the smell of petrol stings his nose. His heart pounds in terror. He does not know when the match lands on his shirt but suddenly he is on fire” [8].

Arriving in Europe , a woman was shocked “when she was taken to a detention centre, ‘I did not know why I was locked up – no one explained why I was in detention’.” Detained people felt this was unjust, “a far cry from the reception they had hoped for” [9].

No longer welcome in their own country, they learn on arrival on foreign shores that they are not welcome there either. “No ‘red carpet’ awaited them outside the borders of their land. The efforts of Church bodies, some government and NGO groups tempered matters in an alien situation. Yet, at various junctures of their outward experience, a culture of exploitation, opportunism and indifference confronted

them. Four consistent features of this experience – crossing of borders, accessing shelter, legalising one’s status and searching for work – have been observed in the southern diaspora and are noted below.”[10]

But our topic is the impact of migration on Africa. First we have to ask why so many African people leave their homelands and take enormous risks in crossing deserts, crocodile-infested rivers and the high seas in order to reach the country of their dreams.

What makes people leave their home, country, continent?

Pope John Paul II said already in 1997, “Violence sometimes obliges entire populations to leave their homeland to escape repeated atrocities; more frequently, it is poverty and the lack of prospects for development which spur individuals and families to go into exile, to seek ways to survive in distant lands, where it is not easy to find a suitable welcome.” Just at this moment we see thousands being displaced by a fratricidal war, triggered off by the rivalry of two men, in South Sudan, in the Central African Republic etc.

Fr Michael Bennett SPS, Tzaneen, writes, ”Zimbabwean migrants are resilient. They do struggle and suffer, often greatly in a foreign land. Work is seasonal, thus there are times when there is no work and no income. The struggles and hardships of Zimbabwean migrants are an extension of the ongoing economic and political malaise in Zimbabwe. The political class in Zimbabwe have no interest in their people on this side of the border.” [11]

The Zimbabwean Bishops describe the mental processes that eventual led to the departure of so many,

“As the fabric of society weakened, and with no relief in sight, the hopes of many people faded. Efforts to break the political impasse were inconclusive. False dawns failed to deliver on hopes awakened. People lost trust in political leaders. The cry of despair was heard and continues to be heard: What can I do? How can I help my family? Whether to stay or to go became a painful dilemma that many a Zimbabwean breadwinner had to face. To stay for some meant risking destitution; to go involved a wrench with all one had known.

Many educated people left and succeeded in starting a new life in distant lands where English is spoken as a first or second language, especially in the UK, US, Australia and the Middle-East. This ‘brain-drain’ caused a serious gap within the professions in Zimbabwe, one that makes economic and social renewal all the more challenging. The vast majority of Zimbabweans, however, migrated south and their experience is a central feature of this letter. While this number included professionals, an infinitely greater number were less well- educated, semi-skilled or unskilled; dispossessed and desperate; hungry and homeless. The majority were young men, but there were also many young women – some with children, and a number of unaccompanied minors, boys and girls under 18 years of age. While not wishing to abandon their beloved country, these migrants felt abandoned by it.” “[12]

It is a world-wide, global problem. Africa is affected by it more than most. People flee from their own countries because of “poverty in its various forms. Violence, exploitation , discrimination, marginalization, restrictive approaches to fundamental freedoms,   ….Fleeing from situations of extreme poverty or persecution in the hope of a better future, or simply to save their own lives, millions of persons choose to migrate.” [13] Desperation makes people take great risks. Girls and women may fall into the hands of human traffickers and sexual slavery. The work of religious women to free them out of such bondage is well-known (e.g. Nigerian women caught up in the Italian sex trade).

Such situations of course are not natural disasters, they are man-made. They are the result of bad governance. People run away from “failed states”, from civil wars and economic collapse.

“Migrants abandoned by their own countries”


Pope Francis remarked some time ago that the two greatest social problems in the world are the lack of work for the young and the isolation of the old. The former means that the majority of young people never enter the world of work. Their elders and leaders tell them: there is no place for you in this world; you are not wanted; you are superfluous; the world would be better off without you; go away!

This is a terrible, outrageous thing to tell young people just starting off in life. It is also an ungodly thing to say to them, because God the Creator has given them life and bodily and mental strength and many other gifts to use in this life which must not be wasted.

“Nearly 90 % of the world’s youth live in poorer countries. The well-recognized connection between poverty, violent conflict and forced migration means that adolescents and youth often constitute the majority of both displaced and host populations. In violent conflict, it is mostly adolescents and youth – female and male – who are conscripted into armed groups or targeted for sexual violence, who lose the guidance of adults and clear social boundaries during their formative years, and who are left to fend for themselves in alien settings.” [14]

“We all come from somewhere else” (Eddie Cross). So who is really indigenous? Who has a birthright to live in the country where they happen to be? Who is beyond doubt part of the people that make up the people of this or that particular country? Who can claim full ownership? In certain countries of Africa parties opposed to the rulers tried to disqualify them by claiming that they were not true citizens of the country they were ruling and therefore should be removed.

Migrant labour has resulted in complete mix of different ethnicities. Alleged immigrants are told, ‘You are not one of us. You have no right to be here, to own land, to vote, or to be voted for.’

Who is really a citizen with full rights? The farm labourers on commercial farms in Zimbabwe, mostly immigrants from Malawi or Mozambique, were deprived of their

citizenship. When their white bosses had their farms taken from them labour sided with the ‘baas’ to keep their jobs. So they were declared traitors and enemies of the state. Anyone not voting for the “revolutionary party” was declared a traitor, no longer a citizen of the country. Minorities in many countries fell foul of the big men of politics and found themselves deprived of their rights as citizens and stateless.

In so many countries you are first and foremost  a member of an ethnic group, of a political party or both, and only secondarily a citizen.

In a proper state you should be first and foremost a citizen with unalienable rights, and only secondarily a person with an ethnic or political identity. As a matter of fact, according to most Constitutions you are a citizens with unalienable rights. But Constitutions are not taken seriously. They are merely decorative to show to foreign visitors, UN agencies and NGOs.

The citizenry is not one body, all-inclusive, regardless of background. There are cracks running through this body, and dividing lines, so people are always divided into “us and them”. Only “us” are safe, whereas “them” are dispensable, and in a crisis are declared scapegoats and victims which can be got rid of.

Many emigrants lose their voting rights at home, without gaining the right to participate in the public affairs of their country of refuge. Migrants are at best tolerated, but they have no right in any way to determine their own future or to be active citizens involved in public affairs either in their home country or the country that receives them. African liberation and independence has not benefitted them. They are global non-citizens.


Poverty and lack of production

The “ruling party” survives in power because it lays hands on existing wealth and distributes it to its clients, thus buying their loyalty and support. Corruption is tolerated among one’s clients. As a result there is no production, in fact in some countries there is de-industrialisation. The leading “elite” lives in luxury using donor funds to satisfy the unemployed and deprived loyal to the party (“politicized food aid”)[15].

But if you do not belong to the clients you have little choice but looking for a living beyond the borders. Ex-farm labourers belong to this group and members of minority parties without “connections”.

If young people observe that rich people acquire their wealth through corruption, not through honest work, and are denied access to the world of work anyway, they will never develop a good work ethic and will end up, not only unemployed, but unemployable.


“Failed states”

Being a citizen with all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution offers you no protection. This weakness of citizenship is an indication that the State and its structures are weak. Ethnic and political loyalties mean more than having a passport. If you happen to belong to an unpopular ethnicity or party they can even deny you a passport. So you have to swim the Limpopo or sneak across borders condemned to the state of an “undocumented foreigner”.

Human rights as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations to which all African countries belong have little juridical force. Even if they are justiciable and a constitutional court takes your side, the politicized law enforcers will ignore the judgment. There is no “rule of Law”, no “separation of powers”. Once you are known as an opponent of the “ruling party” you have no future in the country and had better think of going into exile.

The “ruling elite” sheds few tears about the loss of millions of potential voters of the opposition parties. Good riddance, they say, the emigrants would only have worked for “regime change”. And the remittances they send to their families give the regime the foreign currency it needs for survival.

“The greatest asset of a country is its own people”

“The experience of being unwanted has been worsened by the overall failure of political discourse within Zimbabwe to focus with serious intent on the exodus of its people. The greatest asset of any country is its own people. Very few politicians have visited border areas, or crossed borders to witness at first hand the situation of their fellow Zimbabweans .” [16]

A leader of the Zimbabwean “revolutionary party” said once that his country would be better off with only 6 million loyal party supporters rather than with 12 million not so loyal. In other words: political opponents do not deserve to live.

Undoubtedly this experience of “being unwanted” is the experience of many Africans across the continent. Ethiopians crossing from north to south with the aim of entering South Africa, South Sudanese trying to reach the Mediterranean – the list is very long.

“Never to be colonized again”

Anti-imperialists across the continent raise their fists and swear , “We will never be colonized again”. That is true as far as the old colonial powers are concerned. But why do China and other East Asian countries have such a strong presence in Africa? The poor of the South are attracted by the wealth of the North, and the weakness of Africa attracts the new powerhouses of Asia.

What is their long-term aim? There have been attempts already to buy up huge tracts of African land for agribusiness to produce food for the “Asian Tigers” who are too busy at home with producing high technology to bother with agriculture.

This would mean displacement of rural dwellers in huge numbers. Is this what we want? Is not agriculture (and mining) the basis of our economy?

We have experienced such displacement in various countries when large dams were built for producing electricity, e.g. Kariba dam straddling the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Fishermen were removed from the banks of the Zambezi and forced to become agriculturists on a dry high plateau.

This also is migration though for the sake of “development”. “Development induced displacement usually goes hand-in-hand with coercion, threats, violence and corruption”[17].

“ Go from your Country and your Father’s House to the Land that I will show you”(Genesis 12: 1) – ABRAHAM the father of all migrants

Young people love to travel. Most people decide on migration because they want to improve, or at least save, their lives. Travellers establish lines of communication. Without them we would have remained in isolation from one another. It started in Europe to discover the New World. Now the New World takes over Europe. There are now more Zimbabweans in Britain than there ever were Britons in Zimbabwe.

The Bible, as the account of God walking with his people through history, is full of travelling stories. The Exodus is the great metaphor for liberation.

Jesus started out in life as a refugee child. He spent his public ministry as a migrant, for ever pushing on restlessly, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns…” (Mark 1: 38).

The first Christians called themselves simply the people of the WAY (cf. Acts 9: 2).

Devout migrants go on Pilgrimage to holy places. The Church is a pilgrim Church, and the life of a believer is a journey.

To be People on the Move is deeply human, and fulfills a human longing. Migrants are not just miserable creatures we feel sorry for, they are our heroes and they bring treasures of wealth and experience from foreign countries.

The Zimbabwean Bishops do not see cowards in them, to be written off and forgotten in their homeland. “As bishops, we wish to affirm that those in the diaspora are Godly human beings, made in his image and likeness. They are not a number or a statistic on some foreign shore. They are not stateless people. They belong to the state of Zimbabwe. They are our concern. We embrace them as one of us. They must not be forgotten. This letter is a testament to our desire to acknowledge their existence, their story, their pain, their resilience and their hope”[18].

Abraham, that migrant in obedience to God, left for the land he was to be shown in faith and hope. So what hope do we have for migrants and for Africa as a continent of migration?

The most important Good News for migrants, refugees, travellers, globetrotters, migrants is that your God and Redeemer has not forgotten you. The God of Israel travelled with his people living in a tent. The Son of God who walked this earth always on the move is walking with us all our lives until the end: he is the one waiting for us at the end of the journey; he has an eternal home ready for us. He is the fulfillment of all our longing for a better home. This makes all migrants infinitely precious in the eyes of God and therefore in our eyes as God’s people. We must be hospitable and always be ready for God’s pilgrim people.

Migrants – A gift to the World


Migrants are seen as a burden, disturbing the peace by criminal behaviour, beggars demanding to be maintained by our resources, a strain on our social welfare budget, dangerous aliens questioning our cultural identity (e.g. Muslims in traditionally Christian countries).

But they are also a gift and an enrichment: African Christians rescue European Christians out of lethargy and fatigue with their vitality, enthusiasm and joy. They give birth to children because they are people of hope in spiritually impoverished countries where people have little hope and births no longer make up for deaths.

Most importantly of all, they are ambassadors of their countries to their host countries and break down barriers. If well received they should show the positive face of globalization. “Migration can offer possibilities for a new evangelization, open vistas for the growth of a new humanity foreshadowed in the paschal mystery : a humanity for which every foreign country is a homeland and every homeland is a foreign country,” Pope Francis said. [19]

They are also a gift to their home countries. They save their own families at home from starvation and misery. Their support gives hope where there is desolation.

Those who eventually return should be positive agents of development, better than NGOs and foreign development agents, and connect their home countries with the countries of their exile.

Country of birth – a gift and a duty?

The bishops addressing their people in the diaspora did not write them off. Other than their political leaders they want them back, and keep the door open.

Can we still say in this globalized world where people are constantly on the move crossing borders that the country of my birth has a moral claim on me? That I have a duty to support, develop, defend my home country and make it grow? That it is a gift the Creator gave me as a life’s task which I must not run away from if I can help it? In other words, is Africa a task the Lord of history has given us, forbidding us to write it off? Is he not tasking us with developing the rich potential of this continent where he has placed us by birth or by vocation? [20]

For a Christian this is a question of spiritual discernment. If the world is becoming more open and borders can be crossed more easily, border fences becoming even irrelevant in some parts (but are they? Some borders are ever more strongly fortified it seems!) , we thank the Lord and Creator of this world for this new freedom and growth of worldwide unity and mutual acceptance.

Physical forces seem to be sucking people from the poorer to the more prosperous countries. Can we resist this force and move in the opposite direction because Africa needs us, our brothers and sisters at home waiting for us?

There is a danger that African immigrants in western industrialized countries adopt the selfish thinking of their “throw-away culture” (Pope Francis), of consumerism and of material gain at all costs, even at the cost of “throwing away” human beings not needed by a tyrannical market.

But if the traditional love of family and community, transformed and fortified by the love of Christ for “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” , survives the challenge of the “throw-away culture”, Africans in the diaspora may well decide to go home because Africa needs them and the Lord sends them.

The point is debated by Chipo, a stay-at-home, and Darling, who has fled to America. Darling moans about the bad things “they have done to our country. All the suffering I say.” Chipo is not impressed, “Why did you run off to America, Darling Nonkululeko Nkala, huh? Why did you just leave? If it’s your country, you have to love to live in it and not leave it. You have to fight for it no matter what, to make it right. Tell me, do you abandon your house because it’s burning or do you find water to put out the fire?[21]

Tackling the Root Cause of Emergency Emigration : War and Poverty


The positive side of globalization is that we recognize our mutual interdependence and need for cooperation (which must be distinguished from exploitation of the weaker by the stronger trading nations). “Such cooperation begins with efforts of each country to create better economic and social conditions at home, so that emigration will not be the only option left for those who seek peace, justice, security and full respect of their human dignity. The creation of opportunities for employment in the local economies will also avoid the separation of families and ensure that individuals and groups enjoy conditions of stability and serenity”[22].

The Bishops of Zimbabwe have for years emphasized that moral and spiritual decay is causing the political and economic decay of their country. A democracy is based on universal ethical values, especially on respect for persons and their human dignity. The economy is not a machine within which people are mere cogs, but an instrument serving the needs of the people. Everywhere the people must be paramount. “Money must serve, not rule” Pope Francis has demanded [23] much to the consternation of the financial world. The Bishops of Africa do not want the “human person reduced to an economic value” [24].

The exodus of “unwanted citizens” from their home countries can only be stopped if their human dignity is recognized and their infinite value as sons and daughters of God is respected.

In constitutional and political terms this means that their citizenship must be untouchable: as citizens they must be protected by the Constitution, as citizens they have equal rights, and no one must be reduced to a second-class citizen for ethnic, religious, ideological or political reasons. The sovereignty of a country rests on its true owners, i.e. all its citizens, and no one must be excluded. Economically citizenship with equal rights must be supported in social and economic policies meant for the Common Good.

Africa has fought the evil of discrimination, especially in Southern Africa. Now the former freedom fighters discriminate among their fellow citizens themselves for reasons of power: they call the citizenship of their political opponents into doubt. Ethnic and political discrimination splits the nation and deprives citizens of their rights. Belonging to an ethnic or political faction counts for more than citizenship. The support of one’s own clients is bought with “favours” which is one of the root causes of corruption which in turn ruins the economy.

Discrimination widens the gap between rich and poor. “The structural violence of injustice generates the violence of revolt, leading to the violence of repression and further structural violence, which then repeats the cycle. …the great gap between rich and poor generated violence” [25].

“The Truth is Concrete”[26] and must Result in Action

If we really want to stop the ongoing tragedy of refugees drowning off Malta and Lampedusa or, nearer home, in the Limpopo, we need to make our social teaching politically and economically effective.

We understand what is happening, and we can show that the reasoning of neoliberal economists (“trickle down effect”, autonomous market etc) is false.

We know that even the market needs ethics and that good governance is based on respect for the dignity of every person and all citizens.

But we have failed dismally in making our teaching known, firstly to our own Catholics and fellow Christians, and secondly to our fellow citizens, including their political leaders.

We have to start at home. Christians believe in work and using their God-given talents, not in miracles (“Gospel of Prosperity”) and in “getting rich quick” tricks. South Africa is being de-industrialized, our minerals and raw materials are being sold cheaply without having been processed. Greedy people are laying their hands on what others have produced. But the truth is that we can only create wealth by becoming productive ourselves.   Do we have to go to the US or Britain to learn what work is? Is that the hidden reason for migration?

The Church has the insights, but do we have the teachers? So many Catholics do not want to hear about “social justice”. It is “political”, and therefore “sensitive” and “untimely”. Priests do not read out or make accessible their Bishops’ messages for fear of attacks by party thugs (admittedly in some places a genuine risk)   or upsetting those of their parishioners who have “ruling party” loyalties.

Africa is considered a “failed continent”, politically and economically just a “bad dream” by the rest of the world. The people are losing hope and are writing off politics as a dirty business. The present leaders fight each other and neglect their real task of leadership in developing the country for the good of all. For many the Church (or churches) are the only hope. We need to show them an alternative to the present failure.

We teach the children the Ten Commandments. But do we ever point out to our fellow Christians that they contain a political programme? What would happen to our state controlled media and their political masters if they observed the commandment “You must not give false witness”? What would happen to the political class if they acted on the commandment “You must not steal, you must not covet your neighbour’s wife and property”?

Maybe we are embarrassed and too ashamed to teach the people such catechism truths because even within the Church we are not so “accountable and transparent” as we tell the political class they ought to be.

Plan of Action

“You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10: 19) the Israelites were reminded. St Paul told the early Christians, “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers” (Romans 12: 13). “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6: 31). If we want our brothers and sisters to be received well wherever they go, we must be hospitable to strangers arriving at our doorsteps.

Africa used to dream Pan-African dreams of black solidarity. The African Union still stands for that vision. But it is not real. And yet our dream should be to give our people continent-wide Pan-African citizenship and equip them with passports acceptable on the whole continent. In fact we only allow people of our tribe, political party or social class to enter our sphere of interest, e.g. mineral-rich provinces.

The Church should be radically different, recognizing in every stranger a child of God created in his image. We should offer the radical alternative of the Kingdom of God which has roots already in the Church through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of Jesus.

We have the message, but we do not manage to get it across. We know from the media: it is easy to produce magazines, CDs, DVDs, etc, distribution is the problem.

As part of the New Evangelization we must devise new methods and strategies how to get the message of human dignity and human rights across, of love of the stranger and welcome for the migrant, of good leadership and of the pursuit of the Common Good for the benefit especially of our children, of the beauty of being creative and the happiness of building a new country rather than merely exploiting the old.

We must seek dialogue with the leaders in all areas of life: government, industry, labour, education, science, culture, art and encourage them to accept ownership of the country and responsibility for the nation, the wider region and even the continent. Unless they do, do not be surprised if new imperialists drive our children out of their homeland.

Work not a Curse, but a Blessing

It is in the family that children learn the value of work and get used to working together which is crucial for the well-being of the nation. “This is the first school of life where children are formed in intrinsic values of sharing work, respecting others, learning tolerance, learning how to treat others well, knowing that each person must play his or her part if things are to work well. We learn that we are part and parcel, that we belong, that we are needed.” [27] People who feel anonymous, unimportant, and disconnected will not have the self-confidence to progress in their work.

In Genesis 3: 17 – 19 God tells Adam that he will have to toil in the sweat of his face: work appears to be a punishment. – In the New Testament work, including manual work, has a positive role. Working people appear in Jesus’ parables. ‘The worker deserves his wages’. Paul earns his keep with his work as a tentmaker. He appeals to the early Christians “to respect those who labour among you,… esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thess 5: 12-13).   “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (2 Thess 3: 10). The history of the Church shows the esteem for work and workers, e.g the Benedictine rule “Ora et Labora” / “Pray and Work” which laid the groundwork for the building of Europe.

If Africa wants to earn the respect of the rest of the world the African people must becomeskilled and dedicated workers, creative, inventive and persevering. Unfortunately, too many parents advise their children to aim for a white-collar career, while what Africa needs are also skilled craftsmen, farmers, builders, artisans. African women have always been hard workers, while men were forced by their colonial masters into hard manual labour in mines and on farms. We now need workers proud of their workmanship and skills.

The Church as educator and promoter of human development can contribute to a positive attitude to creative and constructive work.

Culture of Work and Creativity

If Africa succeeds in developing a Culture of Work and Creativity so her children find employment or gainful self-employment she can hold her head high in the community of nations so many of which struggle with youth unemployment too. It would be a giant step towards stopping the exodus of African youth out of Africa. Hopefully many will see that the Promised Land is not in Europe or America, but in Africa herself .









[1] Oskar Wermter SJ, Land – God’s Gift to All – Zimbabwe’s Violent Struggle over Land Ownership, from : Concilium : Land Conflicts – Land Utopias, 2007/2, p.19.

[2] Eddie Cross, The Future of White Africans, Zimbabwesituation, 5 March 2014.

[3] Bishop Kevin Dowling CSSR, Migration and Caritas in Veritate, in: A Story Worth Telling, In Honour of Card Napier, Stuart Bate OMI and Anthony Egan SJ, SACBC, 2013, p. 161.

[4] Mokgoba , A View From the Other Side, 2010.

[5] Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Pastoral Letter to Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, 19 June 2012

[6] SW Radio Africa, quoted in : Zimbabwesituation, 7 March 2014

[7] “Fleeing fighting in Mozambique to uncertain future in Malaw”i, NewsDay, Harare, March 7, 2014, p. 10

[8] NoViolet Mkha, Shamisos, short story in: Writing Free, Weaver Press, edited by Irene Staunton, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2011, p. 85. – In another story in the same volume, Eyes On, by Fungisayi Sasa, which is about a well educated migrant in the UK, a mother warns “not to bring me a white muroora “(daughter-in-law). – See also NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names, Weaver Press, Harare, 2013, a novel about streed kids deprived of shelter by destruction of houses, and orphaned by AIDS. Darling, the lead character, finds refuge in the US.

[9] Dr Katrine Camilleri , JRS, The Experience of Forcibly Displaced Persons, in : People on the Move, Pont Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, July – Dec 2013, p. 174.

[10] Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Pastoral Letter to the Diaspora, 2012

[11] Recent private communication

[12] ZCBC, Pastoral Letter to the Diaspora, 2012

[13] Pope Francis, World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2014

[14] Sarah Maguire, Putting adolescents and youth at the centre, in : Forced Migration Review, Refugees Studies Centre, University of Oxford, August 2012, p. 4)

[15] “Politicized food”: in times of drought and famine only loyal party supporters receive food aid. Supporters of opposition parties are denied any food assistance.

[16] ZCBC, Pastoral Letter to the Diaspora, June 2012, 2.2. Exclusion.

[17] Rev Dr Barnabe d’Souza , The Increasing Phenomenon of Forcible Displacement, In : Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, People on the Move, Jan – May 2013, p.44.

[18] ZCBC, Pastoral Letter do Diaspora, June 2012, 2.3 Embrace.

[19] Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2014

[20] On a personal note: the author of this paper is a migrant himself. Born in the extreme east of Germany, the war displaced him and he grew up as an IDP (internally displaced person) in the western half of Germany; as a religious he opted for work in the young Church of Africa , thus becoming a missionary migrant.

[21] NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names, Weaver Press, 2013, p. 286

[22] Pope Francis, Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2014

[23] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation , 24 November 2013.

[24] SECAM Pastoral Letter, Governance, Common Good and Democratic Transitions, February 2013

[25] Helder Camera, in : “Money must serve not rule!” by Fr Anthony Egan SJ, Worldwide, Febr – March 2014,

[26] Bert Brecht, a Marxist poet and dramatist, used to say this in line with his ideology (Dialectical Materialism). Christians who believe that God became a human being like us, in one concrete person, at one specific point in time and space, should have no problem with this ‘concrete’ concept of truth.

[27] Abp Stephen Brislin, 9th Plenary Assembly of IMBISA, Pretoria, December 2010. – See also Dr Ranga Zinyemba, Good Work Ethics in the Post-Colonial Era, Minutes of the same 9th Plenary , IMBISA.

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