Dzaleka refugee camp is in the country of Malawi. A former detention centre for political prisoners, it is now home for over 54,000 refugees from countries such as DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Somalia. Through our partners, There is Hope Malawi, and Health Partners International of Canada, we have collaborated to bring humanitarian medical kits to the health clinic that serves the camp and the surrounding community – over 80,000 people.
Our executive director Laura Dobrowolski recently visited the camp and returned with many stories of beauty and hope.
Here is one reflection...
It was Sunday afternoon in the camp, and this small and festively decorated church was a gathering spot for youth from many churches within the camp. They came together for a friendly Bible Quiz competition (complete with prizes) and finished with some spoken word and musical numbers, demonstrating energy and talent, joy and creativity. It was a beautiful reflection of the life and community to be found in Dzaleka.
The church is at the core of so much here:
May you be encouraged, as I am, by the work of faith communities within refugee camps to restore hope. And may you sense the invitation, as I do, through the UNHCR’s Call to Faith Leaders to welcome the stranger.
WELCOMING THE STRANGER: AFFIRMATIONS FOR FAITH LEADERS
A core value of my faith is to welcome the stranger, the refugee, the internally displaced, the other. I shall treat him or her as I would like to be treated. I will challenge others, even leaders in my faith community, to do the same.
Together with faith leaders, faith-based organizations and communities of conscience around the world, I affirm:
I will welcome the stranger.
My faith teaches that compassion, mercy, love and hospitality are for everyone: the native born and the foreign born, the member of my community and the newcomer.
I will remember and remind members of my community that we are all considered “strangers” somewhere, that we should treat the stranger to our community as we would like to be treated, and challenge intolerance.
I will remember and remind others in my community that no one leaves his or her homeland without a reason: some flee because of persecution, violence or exploitation; others due to natural disaster; yet others out of love to provide better lives for their families.
I recognize that all persons are entitled to dignity and respect as human beings. All those in my country, including the stranger, are subject to its laws, and none should be subject to hostility or discrimination.
I acknowledge that welcoming the stranger sometimes takes courage, but the joys and the hopes of doing so outweigh the risks and the challenges. I will support others who exercise courage in welcoming the stranger.
I will offer the stranger hospitality, for this brings blessings upon the community, upon my family, upon the stranger and upon me.
I will respect and honor the reality that the stranger may be of a different faith or hold beliefs different from mine or other members of my community.
I will respect the right of the stranger to practice his or her own faith freely. I will seek to create space where he or she can freely worship.
I will speak of my own faith without demeaning or ridiculing the faith of others.
I will build bridges between the stranger and myself. Through my example, I will encourage others to do the same.
I will make an effort not only to welcome the stranger, but also to listen to him or her deeply, and to promote understanding and welcome in my community.
I will speak out for social justice for the stranger, just as I do for other members of my community.
Where I see hostility towards the stranger in my community, whether through words or deeds, I will not ignore it, but will instead endeavour to establish a dialogue and facilitate peace.
I will not keep silent when I see others, even leaders in my faith community, speaking ill of strangers, judging them without coming to know them, or when I see them being excluded, wronged or oppressed.
I will encourage my faith community to work with other faith communities and faith-based organizations to find better ways to assist the stranger.
I will welcome the stranger.
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Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.