Southern Africa: Reflecting on 2015
23 December 2015

Father David Holdcroft SJ, JRS Southern Africa, Regional Director, meeting with Pope Francis on the 35th Anniversary of JRS, on the 14th November 2015 at Clementine Hall, Vatican.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2016, from the JRS Southern Africa Team!
We come to the end of another year. As we do, most of us have a chance to look back on the year, our own and humanity’s achievements, the not so good things that have happened and the in-between.

We come to the end of another year. As we do, most of us have a chance to look back on the year, our own and humanity’s achievements, the not so good things that have happened and the in-between. The world seems a harder place at the end of this year, less welcoming to poor people including refugees, with more and more people defining themselves by their difference from others.

Fear is a powerful reality in all of our lives. It introduces a kind of logic that says the worst we can imagine will inevitably happen. “It is the way of the world.” This thinking always ends in a simplistic refusal to engage with other human beings.

At the end of 2015 two projects will close in the Southern African region, in Makhado (Louis Trichardt) in Limpopo Province, in the northern most province of South Africa and in Dondo, Lunda Norte Province, in the far north east of Angola. Both projects began giving out emergency aid in the form of clothing and blankets and ended in recent years by training people and setting them up in small businesses within the local community, many of which are thriving.

Both these projects were located in what are known as “hot spots”, places where the presence of refugees can potentially bring conflict with locals, places where the “way of the world” might very easily dominate. But many South Africans will tell you that Makhado is distinctive in that it has had few, if any, incidents of xenophobic violence in the past few years. JRS will tell you of the many times when things looked like disintegrating, they were able to bring local groups together, including police and local government and stop things before they started. In Dondo and in nearby Nzaji, similarly, JRS programs gave an isolated but active refugee community the resources to contribute positively to the local area.

Neither was a perfect project, however faith – the belief in the fundamental goodness of people – has resulted in a better life for all, refugees, members of host communities, members of local government, police and law enforcement and others.

I would like to pay tribute to the members – past and present - of both project teams who gave of themselves and their talents generously to demonstrate the leadership that the world so badly needs, not just in Angola or South Africa, but everywhere.

Christians celebrate in the next few days God’s “leadership” in saying that the way of the world does not have to dominate, that there is another way. God – however we may understand him / her - created people in different cultures with different languages and way of doing things. That is our reality. In these times we are being called to live increasingly together as one humanity. As difficult or even impossible that this may seem I think these projects demonstrate that it is possible to rise to this seminal challenge of our times, and that, if we do, then the world will indeed be a better place.

In recent days too Pope Francis inaugurated the “Year of Mercy”. JRS has chosen a special way to contribute to this by its Global Education Initiative and Mercy in Motion campaign. 

I wish to express my deepest gratitude to every one of you who shared this year in some manner in our work, displaced people, staff, funders and volunteers. I look forward next year with you to continue building this new world together.

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