World Refugee Day: A Refugees Testimony
27 June 2016

Marceline Sangara from the Jesuit Refugee Service; this photo was featured in the Mail Guardian of the 12th May 2016. (Troy Enekvist/Mail and Guardian)
The audio of her heartfelt testimony, will be played at 16:30 on the JRS Radio slot at 16:30, today the 27th June 2016, and can be streamed here.

Johannesburg, 27 June 2016 – A week ago, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) was part of the World Refugee Day commemorations held at the Catholic Archdiocese of Johannesburg. For many the day was headlined by the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, who gave his vision for the continued protection of refugees in South Africa. However the true highlight came from the refugees that spoke before the Minister delivered his keynote address.

These refugees reminded us of the human cost they had to pay in seeking safety in South Africa and what persecution they escaped. Their testimonies spoke of loss, loss of family members, careers, economic opportunity, friends and family.

Those in attendance were reminded that refugees are not simply statistics but people, with families, skills and potential waiting to be unlocked if we were open-minded toward them and in some instances opened their minds to their own potential. It was the perfect nexus to the global JRS theme for World Refugee Day, this year; “Open minds, Unlock Potential”.

The most compelling account came from Marcelline Sangara, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who is now part of the JRS team in South Africa. Marcelline as well as Janine Kukasheta, make up the Homebased care team that provides essential medical and other support to aged, frail and chronically ill refugees and asylum seekers that have sought JRS’s assistance. The two were recently featured in a series of articles by the Mail and Guardian on the wonderful work they do with those that need them most.

However, Marcelline’s journey to being an invaluable member of JRS South Africa’s homebased care team, was a long, arduous one, filled with tragedy and loss. She however, is the most outstanding example of how refugees, despite the litany of challenges they face, create a life for themselves and thereby contribute to the rest of society.

She was forced to leave the country of her birth, the DRC, after losing her husband, three of her six children, having been subjected to torture and imprisonment. She left behind a career as a nursing matron, a good income and a comfortable life. She spent her first night in Johannesburg on the streets.

Her testimony, best conveyed by herself, follows:

The audio of her heartfelt testimony, will be played at 16:30 on the JRS Radio slot at 16:30, today the 27th June 2016, and can be streamed here.

Father David Holdcroft SJ, Regional Director, JRS Southern Africa, comment on Minister Gigaba's keynote address.

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