East Africa

Archbishop of Canterbury prays with refugees at camps in Uganda

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, this week met with refugees fleeing the South Sudan conflict in two refugee camps in northern Uganda.

An estimated two million refugees have been living in Uganda since December 2013 when fighting broke out after the minority Muslim population took power and were later overthrown by the Christian militia.

Archbishop Justin Welby prayed and interacted with the refugees in Palorinya Camp, Moyo, northern Uganda, hosting about 174,000 South Sudanese refugees. Welby said, “The Bible tells us that the refugee is specially loved by God… “Which means you who are refugees are specially loved by God, that Jesus himself was a refugee and he loves you and he stands with you and the suffering that you have is the suffering that he knows. So I pray for you, I will advocate for you.”

In a traditional African welcome, Justin Welby was honoured when a woman tied a wrapper around the archbishop when he came into the Mirieyi settlement camp in Adjumani, with over 6,000 refugees. He was met by religious leaders and government officials. Pupils of Erupi Primary School and students of Erupi Primary Teachers College gave him the traditional welcome in songs and dance.

Archbishop Welby’s visit to the camps was devoid of the pomp and pageantry of a state visit.  The Rev Canon Amos Magezi, the provincial secretary of Church of Uganda, said the Archbishop of Canterbury simply wanted to meet with the refugees and pray with them.

“The majority of the South Sudanese refugees are in Uganda and he came to make a courtesy call on them. Some people think he is here to officially visit the Church; that is not true,” Magezi added. “He is here to see the refugees; we (the church) have to host him.”

“After visiting those two camps, the Archbishop will return to meet President [Yoweri] Museveni before he departs in the evening,” said the Rev Hosea Odongo, of the Church of Uganda.

Uganda according to the UN has “more refugees than any other country in Africa”, hosting nearly 1.3 million refugees from 13 countries. Of these, at least 950,000 are South Sudanese.

The Bidibidi camp has the largest number of refugees of over 300, 000 people making it the largest refugee camp in the world.

 

Hassan John is West Africa Editor Global Christian News (GCN) and a Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.

Image Credits: Justin Welby/google images: Woman meeting Welby/christian today