The world is currently in the midst of a period of great difficulty due to the onset of the coronavirus. Since March 14th, Rwanda has been under lockdown in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. This includes the Mahama Refugee Camp, where our volunteer ambassador Father Henri Matsinga CM is the local chaplain. Just a few months ago, he and the FHA ambassador in Lebanon, Rodolph Haddad, organised a visit of Lebanese missionaries to the camp.
Mahama shelters 62900 people from Burundi, who fled from the conflicts in around 2015. The camp is also close to the Tanzanian border which means there are constant movements of people, especially for trade.
Almost half of the camp’s population is under 25 and faces unemployment, a lack of higher education, and a lack of opportunities. They can also no longer attend mass or receive pastoral care. Father Henri explains:
“People are calling me asking ‘when will we meet to pray together? Why is this happening? Could it be the end of the world? Jesus will come and take us?’ Of course, it is not easy to answer existential questions of this kind. But I say: this time of confinement is an opportunity to live the True love in all sincerity towards God and our fellow men. A moment to get rid of the accessory and to attach ourselves to the essential, this is the true union with God”. For those who have a means of communication, I send daily reflections on the Word of God, I reassure them that in each Mass I pray for them, and I ask them to share these messages with those who might need them. The Chaplaincy also visits the most deprived. Anyone of goodwill can help us to make more fruitful visits to the most disadvantaged in the Mahama camp.
Camp residents are also creative in adapting to the confines of COVID-19: praying the Rosary and other prayers intensely before sleeping. During Lent, those most in need are served by other poor people from the camp itself. For instance, those who have 2 kg of beans give 1 kg to those who do not have any. Large international organizations, in collaboration with the Rwandan Government, continue to distribute their usual rations of cereals, oil, salts and hygiene products.
Thank you very much for all of your support and let us stay united by the power of prayer while respecting the instructions necessary to protect us from becoming afflicted with COVID-19.”
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