African dioceses assist Angolan refugees, appeal for help

Refugees in Angola / Photo provided by ACN
Refugees in Angola / Photo provided by ACN

.- In what is being called a “blatant act of revenge,” over 40,000 Angolan citizens have been expelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the neighboring Republic of Congo throughout the last few weeks, and have been aided by local Catholic dioceses.  

According to the international pastoral charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Angolans have recently been expelled from the two Congos in what appears to be retaliative act.  Two years ago, Angola began to expel Congolese refugees living illegally within its borders. However, the recent expulsion of the Angolans is different as it is directed against all Angolans, even those living legally in the countries.

Fr. Andrzej Halemba and Fr. Ulrich Kny of ACN visited the refugee camps recently and have reported “unimaginable suffering” and “appalling conditions.” The governments of the two Congos have allegedly been ruthless in their expulsion methods, often arriving unannounced and ordering the Angolans to leave immediately, without family members or possessions.

Refugees are reported to travel sometimes as many as 500-600 miles on foot, including the sick, the elderly and young children. Pregnant women have had to deliver by the roadside and many people arrive at the camps having eaten nothing for days.

The two Angolan dioceses of  Uíje and Mbanza have been faced with the challenge of helping thousands of refugees, some in dire condition. Five reception camps have been set up in Damba,  Northern Angola, where refugees have been able to find food and shelter, despite the tents being flooded by heavy thunderstorms. Refugees have also been assisted by four Franciscan Capuchins and four Sisters of Mercy, who have opened up their convent.

“The sisters are helping as much as they can,” reported Fr. Halemba. “They are taking people in, distributing food, utensils, nappies, medicines and clothing; they are making sure that the refugees are vaccinated against tetanus, polio and other diseases and trying to provide spiritual and psychological support to the suffering.”

Though the sisters and parish volunteers are caring for hundreds of people every day, the numbers are increasing daily as well. The bishops of the two Angolan dioceses have urgently appealed to ACN for assistance, and the charity is looking for generous donations from its benefactors.

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