Europe has forgotten what it means to be a refugee – a conversation with Caritas Uwizera

We Europeans have forgotten what it means to be a refugee!

Our memory is short, this is a sad fact. Italians left their country in masses to flee from poverty. They arrived in the US, Canada, in Germany and other countries and are now an integral part of those countries. Germans fled during the war from the eastern parts of what was Germany then and from where they were chased away. And the Jews had to leave their country to find shelter from the murderous machinery which was devouring them in millions. After the war Germans from East Germany risked their lives, and many died, in the attempt to flee from the communist regime.

All forgotten today. Or maybe not. Maybe the hate attitude towards refugees in ex-comminist countries and regions of today’s Germany is a vengeance reaction from those who didn’t flee then, who stayed to the bitter end and were jealous of those who made it? Who knows, the human psyche is deep and the shadow in it dark.
Our countries who have produced and received refugees successfully in the past, following the code of humanity, of mutual support in threatening situations, these countries now believe that they can do differently. The more people got rich and prosperous, the less they want to share with those who have nothing but their clothes on their body. Who are we when we so totally ignore the deep human impulse to help? It would be also part of our Christian culture: love your neighbour, as you love yourself. With our present behaviour we could deduce that we do not to love ourselves very much when we consider the neglect and cynicism when it comes to help and accept refugees.

You can say what you will against the Christian Church. Yes, it has done harm to people, the crusades and personal wrongdoing by church members. But they also have done a huge amount of good. They have cared for orphans, sick and old people – and for refugees. And thanks God that the Church has its presence in non-Western countries like in Africa. There the guest in my conversation, Caritas Uwizera, got live-saving support by the Christian Church when she had to flee her country Rwanda where a tremendous genocide was devastating the population. So, if nobody helps, the Church will. Even when we have outgrown its traditional structure, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and honour and appreciate the good which came from our Christian culture.

While the Western world is super noisy about the refugees and how they are overrun by them, nobody seems to realise that in far poorer countries huge amounts of refugees have arrived and are taken care for, albeit badly as it often happens to be. We are proud to have adopted Human rights as basis for our culture, we believe to be authorized to blame others for not respecting them – and we ourselves have a hard time to notice that we, ourselves, often act in disrespect of people and their human rights. When anchoring one’s ship filled with saved refugees in an Italian harbour you do an “act of war” against Italy, in the distorted ideas of the Italian leading politicians.

Human rights: to be saved from drowning and to find a place for survival, to be considered a human being with basic needs as opposed to intruders and a threat: Who denies refugees a place to set foot, some shelter and food, should come into such a situation themselves, to be able to understand what that means. But we live in the illusion that there is safety forever, and that these others who are in need disturb our illusion. We don’t want to be reminded that we, ourselves, could end up like these, so better shut them away from our awareness.

FInally, coming back to the conversation I had with Caritas Uwizera. She had to leave everything in the country where she grew up and lived until she was forced to flee. She never imagined to go anywhere else. People traditionally don’t leave their countries without a severe reason, and certainly they don’t choose to be a refugee.  (See her story HERE)

South Africa has accepted a huge number of refugees from neighboring countries. It is a poor country in comparison to us, maybe the situation in Greece is comparable: a relatively poor country needing to take care for a flood of refugees and left alone by the richer countries. Caritas is a refugee for 22 years in South Africa. She has no passport from her country of origin, neither one from the host country. She has no place in the world which she could call her country now. She is happy to have survived and found work, by the help of the Church and many individual people. She is providing for her family, she is safe, and she gives away to poorer people whatever she can save from her income.

In our conversation we talk about refugees, about the difficulties of life and how generous human hearts have helped and still can help. I suggested that she would send me a list of people who need help for sending their kids to school. I am asking you to contribute for a year of schooling for a child which costs about 80$. Education is the key to get out of poverty. As long that there are parents who cannot send their kids to school, there is little hope for a better future.

Videopost for November 13th, 2019

TImestamps Recorded in August 2019 

0:00 Heidi Intro  The story of Caritas HERE

2:40 Caritas introductory words. She is a refugee in South Africa for 22 years.

4:00 WHo is a refugee? Nobody knows her name. She can not call herself belonging to Rwanda or South Africa. The returned refugees in exile also have forgotten.

6:07 Refugees in Europe: you are illigal, necessarily, For a better life you do everything, and you have left everything behind. Europe is the only place to go to. Even the danger of drowning. It is sad how they are received, as if they were criminals.

6:18 Crime rises when you don’t have what to do. They get better people when they are received well. 

9:20 Organisations to receive refugees, doesn’t work, churches give help. Moslems want to help, and what you need to do to get help.

10:30 You get papers only if you have money to pribe. You have to help yourself and hope into God that you will survive.

11:5o Heidi about East Germany and the dangers when people tried to flee. 

12:52 Refugees from Syria: Caritas could understand what they were going through: What world are we living in? We are all human beings! Show them love who are going through this high stress situation. None of the refugees really wants to go to a foreign country, unless there is a huge reason to do that! 

16:40 Europeans need to understand that the refugees don’t want this life but that they are forced to look for support. They need to be shown love and a sense of belonging instead of being surrounded by fences and treated with arms. Bad behavior can arise because of what has happened to them! 

17:55 Europeans need education about who these people are and give them something to do.

19:00 Post Traumatic stress disorder. The refugees need guidance on how life is in the new country, how to behave etc. >Mutual education is needed.

22:10 Refugees are from all levels of development! Life can change for anybody according to the situations. Don’t judge people as useless because they are refugees! It is sad to live and no one cares about you! 

25:20 The new generation who lives an easy life.who knows what will happen. We have a chance to grow! Allusion to Nelson Mandela.

27:00 Racism doesn’t exist, but “other-ism” . The battle between good and bad.

28:45 Caritas: Abuse of small children and women. No one cares about children who cannot go to school because they have no money. Refugees often not have the money to buy the books. When you don’t have something to eat, easily you break into houses. Do europeans think to help these people to achieve something in their lives?

31:50 Explain to people how these people’s life is? They don’t know how to decide who to select people if they are “real” refugees and in need. Also corruption. An example of upsetting reality.

33:42 How people are treated by the institutions. Private initiatives in help of single people. Obeying rules and not respect the heart. 

36:30 The hope that internet and cellphones contribute that things reach the public and cannot anymore be hidden.

37:10 Why are you still a refugee? Now she has a permanent residence, but you do not have the same rights as South Africans. Difficulties with traveling, applying for visa is difficult. Without nationality. 

41:00 We westerners cannot really relate to that, as we can take a plane and just go where we want to go. – as opposed to the refugees which are locked in the place where they are.

41:50 How do you see the future? – Caritas: fight for peace with whatever we say and do, bring understanding and love. We are all human beings, independent from skin color and from where we come.  

43:40 Help someone who is less fortunate than you are, the person next door. Who can we send some money to? YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE HERE

46:00 House of refugees, tries to send people to school. Also single people. Organise to give money directly. 

49:00 Caritas wants to be involved in the humanitarian work. She wants to pay back what she received, even by people who didn’t know her at all. An example. 

51:25 Heidi’s work: help people to understand, to grow up and wake up to reality. “Doing Human Better”

53:30 Open our hearts as life purpose.

About Caritas Uwizera

Caritas is  a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda (See her report Here)

She lives as a refugee in South Africa for more than 20 years. She works as program director at Henley Business school.

Caritas is is helping other refugee families however she can. We talk about that in the conversation. I have created a Facebook Fundraiser to help send children to school. So far we succeeded to pay the school fees for 10 children for 2020. Of you want to contribute, please click the DONATE button, specifying the destination of your donation. Thank you.


Caritas at the Integral African Conference

About the Integral African Conference