Praying with Refugees in Nairobi: encouraging reconciliation through spiritual seminars
01 January 2014

Jesuit Refugee Service Prayer Group for refugees at St John the Baptist Catholic Church, Nairobi, Kenya (Christian Fuchs/JRS)
Refugees wish to rebuild their lives and come to terms with past experiences in life. But it is often very hard for them. Some doubt God's presence and even lose trust in others.
Nairobi, 1 January 2014 – Refugees pass through painful experiences that leave them emotionally wounded while in a foreign country. They carry the burden of those who have caused or still cause them this pain. Sometimes they become disconnected from themselves, others and even from God. Consequently, some develop complications of different illnesses and even nightmares.

Some live in fear and want revenge, while others are not ready to associate with those whom they feel have caused or can cause them pain. Refugees wish to rebuild their lives and come to terms with past experiences in life. But it is often very hard for them. Some doubt God's presence and even lose trust in others.

Reflections for prayer
As part of the JRS mission of accompaniment, the Pastoral Programme in Nairobi organised spiritual seminars with the theme "Reconciliation" and based on the Holy Scriptures.

'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this you will be sons of your Father in heaven' (Matthew 5: 44-45) to help refugees be reconciled with self, others and God so that they may dwell less on the past and refrain from pointing fingers toward those who hurt them in life. Help them to instead let go of part of these painful experiences.

In October, we had our first spiritual seminars that targeted refugees in the parishes in which we work. Some 150 participants, both Christians and Muslims, from four prayer groups attended.

The facilitators and the assistant parish priest of St John the Baptist parish, Fr Nelson Ojijo, all emphasised on 'forgiveness' – "Never try to revenge; leave that, my friends to God's anger……" (Romans 12:19-21) and "Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper or your voice to anybody. But be friends with one another, and kind forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ." (Ephesians 4: 31-32).

According to the facilitators, lack of forgiveness causes many problems we encounter in life.

"It does not only separate man from man but it also separates man from God. It makes one feel disconnected from self, others and also with God and as a result many other evil things that come up in life like revenge which sometimes lead to war."

The participants were urged to forgive all those who had wronged them in their home country and even in the other places that they had been including where they currently lived.

"Forgiveness opens doors of blessings and healing to one and to society", the facilitators' added.

"It leads to peace of mind and of a nation or society. The participants unanimously answered yes when asked, "Are you ready to forgive and go on with life?"

Fr Ojijo told the participants that there is no challenge that has no end.

"On this earth we are all refugees and so we have to wait on God since He knows all the plans he has for us", he said.

"I grew up in the slums, I slept hungry, had no school fees, no uniforms but God worked miracles for me. Today I stand here on this altar a different person, no longer in the slum. Trust in God for He says He has good plans for you", he added.

Fr Ojijo, standing in front of the participants was a symbol. Someone believes in you as they did in him.

Sr Francisca Shiundu, Pastoral Coordinator, Nairobi Urban Project, Jesuit Refugee Service Eastern Africa


Scripture for reading

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24


May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it. Amen!