Praying with refugees in South Asia: hope allows us to survive
01 July 2014

A Chin Burmese father, displaced to India, feeds his child in Delhi where nearly 6,000 other Chin refugees reside (Peter Balleis/Jesuit Refugee Service).
We believe that Jesus was a refugee had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Mary, had to leave for Egypt. He was a refugee. Let us pray to Our Lady who knows the pain of refugees.
Delhi, 1 July 2014 – "I see hope shining brightly before me. I see my children walking freely without fear. I have forgotten my arduous journey. It was like crossing the Red Sea in the Old Testament. It took me some time to forgive the people who destroyed the lives of many families, including mine, from my homeland. Now it's all over and I see a lot of hope ahead of us", said Matink*, a Burmese Chin refugee, with tears in her eyes.

It was about 10 pm when the Burmese army came knocking at her door threatening to kill her unless she turned in her husband, Shanmank*, who was arrested for his political activities with an opposition group. Matink had no knowledge of his whereabouts and with only two children at that time, she was distraught with worry for her family's safety in Burma.

On 25 December 2007 she received news of her husband's escape from prison. Matink knew it was only a matter of time before they would come for her family. So that same night, along with her five year old daughter and two year old son, she left to the forest where they walked for one week until crossing the Indian border to Mizoram, India.

Having God alone as his guardian Shanmank had reached Mizoram just a few days before his wife and children arrived. He knew that returning home would put his family into danger and he could only pray for their safety with no means of contacting them.

He remembers the touching moment when he found his wife and children. He is reminded of when Saint Peter miraculously escaped from prison and followed directions given by an angel later realising it was the angel who rescued him from prison.

Shanmank, Matink and their children later moved to Delhi with the help of friends. Although their living conditions in Delhi are difficult, they feel safer now and have attained refugee status from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Unfortunately, both parents suffer from severe illnesses: Shanmank is recovering from hepatitis while Matink has contracted Tuberculosis. They are able to access free medicine from the hospital, but neither are healthy enough to work. They rely on UNHCR for a meagre financial allowance and on the Jesuit Refugee Service for monthly food rations. Though life seems to be tough, their minds are now at peace.

According to UNHCR and the JRS report Chin Refugees in Delhi approximately 6,000 Chin refugees live in Delhi; each face their own challenges to survive in the city.

Ninom*, a young Burmese refuge girl who attends JRS tailoring classes said, "Very often we are made to feel useless by our own country; especially our females who are treated like objects for men. But with JRS – we are precious people; they respect us and treat us with dignity. This gives us hope and hope allows us to survive".

John Mezsia SJ, JRS South Asia Communications Officer

*Name have been changed to protect the identities of the persons involved

Reflections for prayer
We believe that Jesus was a refugee had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Mary, had to leave for Egypt. He was a refugee. Let us pray to Our Lady who knows the pain of refugees.

Let us to be close to these people, sharing their fears and their uncertainty for the future, and alleviating their pain with concrete measures.

Mary, mother of refugees, pray for us asking that the Lord sustain those people and institutions who work with generosity to assure a welcome to refugees, recognize their dignity and give them reasons for hope.

Pope Francis


Scripture for reading
Mathew 2: 13-14

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him".

Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.