The world is currently in the midst of a crisis due to the onset of the coronavirus. Since March 14, Rwanda has been locked down in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. This includes the Mahama Refugee Camp, where Father Henri Matsinga, CM is the local chaplain. Just a few months ago, he and the ambassador of the Famvin Homeless Alliance in Lebanon, Rodolph Haddad, organised a visit of Lebanese missionaries to the camp.
Mahama shelters 62,900 people from Burundi who, in 2015, fled from the conflicts. 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 the age of 25, unemployed, lack higher education and opportunities. They can also no longer attend mass or receive pastoral care. Father Henri explains:
“People are calling me and 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 true love toward God and our fellow men and women. It is a time to eliminate non-essentials and to attach ourselves to the one true essential, this is, union with God. For those who have some 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 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 hygienic 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 infected with COVID-19.”
We want to hear your stories about how you are responding. Please post them here!