Uganda - The extreme poverty of the missionaries in their new mission in Palabek refugee camp

06 March 2018

(ANS - Palabek) - Last year, through a letter, the Rector Major of the Salesians recalled that over a million people from South Sudan are currently refugees in Uganda and invited the Salesians to go to them, to work with them and for them. This is why today missionaries of different nationalities now animate the new Salesian presence in the refugee camp of Palabek.

"86% of the population in the refugee camp are women and children. More than 60% are minors. These young people are the reason for our commitment to education and evangelization. We must take care of them and give them an integral formation," says the Director of the Salesian community, Fr Lazar Arasu.

The refugees are hungry and thirsty. They do not have a home. They do not have clothes. They do not have education and they need the attention and care that the Salesians provide them. "We started literacy and pastoral activities. I hope and pray that with the help of Don Bosco, we will succeed in this pastoral service," says the Salesian missionary.

Living conditions are not easy. They live in extreme poverty, but they are "happy", as Fr Ubaldino Andrade, also a missionary in Palabek, shows us: "A house for missionaries, with a single room divided by a tent, with a thatched roof and walls and mud floor. On one side there is a space for sleeping, a place for a bed or a mat to be laid on the floor at night."

This is the refuge where missionaries hide to shelter themselves from sandstorms, "and where we take refuge to wait for the extremely hot hours of the day to pass," continues Fr Andrade. Nearby there is the latrine and an improvised room where they take a shower with water that must carried from the wells located about 250 meters from the camp.

He narrates how the place where the refugee camp is located was the land of fighting peoples and warriors. In one of the battles, the missionaries intervened to restore peace by forcing warriors to retain their weapons. "Pala" means knife or machete, and "Bek" means to save, put it back in its sheath. Palabek therefore means "retaining the weapon of war". This is the origin of the name of the place where the refugee camp is currently located and where the Salesians decided to stay and live with them and for them.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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