Kakuma, 12 December 2015 – Refugees across Eastern Africa asked Pope Francis to hear their messages while he journeyed through the region at the end of November and engaged with citizens, refugees and world leaders. They asked him to continue to encourage inter-religious dialogue around discrimination; help us to spread generosity instead of greed; and let justice reign over violence.
I’m from the Democratic Republic of Congo where I experienced violence, persecution and discrimination.
My father was a journalist and an advocate for the welfare of journalists. He was working on a book which described the social and political situation in the country. The government didn’t like this and retaliated. The government army kidnapped my father and came in the night to kill my entire family.
I was the only survivor. I went a Bishops home and hid for three days. I could not even attend my own family’s funeral. The Bishops arranged an exit visa to leave the country; those who don’t have it need to go through the jungle. I crossed Uganda and kept traveling as far as I could to seek safety. I wasn’t thinking of going to a specific place, I just ended up in Kakuma.
I arrived in the camp knowing it was my only option, but on my first day wanted to leave. I was depressed, but eventually I picked myself up and got a job. I was a certified electrician in the DRC, so I worked on generators in Kakuma and monitored the distribution of power. Later on, I taught French in the camp and then joined the International Rescue Committee, where I’ve worked as a logistics manager up to now.
Three years ago, I also joined Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, the only form of higher education in Kakuma refugee camp. I just recently graduated with a diploma with an emphasis in business. I’m now equipped with leadership skills which will allow me to prosper later in life.
Here in Kakuma, I lead an organization called Hope Vision. We host debates about social justice issues. We also help refugees devise business plans and secure loans to start-up businesses like restaurants and other initiatives.
I’ve realised in my time in the camp that being a refugee is a process. I am going through this experience to make a change in the world, one day at a time. Policy makers working on refugee issues are doing a good job, but because I’ve gone through this process myself, I have ideas to make the humanitarian response better than it has been before.
I aspire to continue studying and go home to the DRC to work as an engineer or in humanitarian logistics. In the DRC and elsewhere in the world, there are so many humanitarian disasters caused by war and natural catastrophe, so humanitarian coordination and new infrastructure is really needed. I think I can bring that change.
Dear Pope Francis,
Thank you for supporting refugees. Please encourage world leaders to look at the current refugee response in this world differently than they have before. Refugees around the world are very limited in the opportunities they can take and the contributions they can make. We need better leaders across Africa to counter a perpetual cycle of conflict. We can be these leaders and contribute to this world for the better. Please inspire the leaders of the church to speak out on our behalf and include us in decision-making.
Tshils, 27, Congolese, electrician, humanitarian, change maker, refugee
Photo caption: Tshils graduated from Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins with a diploma in Business from Regis University in September 2015 (Angela Wells/Jesuit Refugee Service).
This testimony is part of the wider JRS campaign entitled “Pontifex, hear us”. To read more about the campaign please visit the JRS Eastern Africa website.
Republished with permission by Jesuit Refugee Service