One of the things that really touched me at the youth center is its past implication in the displaced people and refugee camps. Records show that the center was very much involved in pastoral presence among the vulnerable people of Mahagi. Many realizations were also possible according to what I am told even in the camps. The former director Fr. Peter Ekutt tried to make life more meaningful of course in partnership with a group called Tukolere Wamu, Washington Development office and the Missionaries of Africa Canadian province.
At this point a follow up and continuity program is important for us. Therefore, I took time to visit these camps and to listen to the displaced people tell their stories. On 13th Oct. 2022, the Centre des Jeunes Mgr Marcel Utembi Tapa (CDJ) put to practice this little way of reaching out to these refugees with the little donations of food and clothes that had been given by people of goodwill on the occasion of Interreligious prayer day for peace and unity in DR Congo. For some, it was occasion to revive the relationship that was created by the center at the time of Fr, Peter. For others who came in newly to the camps it was such unexpected blessing of that Day. We lived in this camps lot of touching experiences and testimonies.
According to Amidey Abudang’o Uyergiu, the president of the IDP at Luga, he vehemently reckons on which day they arrived at this site after several villages were burnt by the CODECO rebels in 2020. They were welcomed by the Catholic Parish of Luga which gave them land where to settle and also where to cultivate. They arrived when they were 4005 people, however, according to the last demographic figures that they took in July 2022, they are 2019 refugees, living in 341 tents. Amidey, added that their conditions of living are indeed so poor, with little or no food at times, no clothes and poor hygienic conditions. Many still remember some help received from the youth center some years ago. Many tents were sent here for shelter and this is well appreciated by the local people.
Upon talking to the Parish Priest of Luga Catholic Parish, Cristopher Arire, he noted that these refugees are given free education in the parish schools, but due to lack of clothes and scholastic materials, many children don’t attend classes. This was witnessed as during the visit; I noticed many children in the Camp yet it was school time.
Comparatively with the IDP of Sii, some children seem to study, but they have to travel a distance of about 4Kms to and 4Kms back to the Camp to attain formal education at the Catholic Parish of Gote, where there are schools. Listening from Mr. Innocent Urige Jakisa, the sectary of Sii IDP Camp, the health conditions on this site seem to be worse than those at Luga. This could be attributed to the fact that the health Center is also so far to reach. This has consequently, led to many infant deaths and maternity deaths. In fact, Mr Innocent, is among the many men that have lost their wives during childbirth as they had to use traditional delivery in the Camp. His story was very touching as he cried while narrating.
Such touching stories made one wonder: Isn’t a health facility needed in such a refugee Camp? Isn’t an educational facility needed in such a place? Don’t these people deserve a decent way of living with basic needs of life, food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare?
These were my puzzling questions, with a definite answer of “YES.” But with no reply to who will provide what. These are some of the challenges we are facing outside the Church premises. As a priest I feel call to working and outside the Churches especially in the peripheries of the society like these displaced camps. We invite you all our readers to remember these Internally Displaced People living under hellish conditions on earth.

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