Youth Migration in Khartoum: Joys and Challenges
MUGALIHYA MACARA Fidèle - St. Stephen’s Parish, Hajj Yousif
Experience has shown that migration is as old as human history. Migration does not only occur among human beings, animals also migrate looking for safety or green pasture. Speaking of “Youths and Migration in Khartoum: Joys and challenges”, we can ask ourselves how Khartoum is a green pasture for young people who are searching for a better life. What are the push actors and pull factors for youth migration in Khartoum? What are the challenges of migrants or refugees in Khartoum? What is our pastoral approach to the youths in our parish, St Stephen, Hajj Yousif?
Definition and causes of migration
According to the dictionary, human migration involves the movements of people from one place to another with the intention of settling permanently or temporarily at a new location. With regard to this, there are many youth migrants in Khartoum who come from upcountry and from neighbouring countries like Ethiopia, Eretria and South Sudan. They flee from their countries because of different causes: socio-economic reasons (unemployment), political (insecurity and war). Young people see Khartoum as a place offering opportunities for employment, studies, health facilities and possibly for establishing themselves in another country. According to the UN data, the population of Khartoum estimation in 2020 was 5,829,000 of which young people are the majority.
Accommodation and work
Most of migrant youths rent small houses with their migrant friends. Some of them live with their relatives who have settled before as a family (many of these families live in refugee camps) while others live in buildings under construction. Very few live with their family who have means to rent houses. Youth migrants, especially girls, are found working in well off Arab families for daily wages. The boys work mostly in construction building, in factories and other small jobs to sustain their daily living and at times to pay for their schools fees themselves.
The integration of these youths in urban areas is not easy, because they face challenges of social exclusion, family disruption, lack of social protection, working in the informal sector. For Christians, the church has become one of the places of social integration, recreation, meeting, and entertainment. It is important to mention that 99% of our parishioners are South Sudanese refugees and the majority of them are young people and children. There are a large number of children who do not go to school and young people who drop out of school because of difficulties of life. So many young people are jobless and desperate about their future. As a consequence, some youths are facing problems of drug abuse leading the boys to commit criminal acts and the girls to get early pregnancies because of promiscuity and poor education. In short, there is a problem of moral degradation leading to bad behaviour, especially in refugee camps.
Pastoral response to the youths in our parish
Our pastoral youth ministry has the vision of accompanying young people through a holistic Christian formation taking into consideration their human, psychological and spiritual development. To realise this vision, youth activities are organised in three major areas: spiritual activities (prayers, Bible sharing, recollection, youth Catechesis), cultural activities (cultural dance, music, drama) and sports activities (football and volleyball). Youth programmes and activities offer to our youths the opportunities of an ongoing human and Christian formation in nurturing their God-given talents and gifts, and of mentorship through behavioural change programmes and team work. These activities help the youths to know Jesus Christ and to integrate better in the church and in the society. They are strengthened inwardly to face their daily struggle and challenges with patience, hope and faith in God. Also they are formed to stand firm in the Catholic faith and tradition with respect for the dignity of people from other churches and religions, especially the Muslims. We are also convinced that when young people have a good faith foundation, they become good evangelisers of their peers because they know their language better.
Our mission through all those activities is to bring the youths together regardless of their origins to express their talents, develop their gifts and at times their passion may become their career. Those activities also have a healing impact on the trauma caused by the bad experiences of war and the persistence of tribalism. And so the Youth Ministry has been promoting mutual acceptance and peaceful cohabitation among all the tribes of South Sudan in sowing in young people and children the seeds of love, unity, peace, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation.
The situation of youth migration, seen with the eyes of faith, is a blessing and a joy for the Archdiocese of Khartoum. Without South Sudanese refugees, many parishes would have closed. However, the local Church cannot really rejoice much over the fact that those migrants are forced to live at the margins of society against their own will, despite their abilities to live a better life. The good news is that the young people, together with the children, being the majority in our parishes, the future of the local church is ensured, both in Sudan and in South Sudan.