ENTEBBE, Uganda — Pope Francis praised the Ugandan people for showing “outstanding concern” for refugees in a time when our world is witnessing an unprecedented movement of people fleeing violence and injustice.
“Here in East Africa, Uganda has shown outstanding concern for welcoming refugees, enabling them to rebuild their lives in security and to sense the dignity which comes from earning one’s livelihood through honest labor,” he told members of Uganda’s diplomatic corps at the State House in Entebbe Nov. 27.
In recent years, Uganda has welcomed more than 150,000 Sudanese refugees fleeing violence that followed the declaration of their independence in 2011.
“How we deal with them is a test of our humanity, our respect for human dignity, and above all our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need,” the Holy Father said.
The Holy Father said his primary reason for visiting their country is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Ugandan martyrs’ canonization by Pope Paul VI, but also as a sign of “friendship, esteem and encouragement for all the people of this great nation.”
Saint Charles Lwanga and his 21 companions were killed by the king in the 1880s alongside 23 Anglican converts to Christianity for refusing to recant their faith, and were canonized Oct. 18, 1964, by Bl. Pope Paul VI in St. Peter's Basilica.
Their sacrifice is a witness to Uganda’s motto, “For God and My Country,” and marks them as “true national heroes,” the Pope remarked.
“They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have played, and continue to play, in the cultural, economic and political life of this country,” he said.
These values are especially relevant to the diplomatic corps and public officials “who are charged with ensuring good and transparent governance, integral human development, a broad participation in national life, as well as a wise and just description of the goods which the Creator has so richly bestowed upon these lands.”
The most abundant blessing that Uganda has is in its people, Pope Francis said, particularly the youth who need to have “opportunities for education and gainful employment” and elderly, who “are the living memory of every people.”
“Their wisdom and experience should always be valued as a compass which can enable society to find the right direction in confronting the challenges of the present with integrity, wisdom and vision,” he said of the elderly.
The Pope added that although his trip is short, he also wants to use it as an encouragement to “the many quiet efforts being made to care for the poor, the sick and those in trouble of any kind.”
“In so many ways,” he said, “our world is growing closer, yet at the same time we see with concern the globalization of a ‘throwaway culture’ which blinds us to spiritual values, hardens our hearts before the needs of the poor, and robs our young of hope.”
He closed by saying by imparting a simple blessing in Swahili — “Mungu awabariki!” — which means simply, “God bless you!”
Uganda is the second leg of the Holy Father’s three-country tour of Africa from Nov. 25-30. His trip began with a stop in Kenya and will end with a visit to Central African Republic.