“To all those families separated and far from home in uncertain times, we join with you in a prayer for comfort and joy this Advent season.”

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

“As Christmas approaches and especially on this feast of Our Lady, we are reminded of how our savior Jesus Christ was not born in the comfort of his own home, but rather in an unfamiliar manger,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Many Catholics in the United States are celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe today with a prayer to focus on the plight of refugees and migrants. The USCCB’s Committee on Migration provides a rosary entitled United in Diversity that includes prayers for migrants and refugees.

Boy at a water pump outside Nzara South Sudan

This day is especially poignant for us in our work in South Sudan, where conflict has devastated families and communities over the last few years. It is estimated that up to 2 million people have been internally displaced and over 1 million people are refugees in neighboring countries.

Conflict throughout the country, as well as in neighboring countries like Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic (CAR) has led to rampant displacement, with people initially fleeing one country into the next, only to go to another country when conflict strikes there. We have been supporting the United Nations High Commission on Refugees on the border of South Sudan, DRC and CAR since 2014 with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, training and technical assistance for local healthcare workers, child protection activities, and psychosocial counseling for victims sexual- and gender-based violence.

Internally displaced children outside Nzara, South Sudan

Every day we meet people affected by man-made and natural disasters. These four boys, currently living in a camp outside of Nzara with other internally displaced people, were forced to flee their homes due to flooding and violent conflict in their village. Families like theirs struggle with food scarcity, frequent illness and adequate housing. Safe water is a critical issue. The camp is near a shallow well, but the water is contaminated, and in the dry season it dries up completely. Our projects relating to bore hole rehabilitation including water pump repair, wells and water tower construction will assist families like this and thousands of others living in Nzara.

Modine, a leader of women outside of Nzara, South Sudan

Modine Ephraim, leader of a women’s group

Modine, an inspiring woman we met outside of Nzara, said “CMMB is an organization that helps people, and we are so glad that our voices are being heard. It means a lot to us that there are people living in other parts of the world who are concerned about our suffering and that they are moved to act and help bring change.”

One of our mentor mothers, Hanani, described to us how last year when armed groups raided her village at night, she fled into the bush with her children. Some days later, when she tried to sneak back into her home, she discovered that everything she owned had been looted, and they had even destroyed her HIV medication as well. She worries about how she will be able to support her children and wants to continue work with CMMB. As someone who discovered that she was HIV-positive when pregnant, she has now given birth to three HIV-negative babies, and is leading two women’s groups in her community to coach women about caring for their children and managing the side effects of HIV treatment and co-infections.

Hanani Bazawi

Hanani Bazawi, with baby Helen

So today, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we pray in solidarity with those refugees and internally displaced people in South Sudan and all around the world, and hope for a better future for them and their families.

To donate in support of families affected by violence and insecurity, please consider making a donation today. For the month of December, every gift will be matched, dollar-for-dollar.