Refugees and the Real Football: World Cup Begins

It is World Cup day, everyone! At 9am CST, Mexico will face off against home team and underdog South Africa.

In all the excitement and buzz, here’s one last topic to pray about and consider as you enjoy the games.

Life in South Africa is very hard for refugees, and it can be even harder to cross the border and become one in the first place. During recent violence in Zimbabwe, many refugees attempted to cross the southern border and enter South Africa. Most of them could do so and survive – but they would first be robbed, beaten, and raped.

My heart goes out to refugees when I hear those stories, because the travelers often know the risks before they go, and yet they make the journey anyway. They are very courageous, and very desperate.

The country has become a kind of promised land for tormented people in Africa. But there are many tormented people in Africa, and the increasing number of foreigners can lead to dangerous tension with the locals. To give one example, back in December, the UN’s Refugee Agency posted this image on Flickr of Ethiopian refugee Tamiru Wolde, whose supermarket in South Africa was targeted and destroyed by a mob.

UNHCR tents set up after 2008 xenophobic riots in Johannesburg

Refugees in South Africa also struggle with the wait – it takes longer than it should to get proper paperwork filed and to gain legal residency, or later, citizenship. I can’t imagine the fear that a woman escaping brutality in Congo would feel if her paperwork took much longer than anticipated.

I have included a prayer today from South Africa that was published in a beautiful African book of prayer, compiled by Desmond Tutu. It declares awe and amazement over God’s power, and asks for his protection. Let’s lift up the refugees in South Africa today, along with our own communities, and then root for our respective countries like madmen, as many refugees around the world will do as well.

Great Shield

Thou art the great God – the one who is in heaven.
It is thou, thou Shield of Truth,
it is thou, thou Tower of Truth,
it is thou, thou Bush of Truth,
it is thou, thou who sittest in the highest,
thou art the creator of life,
thou madest the regions above.

The creator who madest the heavens also,
the maker of the stars and the Pleiades –
the shooting stars declare it unto us.
The maker of the blind, of thine own will didst thou make them.

The trumpet speaks, for us it calls,
Thou art the Hunter who hunts for souls.
Thou art the Leader who goes before us,
Thou art the Great Mantle which covers us.
Thou art he whose hands are wounded;
thou art he whose feet are wounded;
thou art he whose blood is a trickling stream – and why?

Thou art he whose blood was spilled for us.
For this great price we call,
For thine own place we call.

– Xhosa, South Africa

Have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy watching USA (ranked #1 by beat England (ranked #204 out of 204 by on Saturday.

Extra resource:

More stunning photographs of South Africa’s refugees

3 Responses to “Refugees and the Real Football: World Cup Begins”
  1. Michael Miller says:

    This is so beautiful – The prayer.

    What a great reminder, also, to enjoy the games along with the refugees and marginalized who enjoy them also. They do not sit and lament their plight all the time when they watch the world cup, we do not need to either, right?

  2. Joanna says:

    Right! We pray and then celebrate. Cheering for S.A. right now. Sorry, Mexico…

  3. Joan says:

    To enjoy the games, I now find within me that I must pray for these desperate people and for their countries. Their problems have become more real to me and I thank for that.

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