His Holiness Pope Francis yesterday received the 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award laureate Sister Angélique Nako Namaika, following a general audience at the Vatican.
Sister Angélique was honoured by the UN refugee agency two days earlier during a ceremony on Monday in Geneva, where she received the Nansen Refugee Award medal in recognition of her tireless and courageous work on behalf of survivors of displacement and abuse, mainly by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Working in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sister has assisted more than 2,000 women and girls who have been forced from their homes. Many of those she helps recount stories of abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape and other human rights abuses. Through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, Sister Angélique has helped them transform their lives by offering them the chance to learn a trade, start a small business or go back to school.
After today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Sister Angélique was received by Pope Francis and told the pontiff about her work in and around the remote town of Dungu in north eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“I never dreamed that I would meet the Holy Father, and when I found out I cried for a long time,” said Sister Angélique. “When I met him I said, ‘I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and I carry with me the women and children who have been victims of atrocities by the LRA [Lord’s Resistance Army], so that you can bless them as well as me.’”
The Pope replied; “I know your cause, you have to continue helping refugees.” Sister Angélique said, “He then placed both hands on my head, prayed and blessed me and the women.”
UNHCR Regional Representative for Southern Europe Laurens Jolles also welcomed the Pope’s recent focus on displaced people. “UNHCR very much appreciates the attention and interest his Holiness has continuously demonstrated towards the forcibly displaced over the course of his Papacy. His interest towards Sister Angélique’s work is a further expression of his closeness to the most vulnerable.”