Sr. Elisabeth Biela joined the community of Karlsruhe in November 2020. As leader, she had accompanied the community, but the concrete apostolate was new for her: getting to know the laws concerning the displaced persons, the organisations like Caritas, Diakonie (the protestant Caritas) and Justice Project, persons with whom to network etc. Here she shares her experience.
“Soon I was asked to accompany a Yazidi family from Iraq who were at risk to have to leave the country. Their problems are not yet solved, but they moved into a flat and feel at home. It is a real challenge to understand the complicated letters of the German administration, fill in papers, accompany them to offices and even find a job. But it is a great joy for all of us, when things work out.
Sr. Kordula Weber has organised a German class for Arabic speaking women in our house, the Yazidi woman is taking part in it. Together with Father Otto Meier M.Afr. I accompany a woman from Haiti with her child. We are truly working hand in hand. Help is always needed to look through the jungle of laws and prescriptions, finding doctors, prams, clothes etc.
I managed to obtain a paper which allows me to visit persons in the 4 camps in Karlsruhe. The administration in Karlsruhe does not allow pastoral work in the camp, but when we visit people, we take time to listen to them.
The most painful part of my apostolate is to come in contact with people who have come to Europe through human trafficking. The stories of these women (and men) are very painful and most of them are deeply traumatised and even consider suicide.
When I tell the women that I have lived in Ghana and Burkina Faso, they dare to trust and open up. All they need is time, a listening heart and an open ear and to find contact with an organisation that helps them with psychotherapists, doctors, papers etc. Lately, a Nigerian woman who had spent 13 years in Greece in forced prostitution, finally managed to escape. She lost her baby on her way to Germany. I was contacted about the burial of the baby. The woman now slowly recovers from this loss.
I am deeply touched by the gratefulness of the women and families, their confidence and trust. Truly the Lord wants to reach out through us in the community of Lavigerie. For many we are “bearers of hope.”
In collaboration with Caritas, Sr. Flora Ridder had started a cooking project. We invite persons living in the camps to cook their own food. The food provided to them often is not to their habit and taste and the camps don’t allow cooking. It is each time a feast for them and us. We have very faithful helpers too to take care of the children and youth while the adults are busy in the kitchen. During an intercultural week, we invited people for a culinary feast.
Some came to cook here in the house, others brought their dishes from home: African, Indian, Eastern European and German delicacies. Around 30 persons came, we danced, we drummed and enjoyed being together.
Through the cooking we meet brothers and sisters from many countries.
Yes, we are fully engaged in the priorities of our last Chapter! On special occasions we prepare a liturgy together with believers of other religions. For the forthcoming “week of silence,” we will organise a special interreligious prayer in our house. In November there will be a special prayer for all those who have died in the sea or in the desert and elsewhere. On Mission Sunday I preached and I am invited to a secondary school.
Our MSOLA/M.Afr. community is responding to many needs of migrants. May this apostolate continue and may we give witness of our charism in Karlsruhe. Local Church people count on us, they are glad that the community is here. Otherwise, a lot of personal accompaniment that we do, would not be done.”
Sr. Elisabeth Biela, Karlsruhe, Germany