Order of Malta

Knights Hospitaller


Malteser International Americas: Christ the Refugee


Christ the Refugee. These words caught my attention as I looked through my church’s Sunday bulletin. I think they resonated because, in my involvement at the UN on behalf our Order, I walk with migrants and refugees.

Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were indeed refugees themselves. They fled to Egypt to escape the violent reign of King Herod, much like millions of refugees today who have been forced to flee their country due to persecution, war or violence. Sadly, many are forgotten, such as the 7 million Venezuelans who have fled their country since 2015 to escape poverty and challenging living conditions. Fleeing for safety not only requires many to endure treacherous journeys. Women become targets of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and violence, leaving them traumatized and suffering from mental illness; children in particular suffer untold damage in their formative years. 

Eveline Bravo Betacour, a 29-year old single mother, is one of the 2.5 million Venezuelans who fled to Colombia. Realizing that she needed help with her mental issues, she visited one of Malteser International Americas’ mobile health brigades in Riohacha, Colombia in search for healing.  

Attending a mental health session has been vital for me since the move from Venezuela deeply affected me. It was a very painful transition, I felt very alone and unwelcome. I think it is especially important for migrants to attend mental health sessions, especially from Venezuela where we have already suffered a lot.”   

Eveline however remains hopeful for her future. As her path towards emotional well-being begins, she shares a message of hope to encourage others to be resilient in spite of extreme hardship and to rise above all taboos and barriers, looking optimistically to the future.

We shouldnt let the taboos and the barriers of mental health get in the way of us developing a new life here. To all other migrants, I encourage you to take care of your mental health and take advantage of the services that Malteser International Americas provides.” 

God works in mysterious ways. As I read Matthew’s Gospel about the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt, I realize this: God shares in our moments of crisis and gives us the grace to endure against all odds — thanks to the many who walk in solidarity with us. 

Marissa del Rosario-Blackett, DM, is a Counsellor of the Sovereign Order of Malta’s Permanent Observer Mission to the UN and a Board Member of Malteser International Americas. Malteser International is the international humanitarian relief agency of the Order of Malta. For more information please visit www.orderofmaltarelief.org and watch this short video.

Order of Malta, American Association, U.S.A.

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