Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move - N° 91-92, April - August 2003, p. 337-250
The Pastoral Care of People on the Move:
Reality, Needs and Challenges. The Asian Perspective*
Brother Anthony ROGERS, FSC
Office for Human Development
Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences
1.Our Asian Reality Today
“People on the Move” has been a way of life in the continent of Asia over the centuries, but has taken on new dimensions in the context of the Development Decades and now in the era of Globalisation. With the advent of urbanisation, modernisation and industrialisation, people are being driven from their traditional homelands by poverty and an increasing number of conflicts. The desire to have a better life has resulted in the break-up of traditional communities and families and is thus giving rise to new ways of life, not just in Asia but all over the world. The international market forces have made labour a commodity to be sold and bought not just within the nations but also at the regional and international levels. Large numbers of landless indigenous people, women and even children have now to move in order to find new employment both in the mushrooming “megacities” in Asia and even in Europe and the Americas. They have become the new source of income for the poverty-ridden and war-torn Asian countries. For many, it is a question of survival.
This modern day exodus of people in Asia, with the Petro-Driven Growth in the early 1980’s in the Gulf Region and the need for migrant labour in the West Asian Countries (Middle East), attract workers especially coming from the Philippines and India. The rapid industrialisation of the 80’s also made international migration an economic and social phenomenon that was unprecedented in history. In the context of Asia, the demand for labour saw an organised move also to the East Asian countries, namely to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. With rapid industrialisation there was an influx of domestic workers into all these countries and also to Singapore and Malaysia. Besides the pull factor of employment in the wealthier countries, the poor, in many Asian countries, were also being pushed by the increasing poverty in the rural areas and the increasing number of internal conflicts. Thus the people on the move were evident in the two main forms, namely, Contract Foreign Workers and Internally Displaced Persons and transnational Refugees.
Over the years and till the present moment, the phenomena of migrant labour and refugee movements have become a crucial concern in the Asian region. The International Labour Organisation has placed the number of Asian migrant workers at 15 million. Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees disclosed that it is taking care of 7,458,500 refugees, asylum-seekers, returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Asia. But we know that this is not just an Asian phenomenon, but one that is world-wide and one that requires a global response. Today we know there are 145 million people who are living and working outside their countries of origin. On top of these are some 50 million people forced to flee their homes, many of whom are made landless and homeless by conflicts related to war and violence.
2. Journeying with Migrants and Refugees – Our On-going Reflections as Church in Asia
In the past 40 years, the Church in Asia has been attempting to respond in an organised way at the national and Asian levels to the needs of migrants and refugees. We have in many crucial moments in our history been at the service of migrants and refugees. Our Episcopal Commissions for Migrants and Refugees and our National Caritas Organisations can recall the numerous programmes that we have initiated in many of our countries in Asia, including the hosting of Vietnamese refugees in the Philippines, in Indonesia, in Malaysia, in Thailand and in others. The same has been true of the experiences in South and East Asia. It may not be necessary to recall all our responses but to focus on the fact that the Church in Asia has been, at the diocesan, national and the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences levels, involved in an on-going process of reflection and setting up an informal structure. It has also recognised the need for the evaluation of our current responses and the fostering and promotion of new forms of involvement with migrants and refugees.
Based on the realities of migrants and refugees in the region and cognisant of the ongoing initiatives and the action recommendations of various fora convened by the Church for this disadvantaged sector, goals for action were drawn-up for FABC. In 1990, we critically examined the basis of our Ministries of Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees in the context of the vision of the Church in Asia in “A New Way of Being Church”. We gave pastoral care of migrants a new meaning that includes the need to look also for permanent cures. We examined this phenomenon of migration in the context of the structures of society and its underlying values that has reduced human labour to mere marketable commodities. We are thus being challenged to forge a new solidarity with these people, as we come closer to them, hear to their cries and for the People of God and Government to work hand‑in‑hand to promote human dignity and foster human rights.
It may be helpful for us therefore to take a brief look at some of the trends in the past so that we can explore some new ventures for the future. With the burgeoning population of migrant people, crucial issues have been noted. Among these were the growing number of undocumented migrants, the feminisation of migrant labour, the tendency to look at migrants as a commodity. The "Asianisation" of Asian migrants' destination, the non-adoption by many Asian states of international legal instruments that secure rights of migrants and refugees were central. Others included the lack of integration and reintegration programs for migrants and their families and the inequitable distribution of resources and other forms of injustice in the countries of origin that have forced people to move.
Some of these reflections and proposals were brought to the attention of the 6th FABC Plenary Assembly in 1995. We noted that they are still prevalent: illegal recruitment; exorbitant placement fees; very short contracts; poor working and living conditions; physical, verbal and sexual abuse; long working hours; non-access to health and insurance benefits.
As regards seafarers, the problems included the operation of Flags of Convenience, the practice of blacklisting seafarers, union-busting, lack of knowledge and skills necessary in modern shipping, need for value formation necessary to deal with the lures of illegal drugs and prostitution, poor conditions on board. The need for the integration of the pastoral care for seafarers at the level of Bishops' Conferences and the FABC has also been pointed out.
Meanwhile, in the case of refugees and internally displaced people, the following issues surfaced: a weakening support for refugee assistance programs and the lack of protection for internally displaced people; a growing xenophobia in some host countries; lack of durable solutions; very restrictive legal systems, and the like. The poor conditions existing in refugee camps raise questions concerning the sufficiency of basic services, as well as pastoral care provided to refugees.
Thus the Church in Asia has not been negligent in this ministry to migrants, refugees, internally displaced peoples and other "people on the move." FABC papers and documents from national bishops' conferences will bear this out. Significantly, the Church's concern for migrant workers and refugees has again been underscored in the Message of the first-ever Synod of Bishops of Asia in 1999. Perhaps, it is also important to cite here that the Pope has made particular mention of this in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Asia". While he calls for support and care for migrant workers, refugees and asylum-seekers whom he considers as among the "poor and voiceless", he says that "despite limited resources, the Church in Asia generously seeks to be a welcoming home to the weary and heavy-burdened…" (EA, 34)
The Church, in a multi-ethnic, religious and cultural setting, thereby enlivens the message of hope and life amidst death-dealing forces by "follow(ing) Jesus in his 'preferential journey' with the poor and (…) assist(ing) in the liberation of the materially poor, of indigenous peoples, displaced persons, victims of misguided economic and political development, victims of war and divisions, victims of sex tourism." (VI FABC Plenary Assembly 1995. 14.2)
We are aware of the magnitude of the problem and the unique and distinct triple realities of Asia: material poverty, variety of cultures and rich religious traditions. This is also true of the persons and conditions of migrants and refugees, and dialogue is imperative in the Church's pastoral and social care of these disadvantaged and displaced peoples. This should be undertaken in the context of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue and partnership with other Christian churches and religious traditions.
As we move into the third millennium, we come to another milestone and ask ourselves if there are some new challenges that we need to take up and this, we believe, is only possible if we adopt some new perspectives.
3. Starting Afresh From Christ – A Renewed Church: Our Mission of Love and Service
At the beginning of the new millennium, the Church is being challenged by the call of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, to “Put out into the deep.” It is an invitation for the Church in Asia to rediscover its evangelising mission as the fundamental reason for its existence. The Vocation to Holiness is to be realised in its Evangelising Mission and this is made possible through the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ as the salt, leaven and light. The Church in Asia, therefore, if it is to re-define the meaning of Pastoral Care in the context of Asia, has to have a deeper understanding of this Integral Vision of Faith. We draw the basis of this Vision from two key documents of John Paul II, namely Ecclesia in Asia of the Synod of Bishops for Asia and the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Inuente (At the Beginning of the New Millennium).
What therefore is this Integral Faith Vision?
It is the recognition of this Vision that brings into focus the need for the Transformation of each and every member of the People of God. Conversion to the Ways of the Lord and in the Lord’s Time is the basic call of the Christian called to build a “New Communion.” It is a clearer understanding of both our Vision and am Mission that leads us to the awareness of the need for Conversion and Renewal. It is in this context that “A NEW WAY OF BEING CHURCH IN ASIA” is the collective response of the People of God to the challenges of today.
A New Way is the Way of seeing, listening with the heart and understanding with the mind, that puts on the compassionate ways of Jesus. It is a process of conversion to the ways of Jesus and to his belief in his Vision and Mission. To be like Jesus is to be able and ready to do the will of the Father.
It is this new integration of our lives in the life of Jesus that unites our Faith and our Lives. It is the time when we begin to see that Faith has to find expression in love and compassion and in justice and mercy. It is this very integration within our Being that we Become Witness to new Values. It is not the saying and the doing alone that people become aware of, but the very core of our lives which is our Being. We are thus invited in community to move from just saying to doing and from just doing to become participants in a process of living life in and through our lives.
The Methodology that is proposed is that of Look-Listen-Live, See-Reflect-Respond. This process restores the dignity to the individual and nurtures responsibility for community. It gives individuals the right to play different roles without, at the same time, diminishing their sense of worth within. It allows for new forms of Leadership that is enabling, animating and encouraging. It is therefore this Unity of Vision and Mission, the adoption of a Participatory Methodology based on Enabling and Animating Leadership that moves us to live out our Missionary Vocation in new and creative ways. It is in this context that the Church truly becomes a sign and instrument of God’s salvation and liberation within the human family.
This is what we mean by Integral Evangelisation. When we journey together to become “A New Way of Being Church”, we become Evangelised by our Communion with the Lord and among ourselves, and in turn become Evangelisers through our Solidarity with all Peoples. Integral Evangelisation also implies that we are also evangelised by the dialogue with the world that we seek to evangelise, in and through our Interreligious dialogue, inculturation and human promotion. This is the total context that we need to understand “A New Way of Being Church.” It has to take note of the need for Proclamation, through our deeds and works and through our words, being and witness, as the fundamental responsibility of the Christian today.
4. A New Perspective of Pastoral Care of Migrants in the context of A New Way of Being Church
The Missionary Vocation of the Migrant as Light
Pastoral Care of Migrants is about preparing migrants and sustaining them for living out their missionary vocation. It is not just about Sending and Receiving Migrants. It is about their integral faith formation for self and social transformation. It is therefore a process of Dialogue between the Church of Origin and the Welcoming Church and between the Migrant and the Local Church into which one is hopefully made welcome! In one sense, the migrants and refugees are not just going away from the Church of Origin but are also an integral part of a Church that is Sending out Missionaries. Being aware of their vocation to holiness and being evangelised first, they become Evangelisers. If they are not aware of their vocation to be bearers of the Good News in a holistic sense of the word, they remain as inactive “migrant” workers unaware of their responsibilities as members of the Church and of their vocation to personal holiness and builders of the Kingdom of the Father in their new mission land. The fundamental message they preach is the Good News of Jesus Christ in and through their Witnesses to the Love of Jesus. This is the shift in our fundamental perspective of who is the Migrant and thus the renewed awareness of the role of the Church of Origin and that of the Welcoming Church.
The Evangelising Mission of the Church as Leaven
The very nature of the Church is its evangelising mission. It is to be the leaven and salt in society. Our self understanding as Church is intimately related to our critical awareness of the complex and diverse realities of the world today (cf. Ecclesia in Asia No. 5). It is this responsibility to mission that moves us to counter the numerous dehumanising forces that are both breaking up our family units and distorting the inherent dignity bestowed on human persons. Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees has thus to include the search for long-term permanent cures.
Pastoral Care is thus a constitutive dimension of the vocation of the individual to follow Christ, and of the Church of Jesus Christ to address the underlying causes of poverty and dehumanisation. We as Church in Asia have committed ourselves to promote new and creative ways of addressing the pastoral needs of the migrant people who have to move from their homeland. Our universal mission as Church is what places priority on the need for Pastoral Care to be inserted in the milieu of Church as Local and Universal Communion.
It is in the context of the new missionary perspective that we need to examine the meaning of what it means to adopt holistic approaches to our ministry with Migrants and Refugees.
5. Holistic Approaches to Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees
What is therefore our Vision of a Humane Migration in the context of a world that treats Migrants and Refugees as marketable commodities in the profit-oriented economy? Pastoral Care of Migrants has in the light of the Gospel and the Social Teachings of the Church to reflect some fundamental principles:
5.1 Humane Migration begins with Human Needs and Human Dignity
We need to begin with their needs and dignity founded on the acceptance of their diverse cultures and beliefs. The universal personhood and rights of migrants and refugees take primacy over creed, race, nationality, political orientation and culture, as well as legal status in countries of origin and destination. Migrant labour is not a commodity but a most valuable creation of God.
Migration is the right of every person in each country. As with all human experiences, migration is a mixture of success and failure, of joy and despair, of discouragement and hope. It is an experience in which the loss of human dignity has to be rectified and through which ways and means must be found to ensure that migrants’ rights are protected and not left to the vagaries of the market driven forces and the mechanism for economic growth.
5.2 Humane Migration is founded on Justice and the Common Good
As a movement of people, it highlights the universality of humanity and surpasses narrow ethnicity, nationalism and racism. Migration should contain the basic premise that the world belongs to everyone and the right to migrate belongs to all. Migration is a movement of the members of the human family in search of dignity based on the principle of the universal destination of created goods and the just distribution of the world’s resources.
5.3 Humane Migration as an Universal Right of all Nations for a New Moral World Order
Migration is also a sign of growing interdependence among nations, which require the recognition of the necessity of a New World order. We acknowledge migration as a reality and that certain aspects, which are criminal and evil, should be eliminated The migrants have the right to move, work and raise their families. Migrants are often the pawns of the economic and market forces. They need to gradually be given the rights to participation and decision-making in civil society. This calls for new legislature through advocacy that will be born out of a new moral ethos in this new millennium.
5.4 Humane Migration has to be Gender Friendly
Humane Migration has to take into consideration the unique contribution of women and men in the sphere of public and family life. The use of female labour as domestic help in affluent countries and men in the construction sectors has given rise to new social problems. These can only be addressed in the context of a broad-based platform for gender equality and participation in all levels of society.
6. The Response of the Church as the Proponent of Humane Migration in the New Millennium
For the Church in Asia to take up the challenges in the Third Millennium, we need a holistic approach to Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees.
In the light of the above we can identity some of the key elements that can become part of a systematic plan of action at all levels.
1. The Welcoming Church as Communion
The Welcoming Church can become a listening Church if it is prepared to enter into a genuine dialogue with migrants and refugees and their communities. It is this dialogue that will enable them to implement Church’s teachings in their personal lives and in the life of the Church. We invite migrants to strengthen the faith of their fellow-migrants by the attitude of the Local Church to open its doors to their less privileged brothers and sisters. It is this reaching out that can be the process of mutual enrichment.
This can be concretised by setting up facilities where the migrants can gather to build a Community among themselves. A place to meet, talk and eat, reach out in friendship and experience fellowship. These centres can also be places for counselling and other services with the participation of the Local Church, especially the different Congregations and groups in the parishes.
Fostering the sense of Church as Communion is the place for preparing migrants to experience the Church as People of God. Our common Vision of Communion among ourselves and with the Lord has to lead us to a greater sense of Mission for Solidarity with the whole Human Family. This is indeed the foundation of the Renewed Church of Asia. For the refugees and IDPs, pastoral care should be part of the relief emergency services in camps and areas where refugees and IDPs are sheltered.
2. The Caring and Compassionate Church
This experience of Communion is also a step towards the Church being a reflection of compassionate and caring Jesus. With the sharing of our time, resources and energies in the difficult, dirty and dangerous world of the migrant workers, the Church will become their Home for a loving encounter with God in their day to day struggles. A welcoming and caring and sharing Church is the place to grow in loving relationships and thus learn to relate, participate and integrate themselves with the local Church in its various activities. Thesetting up of shelter houses for run-aways and those in special difficulties will reflect the face of the God of mercy and compassion.
3. Local Church as Promoter of Advocacy for Justice
We cannot separate our caring services from the demands to be also a Church that will seek to bring reconciliation between employers and workers and help negotiate in a cordial way and reconcile differences through legal assistance and advocacy. As part of our services for the migrants and refugees, we can also seek the help of the sending and receiving governments, UN agencies, the international and local NGO community, other Christian Churches and religious traditions. It is the initiation of such services that will also be the path toward becoming more closely with other Christian churches and religious traditions for the rights of migrants and refugees and internally displaced people.
It is an inevitable part of our mandate to reach out to civil officials for them to be aware of the needs and aspirations of the workers. The need to take active role in the protection of migrant workers' rights and the advocacy of being "defenders of migrant workers” call us to face the consequences. Being Church with Migrants has therefore to include processes that see the lack of proper protection and to make a difference in their lives.
4. The Church in Solidarity with the Human Family
The challenge today is also to adopt an attitude of universality, which brings out the beauty in diversity. There is a need for a change of points of view. We have to move from a position of power to one of equality and solidarity based on the common experience of humanity. We struggle also in society, not only in Church, to embrace people of all faiths and creeds as brothers and sisters.
It is also the privilege of the Caring Church to be in greater and closer contact with migrants, so as to ensure that we make their voices heard by others that are unable to even understand them and their plight. These are also opportunities and occasions for both Church of Origin and Church of Welcome to be enriched mutually through their interaction as part of the universal Church. Each community has its specific culture and the process of inculturation is also a process of making the message of the Gospel more meaningful and relevant today.
5. The Church as Witness to Love
The meeting of a diverse People of God is also the opportunity to reflect the diversity and universality of the Church. In a world that is divided and fragmented, the Church can be this sign of unity and integration. The Church in Asia, in order to be actively involved in the process of renewal, has also to be involved actively in its mission of love and service. It is clear today, that being witnesses to love is indeed our greatest challenge. Being at the service of migrants and refugees and being the protectors of their human dignity and rights is the best way to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, the Gospel of love, peace, justice and forgiveness. It is this conviction that moves us to be life-giving and service-oriented towards migrants and refugees regardless of creed, race, nationality, culture or political orientation. The people of Asia are waiting to be touched by the new sense of meaning that comes from lives lived in self-giving for others. This is indeed the face of the Church as witness to the love and justice of Jesus.
This witnessing can be through our transformed attitudes and the manner in which we render our pastoral and social services for refugees/IDPs. Availability of qualified Church workers specially priests of the same nationality or familiar with the language and culture of the migrants, refugees, IDPs would be most helpful. We should seek to intensify efforts towards the provision of pastoral and social care to migrant workers, refugees, and IDPs.
6. Animation, Education and Formation of the Local Church
One of our intra-ecclesial priorities is to educate all the People of God, including the laity, especially our laity, by encouraging the Bishops and Pastors to initiate campaigns and directives through Pastoral Letters on Migrants, etc. This could also include the celebration of Migration Sunday each year.
Through this process, we hope to promote a better knowledge and information about the situation of the Migrant Communities and also come to a greater awareness and consciousness of their rights and responsibilities.
The education to awareness of employers, sending and receiving governments, recruiters and local Christian communities will be able to address the issues related to the dehumanisation of migrant workers and their treatment as commodities. Such an awareness process should highlight also the humane treatment that undocumented migrants have a right to, in consonance with the teaching of the Catholic Church on human dignity and rights that transcend their legal status.
For refugees and IDPs, conscientization efforts should address States and communities of origin and refuge, UN agencies, international and local regarding the multiple disadvantaged position of refugees and internally displaced people in terms of ethnicity, religion and political rights.
7. Pastoral Care is building Word-Centred Communities
It is in this context that the Pastoral Care of Migrant Communities has to take note of the shift of emphasis, from our complacency with the rendering of services through our institutions and programmes to the building of communities. These migrant communities will thus look into their own growth and development and at the same time also respond to the various needs of their members. These social, legal, educational and religious services are very much their common responsibility in collaboration with the local Church.
To encourage and sustain an on-going information, that will enable the individual and group to undergo a process of Renewal and Community Building, has to be seen as a priority. This is to be fostered through the deepening of commitment through Faith-Reflection-Integration and allows for individuals and communities to Look at their Lives in the light of the Gospel. The formation and transformation of migrant workers has to be in the light of the Gospel and in Word-Sharing Communities. These are not social service groups but faith formation communities that will grow to become Witnessing Communities of Love and Service. Their witnessing as individuals and communities enables them to develop a new relationship with the Local Church. The nurturing values of primacy of the family, joyful and compassionate relationship with God and neighbour is their foundation. The pastoral agents of the Local Church journey with them to accompany them in the moments of sorrows and joys.
8. A Dialogue of Networks and Collaborative Ministries and New Forms of Collaboration between the Church of Origin and the Welcoming Church
Pastoral Care of Migrants will make little sense if there is no true partnership between the Church of Origin and the Welcoming Church.
This can take the form of Preventive Education that will involve both consciousness-raising and Information Dissemination about the situation in the Host Nation. New collaborative structures need to be set up at all levels and we need to keep in mind both the Vision of the Church in Asia, as well as our common mission of Evangelisation.
It is these Structures and Programmes that will enable us to initiate both our personal and our common response in Faith. Thus Pastoral Care is not just the setting of Work Groups and Administrative Teams to accomplish achievable goals but to enable persons and communities to build self-sustaining and self-nurturing communities, each in its own context and milieu.
The networking between and among Churches of origin and destination, as well as with other Christian churches and religious traditions is for programme planning and implementation as well as to look into possibilities for some form of reintegration into their country of origin.
For the refugees and IDPs, reintegration/resettlement schemes, between and among Churches of origin and refuge, are important to enable returnees to rebuild their lives in peace and 'productivity' where they choose to live whether in their own country or in the adopted one.
Final Statement of FABC 7th Plenary Assembly of 1995
Workshop Report of FABC 7th Plenary Assembly on Migrants and Refugees of 1995
Pope John Paul II - Ecclesia in Asia
Pope John Paul II - At the Beginning of the New Millennium
* Paper presented at the First Mexican National Congress on the Pastoral Care of Humans Mobility held in Veracruz, Mexico, from 10 to 14 March 2003.
At Vera Cruz, we appreciated the talk given by Rev. Rogers, which we are publishing. Naturally, it poses the general question on hermeneutics of Vatican II. In this regard, difficulties are not few. It would be enough to mention, with quite a critical note – on my part -, the volumes on the History of the aforementioned great Synod, published under the direction of Prof. Giuseppe Alberigo (see my publication entitled “Chiesa e Papato nella Storia e nel Diritto. 25 anni di studi critici”[Church and Papacy in History and Law. 25 years of critical studies], Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 2002)
Significantly, Brother Rogers underlines the aspects of “newness” and renewal, introduced by the Council. Certainly, those characterized that great Synod, together, however, with its characteristic faithful continuity with the holy Tradition. The concept that expresses this Catholic reality most is contained in the word “aggiornamento”, which, perhaps, more than any other, conveys the beautiful complexity of the Council. It is along these lines (not according to those of present day historiography) that the conciliar “event” must be interpreted. [A.M.]