Monday, September 26, 2011

Migrant Sunday 2011

Greater role for migrants

We dedicated last Sunday, 25 September 2011, to the migrants and we appropriately called it Migrant Sunday. I could not be there for the mass on Sunday but I understand that our Parish Priest  (PP), expressed great concern for the migrants in the parish and urged the parishioners to do all they can to make the stay of the migrants here a pleasant one. He even went out of the way to provide lunch for them after mass.This change of heart may be a positive change which many were taken aback. 

I am surprised at the about turn of our PP who was the one to unceremoniously terminate the services of the previous person who was managing the Migrant Ministry so well for over 20 years. Many of us who were here long will know how well the migrants were being catered for in our parish which was once the model of migrant care for others. We would all remember the migrants gathering in our church compound every Sunday and witness the various activities carried out by them – prayer, games, singing, cooking and talent contests shows. We would still remember their active participation in masses on the last Sundays of the month. I for one was particularly impressed by their choir that used to be so lively. 

That person in charge of the migrants whom I was closely working with in helping deserving migrants, used to be a staunch church goer but she was so disillusioned with the way she was treated by her own PP for doing something good for the migrants. Sad to say she has even stopped going to the church although she is still a strong Catholic at heart. The greatest disappointment is that the PP and other senior members of the PPC and other ministries were least bothered about the ‘loss’ of such a dedicated worker. 

It was the present PP who slammed the doors of the parish to the migrants by closing down the little office space they had and forbid them from using the church premises for their weekly gatherings. Isn’t it being hypocritical of him now to preach about caring for them? 

Act of tokenism? 

It is most unfortunate that the migrants are only celebrated once a year in the parish. It appears to be just an act of tokenism like the rhetoric of our politicians. On this one day they are given the opportunity to organise the mass and they are given free food and drinks, often sponsored by some kind souls out to seek some sort of penance. 

Our relationship with the migrants should not be like master and slave but like father and son as Jesus mentioned in this Migrant Sunday’s Gospel of Mathew 21: 28-32. 

The way forward 

The Church in particular our priests and lay ministers, must show greater sincerity and empathy in dealing with the plight of our migrant workers in their parishes. They should be treated with greater dignity and as equal members of the parish and not as second class citizens just because they are mere workers here to earn an income. There is no reason why they can’t play a bigger role as wardens, communion ministers, readers, commentators and choir members on all Sundays instead of only during the Bahasa Malaysia masses. 

The concern for the migrants as expressed by our PP may be an encouraging sign that could augur well for our parish. Will it mark the return of migrants to active parish life? We hope it will be the dawn of a new scenario where the people’s voices will be heard again. We hope it will be the beginning of an era of greater transparency in the administration in our parish where the people will have a greater say in the decision making process.

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