“We need to understand the challenges and difficulties that migrants have.”
The archbishop made this comment in his homily during a Mass to celebrate the 100th World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sept 28.
Speaking to the crowd of about 1,500 migrants and local Catholics at St Joseph Church (Bukit Timah), he stressed the “necessity for all of us to cooperate, to work together to achieve social cohesion, integration, assimilation”.
He noted that although migrants “must maintain their culture and values”, at the same time, they should not be “separated from the rest of society, creating a ghetto for themselves, because this is not what community is all about”.
“Immigrants must therefore make an effort to understand the culture of the host country and to learn to live with the people,” he said.
Quoting St Paul he said that Singaporeans “have to be grateful that migrants have contributed so much to the economy of the country”.
At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Goh said that in his 10-year vision for the archdiocese, migrants are one of the most important of the five components as they make up about 40 percent of the population in each parish.
Participants at the Mass included migrant communities from Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Malayalam and Tamil groups from India.
Representatives from the Philippine and Thai embassies and Indian and Sri Lanka high commissions also attended the celebration.
Before Mass, various migrant groups presented community gifts which were received by Fr Sambodo Sru Ujianto on behalf of the migrant chaplains.
Fr Charlie Dayao Oasan, Fr Antony Raj, Friar Julian Mariaratnam, Fr Peter Paul, and Friar Salim Joseph were introduced to the congregation and they also shared their thoughts.
After lunch in the parish’s community hall, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Malayalam, Vietnamese and Tamil migrants put on cultural performances.
Migrants who attended the celebration said they were happy to do so. “It was a great event and we came to know how the archbishop is concerned about migrants,” said Ms Catherine Kaw, 48, a staff nurse from Myanmar. “ACMI [Archdiocese Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants & Itinerant People] has done a lot also.”
Sri Lankan Jayanath Perera, 54, an IT content developer said, “Many lower salaried migrant workers, who live isolated from their loved ones, to earn a wage to support their families back home, generally consider themselves to be the ones who need help. However, the archbishop challenged us to look at things differently and to serve our fellow man in the light of new evangelisation.”
Migrant Sunday is celebrated annually on the last Sunday of September in the Catholic Church in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. ACMI has been organising this event since 2000, and each year, a different parish hosts the celebration. The celebration aims to honour the dignity of migrants and their contributions to their host country.
For more information on ACMI, visit www.acmi.org.sg
By Don Gurugay