Participants of a recent regional conference on migrants and itinerant people, held at Montfort Centre, pose for a photo. Participants of a recent regional conference on migrants and itinerant people, held at Montfort Centre, pose for a photo.
A recent regional meeting for Catholics serving migrants has been a useful learning experience, say participants.
The sixth annual conference of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral care of Migrants & Itinerant People (EMI) allowed “us to meet our counterparts in Malaysia (including Sabah and Sarawak) and Brunei”, said Mr Timothy Karl.

The executive director of Singapore’s Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants & Itinerant People (ACMI) said “it is interesting to see how the various dioceses with different situations and profiles reach out to their migrant populations. In church work, we learn from one another.”

Twenty-one participants, including clergy and laypeople, attended the May 8-11 conference held at the Montfort Centre off Upper Bukit Timah Road.

EMI comes under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

Bishop Paul Tan, from the Diocese of Melaka-Johor and current EMI president noted that “all dioceses have improved in some way or another” in serving migrants. He added that he found the talks during the conference “very good”.
These were:
  • Migrant Families Left Behind delivered by Jesuit Fr Nilo E Tanalega, director of the Philippines-based UGAT Foundation which concerns itself with the pastoral care of families left behind by overseas foreign workers.

  • He spoke about the impact of migration and stressed the need for communication hubs for migrants to keep in touch with their families back home.

  • Trafficking in Persons: a Catholic Perspective by ACMI chairman Mark Goh.

  • FMM Experiences on Anti-Trafficking in Singapore by Sr Sylvia Ng. The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary nun shared her experiences of her work in a red-light area in Singapore and explained the need to defend life, justice and human dignity.

  • Church Migrant Advocacy by Mr Joachim Xavier, a Malaysian advocate and solicitor, who spoke on advocacy methods and the Church’s view of advocacy.
EMI chairman Sudhagaran Stanley from Penang said the organisation’s main focus will now be to make more people aware of migrant issues and the challenges these people face.

During the conference, participants also visited ACMI’s training centre for foreign domestic workers in Hougang.
EMI holds meetings in various dioceses in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei during which delegates share their experiences and participate in formation talks.

The next EMI conference is scheduled for May 2015 in Kuala Lumpur.

By Don Gurugay

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