Catholics from Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore at the Exodus conference held from Aug 31-Sept 3. Photo: VITA Images

Catholics from Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore learnt more about the issues and challenges involved in serving migrants during a four-day conference titled Exodus.

The Aug 31-Sept 3 event was organised by the Episcopal Commission on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants (ECMI) and Singapore’s Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI).

The conference had the theme, Jesus, Gift to the Vulnerable and Voiceless, and was held at the St Francis Xavier Retreat Centre in Punggol, and Agape Village.

In his speech, keynote speaker Fr Graziano Battistella drew the attention of the 85 participants to how migrants can be “invisible” in the societies they work in.

“Most domestic workers in Asia live in the house of the employers,” said Fr Battistella, director of the Scalabrini Migration Center in Quezon City, the Philippines. “In this regard, they are invisible to the local society, except during their day off.”
ACMI’s chairman Mark Goh reflected on Jesus’ compassion for the widow of Nain in raising her dead son to life in Luke 7:11-17.

“This instructs me that our work [in ACMI] extends beyond the acts of charity and social work: the goal of our effort is to restore persons to their dignity and sense of belonging to the community,” he said, “and give meaning to life.”

Other speakers included Jesuit Fr Varghese Lopez, from St Peter’s College Major Seminary in Kuching, Sarawak, who spoke on the psychology of migration and the stress migrants experience on arrival in their host countries.

Representatives from Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, the Migrant Workers Centre and Yale-NUS College also spoke on the migrant situation in Singapore.

At the Thanksgiving Mass held at Agape Village on Sept 3, Bishop Bernard Paul of Melaka-Johor stressed how each Catholic is called to be like a “father” because God the Father is in us.

“Because God the Father is merciful ... therefore we are all called to reflect His mercy to others,” he said.

Delegates said they learnt much from the conference.

“It was good to have open discussions about migrant issues and policies,” said Ms Trizia Dela Cruz from the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.

“Since my family is very involved in the Filipino community, it helped to open my eyes to what people face every day.

With a better understanding of these issues, I feel more involved and more willing to help.”

For Sr Rosalind Chan, the conference was an “eye opener to many things”. The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary nun said she felt “very touched that there are so many organisations and dedicated people” who are helping migrants.

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