Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless
"And yet among migrants, children constitute the most vulnerable group, because as they face the life ahead of them, they are invisible and voiceless: their precarious situation deprives them of documentation, hiding them from the world’s eyes; the absence of adults to accompany them prevents their voices from being raised and heard.”
- Pope Francis
8 SEPTEMBER 2016
- Pope Francis
8 SEPTEMBER 2016
READ THE MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
ARCHBISHOP WILLIAM GOH’S 2017 MIGRANT SUNDAY HOMILY
SCRIPTURE REFLECTION FOR
1 OCTOBER, 2017, SUNDAY, 26TH WEEK, ORDINARY TIME
BY ARCHBISHOP WILLIAM GOH
HUMILITY TO EMBRACE EACH OTHER IS THE KEY TO UNITY
We must work together for a common goal, which is for the greater good of everyone. We must share a common vision of a new society built on justice, equality, progress and compassion. We are here to better the life of each other and not to take away the interests of each other. As migrants, we come to offer our gifts to the host country, and the host country receives the gifts so that together we can all celebrate and rejoice together as we work for progress, harmony and peace.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: EZ 18:25-28; PS 24(25):4-9; PHIL 2:1-11 (OR >< 2:1-5); MT 21:28-32
Global migration is a reality in our times, although migration itself is not new. Since the beginning of time, people have always travelled from one place to another. Abraham was a migrant who travelled from Ur to Canaan. Later, the sons of Israel went to Egypt and settled in Canaan, claiming the territory as their own. So it was out of necessity to protect the people that nations and kingdoms were born and lands were demarcated and portioned out to different groups of peoples. However today, when we speak of migration, we are more inclined to think of individuals who travel to distant lands to settle down permanently.
Globalization can be a boon or a bane unless we know how to handle this issue prudently. As Christians, we must ensure that migration is a win-win situation for all. This is what St Paul asks of us in the second reading when he wrote, “If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind.” Whether we are immigrants or residents of the host country, we must have a common view with respect to migration so that we do not see each other as competitors but as complementary to each other.
Again, St Paul wrote, “There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing.” We cannot see each other as competitors or enemies if we are to preserve the unity of the country and among all peoples. Rather, welcoming migrants must be a win-win for all. Migrants bring with them their skills and culture and contribute to the economic development of the host country. Without migrants, Singapore would not be where we are today. It is through their contribution to trade and business, and in construction that Singapore is what it is today. Singaporeans in the first place were all migrants. Our forefathers were migrants from China, India, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. Conversely, migrants who come to Singapore benefit from the country’s economic development, a high standard of living, efficiency, peace and social order. So no one can say that we can do without the other. We are inter-dependent on each other.
We should be grateful to each other and not think too highly of ourselves. We cannot act in a superior way towards migrants. This is what St Paul advises us. “Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people's interests instead.” To think that we are better than the migrants and to look down on them is to forget that we were all migrants in the first place. We too were once poor and looking for greener pasture. Our forefathers settled here and together they built up the nation. We must not forget the mercy of God, as the responsorial psalm reminds us. So in the same spirit, we must welcome migrants. We must be careful that we do not fall into the same attitude of the Jews who despised the tax-collectors, prostitutes and sinners. They thought so highly of themselves and treated them as outcasts. They regarded themselves as the chosen people of God. But they forgot that they were chosen not for themselves but for the world. Their position of being the Chosen People of God was so that they would be the instrument of salvation for the world. Instead of isolating themselves, they were called to reach out to them as Jesus did.
Failing to embrace others, the Jews forfeited what they had. Hence, Jesus remarked, “I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.” They were so proud of themselves that they were not willing to learn from John the Baptist. They thought they had the Word of God. They thought they knew everything. But in truth those who entered the kingdom of God were the tax collectors and prostitutes who appreciated John the Baptist and repented. Instead of obeying the Word of God, the Jews paid lip service.
We can also learn much from the migrants when it comes to gratitude and appreciation of our resources. We are told that the Jewish leaders did not treasure the prophets that the Lord sent to them. They rejected both John the Baptist who was widely seen as a prophet among the ordinary people and Christ as the Messiah. We often take what we have for granted; the peace, social harmony, the security, the efficiency and the prosperity of our country. We do not realize that in many countries, they do not enjoy what we have. This explains why migrants tend to be more resourceful, hardworking, persevering and tolerant than the locals, because they do not take what they have for granted. They fight for survival and they seek to grow their resources.
Why, then, are there restrictions placed on migrants? The world is one and all of creation belongs to humanity. But because of selfishness, injustice, discrimination and lawlessness, barriers are created by man to protect national interests, which means the common interests of the people under their charge. So boundaries are drawn between nations so that the common good of the people could be protected. This principle is not much different from the axiom that says, “charity begins at home although it does not end there.” In other words, each nation has to first put their country in order before they can accept immigrants. Without such measures, there will be social disorder if there is no control and proper management of the entry of migrants into a country because it means providing jobs, accommodation, transport, education, medical and health care. If not handled properly, there will be a critical shortage of the basic amenities, which could result in chaos, social disorder, theft, cheating, drugs peddling, crimes and upheaval, making the country impossible to live in. So even whilst we promote migration, the host country has the responsibility to determine the capacity of migrants it is able to admit comfortably.
Indeed, managing the influx of migrants into our community is the key to maintaining social cohesion, otherwise the benefits of migration, both to the migrant and the host country, would not be realized, and what the country had to begin with, may even be taken away. The greatest fear is always disunity and social disorder. This happens when migrants feel discriminated or treated unjustly. They become an enclave and start isolating themselves from the larger community. When migrants want to distinguish themselves from the rest of the community, protecting their culture, language and customs at the expense of alienation, it will breed disharmony, misunderstanding and suspicion. We must not act as if we are a superior race and have a superior culture compared to the rest of humanity. This was how the Jewish leaders behaved and isolated themselves from the common people. Racial and religious supremacy are the causes of disunity and competition.
Hence, there is a need for integration even if we are not speaking about assimilation. This is the key to preserving the unity of the peoples. We must take a page from Jesus Himself in the second reading. We are told that the Son of God, although “was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.” God became man to identify with us in all things except sin. God became one of us and one with us so that He could lead us to salvation and life.
Similarly, migrants and local residents must seek to identify with each other. They must learn to reach out to each other and share with each other their cultures, join in their celebrations and enrich each other with their knowledge, skills and values. That is why St Paul urges us to “be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind.” We must work together for a common goal, which is for the greater good of everyone. We must share a common vision of a new society built on justice, equality, progress and compassion. We are here to better the life of each other and not to take away the interests of each other. As migrants, we come to offer our gifts to the host country, and the host country receives the gifts so that together we can all celebrate and rejoice together as we work for progress, harmony and peace.
This is our common vision of a world where everyone is given the full opportunity to develop himself or herself with the resources given by God in this world. This is what the justice of God is all about, as Ezekiel proclaims. God does not take our past into consideration but He seeks a new life for us. So long as we are ready to let go of our sinful way of life, our foolish way of living and live according to His laws, He is ever ready to forgive us and give us a new start. So let us renounce our pride and self-interests but be servants of each other in Christ, serving humbly and totally, giving ourselves for the good of all. Let us welcome each other as Christ welcomes us, sinners and unworthy as we are. Let the words of St Paul be in our hearts when he exhorts us, “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus.”
In Singapore, the Archdiocese celebrates the integration of all migrants in our community, regardless of nationality and economic status. Working towards greater integration and maintaining social harmony is a goal we share as Church and the family of God.
Click here to view pictures of recent Migrant Sunday celebrations on our Facebook page:
25 September 2016; at the Church of St Mary of the Angels.
27 September 2015, at Divine Mercy Church.
28 September 2014, at St Joseph's Church, Bukit Panjang.
29 September 2013, at Church of St Stephen.
30 September 2012, at Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.