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Papar-Limbahau delegates share how AMOS-3 broadens their minds on migrant ministry

Abp Wong (with dark glasses) and Dominic Lim (2nd from R) pose with the Papar delegates at the AMOS-3 conference held, 21-23 Sept 2017 in Sandakan.

PAPAR – Some of the Papar and Limbahau delegates to the recent AMOS-3 conference shared on how the conference has broadened their minds on the migrant ministry.

Present at the 21-23 Sept 2017 conference in Sandakan were five delegates from Papar and six from Limbahau.

Papar has a significant population of migrant parishioners mainly from Indonesia and some from the Philippines.

William Charles Mindus spoke about the importance of eradicating negative perception towards migrants.

He lamented that because the migrants are being perceived as a threat, they are, in many instances, being alienated in pastoral activities.

“We need to soften our hearts and open the eyes of our heart to imitate Jesus Christ in His humility and mercy towards the poor and marginalised,” said Mindus.

Recalling that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were once migrants in the land of the Gentiles, and so did the early missionaries in foreign land, “we need to remind ourselves of the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church on how to treat others fairly and justly, especially migrants irrespective of their racial and religious backgrounds,” he added.

Mindus also reminded lay and church leaders to foster solidarity and inclusiveness in all aspects of the Church ministries: choir, youth, warden, women’s league, BECs (KKD), etc instead of reserving the migrant brothers and sisters to serve only during Migrant Sunday or on special occasions.

Mary Jimit shared that prior to AMOS-3 she was somewhat blurred on what AMOS is all about, and even unsure of her role in the PHDC.

AMOS-3 helped her to realise God’s calling and enable her to grasp the objective and the vast scope of migrant ministry.  She opined that the conference had instilled an awareness within her to touch others through the migrant ministry, and so to begin to ‘walk the talk’ the social teaching of the Church.

She hoped to serve in the PHDC more from an understanding of it as Christ’s mission, not only in the migrant ministry, but also in other pastoral ministries as well.

Imelda Hayon reckoned that AMOS is part of her personal struggle as a Catholic serving in St Joseph Church.

She expressed her hope that the ministry members would serve in unity and share with others what they have learnt and experienced during the conference.

Sylvester Joseph commented that this conference was his second exposure, and shared that AMOS has created awareness in him in the migrant ministry, and to accept the migrant brothers and sisters as part of the church community.

He hoped that both parishes could always collaborate and contribute toward unity in migrant ministry and PHDC-related activities.

Though Limbahau parish rarely sees a high influx of migrant parishioners compared to Papar parish, he still envisioned the need to develop the migrant ministry by involving the migrant members in various pastoral activities such as rosary prayers and the BECs. – SOCCOM Papar-Limbahau

KK prelate urges participants to look at migrant ministry as vocation

The participants listen as Kletus Muyuk gives an overview of the AMOS-3 conference, Sandakan, 21 Sept 2017.

SANDAKAN – Archbishop John Wong of Kota Kinabalu said the Feast of St Matthew paved the way for the AMOS Conference to look at migrant ministry as a vocation.  He delivered this insight in his opening homily at the third AMOS Conference hosted by Sandakan Diocese on 21-23 Sept 2017 at the Sandakan Pastoral Centre here.

One hundred and fifty participants, comprising two bishops, 11 priests, six religious from the three arch/dioceses of Sabah and Miri gathered for the conference themed “The Church: Advocate for the vulnerable and voiceless.

Matthew was considered an outcast for supporting the Roman Empire in his role as a tax collector,  Abp Wong said.  But he was called by the Lord to follow Him.

“Those involved in migrant ministry might also be viewed negatively for reaching out to foreigners,” said the KK prelate.

He continued, “But when they responded to serve the vulnerable and voiceless, they are, in fact, doing the will of God, who says, “I was a stranger and you made me welcome.” (Mt 25:35b)

Both Bishop Julius Gitom of Sandakan and Kletus Muyuk, head of Sandakan Diocesan Human Development Commission, provided an overview of the conference.

They spelt out the two conference objectives: (a) To deepen the understanding of migration and to strengthen the spirit of service to the migrants, and (b) To increase inter-diocesan cooperation in pastoral care to migrants.

To achieve these, the organising team has incorporated a session on the legal aspect of migration and a session on collaboration.

Romo Lukas of Larantuka Diocese gave an input on “Advocating Human Dignity: Basis for Pastoral Care to Migrants.”  In his talk covering the issue of migration and its pastoral care from social, historical, biblical and ecclesial perspectives, Lukas quoted the UN Charter on Human Rights and some church documents, specifically Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi, to support his view that ministry to migrants is, in fact, advocating their dignity as “imago Dei,” persons created in the image of God.

However, the reality of pastoral care to migrants is not easy. Bishop Julius shared the complexity of the matter the next day. Many a time there is a choice to be made: which comes first – pastoral or legal? He said given the immense presence of migrants in Sandakan diocese, pastoral care to them is not an option but part and parcel of building the local Church there.

Jellferlyne Joseph, a programme officer at Pusat Kebajikan Good Shepherd (PKGS), supported Bishop Julius in her personal testimony of working for migrants. She used to be against them. But over the years in PKGS, she realised that migrants, too, are humans who need livelihood, education and security. She learnt to see God in the faces of the migrants and saw her service as a vocation.

In spite of the complexity in migration issue, if it is done in a peaceful, legal and dignified way, there should no fear. This was assured by Bapak Konsul Krishna Djelani of Tawau and Elsie Primus who spoke as a magistrate of the Kota Kinabalu High Court.

Both highlighted the relevant Immigration Acts that determine the legality of migration in both countries. Many heard for the first time how such laws could actually facilitate a person to cross national boundaries in a dignified way if he/she abides by them closely. No doubt there are syndicates who exploit the process for economic or political gains. But that should not prevent a migrant from violating the laws.

The session was followed by Q & A from the floor. Many asked about matters related to marriage between locals and migrants, on labour law, documentation issues, statelessness and status of fourth generation migrants. However, answers to such complex matters could not be dealt with satisfactorily in a short time.

In the afternoon Romo Lukas shared from the perspective of a “Sending Church” – why people of Flores choose to migrate, how the local churches prepare and help the families who are left behind. He felt that the frequent exchange of information and collaboration between the two sides (Flores and Sabah) would further ease the burden encountered by the migrants, especially in living their faith in a foreign land.

Reports from the three arch/dioceses were then briefly tabled to provide a glimpse on what the local churches have done in ministering to the migrants. It was clear that the responses varied from diocese to diocese, from locality to locality.

Msgr Gilbert Engan who represented Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau admitted that his presence might be providential. He sensed the urgent need for the three arch/dioceses in Sabah to collaborate as migrants are mobile. Without common pastoral policies, they might look for a locality where reception of the sacrament of matrimony is lax.

The final session facilitated by Dominic Lim was aimed to get the Sabah dioceses to move together as “Receiving Church.” Participants were divided into groups to propose concrete ways based on items agreed in the Tripartite Pastoral Gatherings in 2013 and 2015. The proposals would be screened through by the Organising Team before a Final Statement could be issued from the AMOS-3 Conference for the attention of pastoral institutes and agents in Sabah.

Bishop Julius, in his farewell remarks, hoped that AMOS-3 has instilled a deeper sense of commitment among the participants. Though there might still be uncertainties among them, especially those who were there for the first time, he believed that at least the sessions have convinced them that defending the vulnerable and voiceless is very much the mission of the Church.

AMOS-1 was hosted by KK Archdiocese in February 2011 at the Bundu Tuhan Retreat Centre while Keningau Diocese hosted AMOS-2 at the Tatal Retreat Centre Keningau in February 2013. – AHDC

Sandakan hosts third AMOS conference

SANDAKAN – The Diocese of Sandakan hosted the third AMOS conference at the Sandakan Pastoral Centre here on 21-23 Sept 2017.

A total of 162 participants registered for the conference including 12 representatives from the Papar-Limbahau Human Development Committee (Komiti Pembangunan Insan or KPI).

The conference, held every two years on rotation basis among the three arch/dioceses of Kota Kinabalu, Keningau and Sandakan, included two bishops, 13 priests, seven religious sisters and one novice.

The objectives of the conference are to enhance the understanding of the issue of migration, to strengthen the migrant ministry, and to foster collaboration among the dioceses in this ministry.

In his homily at the opening Mass, Archbishop John Wong said the participants are like the apostle Matthew in answering the call of Jesus without a second thought.  He hoped that when they return to their respective parishes, they will continue to bring Christ’s mercy to those they encounter, especially the migrants, touching their hearts with kindness, love and mercy, notwithstanding the challenges and criticism they will receive from parishioners at times as well as misunderstanding from the communities.

The two-day programme saw the presentation and discussion on several topics namely:

  1. Human Rights Defence (Pembelaan Maruah Insan: Dasar Pelayanan Migran) by Romo Lukas from the Diocese of Larantuka.
  2. The Reality of Migrant Ministry in Local Church (Realiti Pelayanan Migran dalam Gereja Lokal) by Bishop Julius Gitom from the pastoral perspective and Jellferlyne Joseph from personal perspective.
  3. Migration in peace, legal and dignified (Bermigrasi secara aman, legal dan bermartabat I) by Indonesian Councillor Bapa Krishna Djelani and Malaysian Magistrate Elsie Primus.
  4. Migration in peace, legal and dignified (Bermigrasi secara aman, legal dan bermartabat II)  by Romo Lukas from the Early Church perspective.
  5. Moving Together as a Purposeful Church (Bergerak Bersama sebagai “Gereja Tujuan”), a written report on AMOS-2 and its follow through by the three dioceses and the current recommendation and resolution which will be documented and later forward to the three dioceses for their implementation and follow-up.

The conference participants had a cultural night filled with traditional dances from various ethnic communities from Indonesia, Philippines, Sabah and Sarawak as well as entertaining drama sketch from the Indonesian community.

It coincided with the World Migrant Sunday 2017 which is normally celebrated between the last week of September and the first week of October, with the theme “Minor Migrants, Vulnerable and Voiceless”.

The final day saw a consensus from the three dioceses to address and implement the suggested recommendation and resolution in stages. – William Charles Mindus (SOCCOM Papar Limbahau)

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