“This tradition of Jesuits building bridges across barriers becomes crucial in the context of today’s world. We become able to bridge the divisions of a fragmented world only if we are united by the love of Christ our Lord, by personal bonds like those that linked Francis Xavier and Ignatius across the seas, and by the obedience that sends each one of us in mission to any part of this world.”
(GC 35, Decree 3, 17)
For the first time, Jesuits and collaborators providing direct services to migrants in sending and receiving countries came together around the table at a workshop in Seoul from 15th to 17th May 2011. The objectives of the workshop were:
- – To improve links between centers across countries for the benefit of migrants
- – To build capacity and learn best practices from each other and from experts
- – To plan for common action
The workshop was organized and sponsored by JCAP with the generous support of the Korean province. There were 13 participants from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, JCAP as well as a representative from the Good Shepherd Asia Pacific network.
Highlights of the program
Fr Denis Kim SJ gave an overview of migration in Asia (focusing on the North East) and the challenges for the church and the Society. The presentation helped participants to look at the big picture of migration and see its links with culture, religion and development. As some participants commented, a better understanding of these inter-related concerns helped them go deeper in their response to migrants. Fr Denis also shared a framework for looking at migration in receiving countries, which participants found useful. The framework comprises 4 elements – State, Labor market, Culture and Civil society.
Ms Jeong Guesun, Director of “Solidarity with Migrants” shared on the Korean civil society’s response to migration.Participants learned about the migration situation in South Korea, the developments in migration policy and the role of activists. One of their main take-aways was an awareness that the current challenge in migration work was the empowerment and training of migrants themselves to become active for their own cause. In this regard, Ms Jeong observed that the Filipino migrants were the most well-organized in Korea because of the support of the Catholic Church. Regarding international co-operation, one key area in Ms Jeong’s opinion is the strengthening of the system in sending countries as this could prevent a lot of problems and abuse occurring in receiving countries. Both sides should work together to address the gaps in information, advocacy and preparation of migrants.
Participants also visited Hyehwadong Filipino Catholic Community (HFCC) and were struck by how well-organized it was as a migrant group. With over 1500 members and 200 volunteers in the council and sub-committees, the group was the largest Filipino community in South Korea. It benefits from the chaplaincy of a Filipino MSP priest and the generous support of the Seoul Archdiocese which provides a 4-storey building in the downtown area for their activities. Participants felt that the empowering and self-organizing way of the HFCC provided a useful best practice model which they could develop in their own countries.
Sharing by Centers: After the above inputs and exposure trip, participants shared about the work of their centers and the migration situation in their countries. From this sharing, participants learnt best practices from one another such as the importance of psychological aid, education of migrant children and the need to take up advocacy work to improve migration policies. Those serving migrants in receiving countries gained a deeper understanding of the migrants’ aspirations from the sharing of sending countries.Participants were deeply struck by the case of Nirmala, a domestic worker who was severely abused in Malaysia, and saw that one possibility for future joint action was to address such problems, which seemed more prevalent in South East Asia.
After a time of reflection on Scripture and the inputs at the workshop, participants prayed and discerned about the needs of migrants to address as a top priority. The areas identified included the insecurity of migrants, their need for community, knowledge of their rights, better access to assistance in their own language, better preparation in their home country, fragility of family relationships and poverty alleviation to address the root causes of migration.
Looking at these inputs, it can be seen that a common thread is the participants’ keen sensitivity to the migrants’ perspective and their needs at every stage of the migration process. This probably comes from the participants’ concrete presence at the frontier accompanying migrants. Not surprisingly, this is similar to the philosophy of Jesuit Refugee Service. The JCAP migration project paper poses the question: “What will be the added value of the response of the Society of Jesus to the immense needs of migrants in our region?” From the participants’ reflection and inputs, the JCAP network’s niche contribution possibly lies in the ability to identify what’s needed based on close accompaniment of migrants, and a way of proceeding that sees things from their perspective.
Another striking point about the participants’ reflection was that it became more and more obvious that to serve migrants effectively, centers in both sending and receiving countries needed to work together. This would make possible better preparation of migrants, exchange of information, accompaniment of migrants abroad and their families at home, education, pastoral care, access to services, protection of migrants’ rights and advocacy. This could be another niche role of the Society. The existence of this JCAP network of sending and receiving countries makes possible integrated service delivery. This is particularly important given that half of migration in Asia Pacific occurs within the region. In future, the network could also consider joint advocacy.
Joint action plan
Based on the participants’ suggestions, the following action plans were agreed upon:
1. Case handling between sending and receiving countries:
■ A “case” is defined as a person moving from one place to another and needs help with some problems. When there is need to accompany a case from sending to receiving country or vice versa, an agreed procedure will be followed among our centers.
■ This procedure will include contacting each other through email, cell phone etc. (a list of emergency contact numbers of network members was circulated) and providing information such as history of the case, information about the migrant, sender and recipient, address of contact office, etc.
■ For the time being, financial expenses in case handling will be covered by the respective local institutions. (Brother Min will provide information about the addresses and procedure seeking financial help from the Joy and Share Foundation.)
■ Once this procedure is implemented, it will be evaluated after 6 months or after 3-5 cases.
2. Joint accompaniment of migrant and family:
■ To address the negative impact on family life, network members in sending and receiving countries will coordinate with each other in accompanying the migrant and his/her family. This includes migrants who have left their families behind in their home countries as well as marriages with foreign spouses.
■ First, data on cases will be collected and the common problems will be analyzed.
■ Improvements to services include programs for social gathering, providing education on cultural differences, providing therapy, providing education on family value and meaning, etc. and networking of persons in charge between receiving and sending countries.
3. Preparation of migrants: Education and orientation:
■ Accurate information about destination countries is often lacking in the migrants’ home country.
■ The JCAP network will collect all available information booklets/web sites from receiving countries (Japan, K Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia) and provide copies to sending countries (Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand) where network members can distribute to those planning to go abroad.
■ The information can also be used for pre-departure education and seminars.
■ Later, the usefulness of the booklets will be evaluated.
The overall feeling about the workshop was one of consolation. Participants felt that the workshop enabled them to see the bigger picture and gain a deeper understanding of migrants especially from hearing the perspectives of sending countries for the first time. This has given them greater motivation, courage and deeper appreciation for the meaning of their work. For some, it has also inspired new ways of proceeding such as empowerment of migrants, building a pool of collaborators and addressing culture, religion and economic issues.
The workshop has helped to build relationships among the JCAP network members as well as with the Good Shepherd sisters. Although they acknowledged the challenges and workload ahead, participants felt that the migration common project has moved forward in a concrete way. The workshop has facilitated the “building of bridges” among sending and receiving countries and is thus a step towards the call of GC35. It was also apparent that a smaller and more focused meeting involving those directly working on the topic was a more fruitful approach. On-going communication within the network will be crucial.
The network members will work on the action plans as listed above. A report on this meeting will be sent to the migration task force and JCAP office. JCAP will also continue to find a full-time coordinator for this network. One of the key tasks for this person will be to work with network members and facilitate greater integration of services, after the first steps taken at this meeting. Later, more can be done to work towards a fully-integrated accompaniment service for migrants across countries and this can perhaps be a new model for the social apostolate.
The next thing to work on would be advocacy. In this regard, the JCAP network needs to continue its reflection and dialogue on specific migration concerns so as to discern a common advocacy issue to address. This could perhaps be the focus of the next workshop.