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Pope: Gospel of mercy answer to migrant crisis

migrant-sun“Sabah too shares some burden of this crisis with undocumented immigrants from the Philippines and Indonesia considered by the locals as ‘mother of all problems.”

KOTA KINABALU – It is easy to blame the ‘refugees’ or undocumented immigrants for all the problems related to them in their host country because by the end of the day, the statistics show most crimes were committed by them.

Reports on their activity, especially the bad side of them are often seen in the news, especially in the social media. Today, there are  thousands of immigrants in several countries in Europe  ‘at war’ with local people and the authorities.

They are protesting for many reasons that lead to riot and in some cases murder. Both sides – the immigrants and the local authorities – committed the violence but the foreigners end up shouldering all the blame. The face of modern times is the failure of  world leaders to tackle this issue, resulting in violence, poverty, oppression and subjugation.

At a time like this, the Holy Father Pope Francis challenges the faithful with one simple question: “How can the Church fail to be inspired by the example and words of Jesus Christ?”

And he said, the answer to that question is “the Gospel is mercy.”

Pope Francis describes the crisis very clearly when he said that those who migrate are forced to change some of their most distinctive characteristics and whether they like it or not, even those who welcome them are also forced to change.

The Pope said the presence of migrants and refugees challenges the various societies which accept them. These societies are faced with new situations which could create serious hardship unless they are suitably motivated, managed and regulated.

“In our time, migration is growing worldwide. Refugees and people are fleeing from their homes which challenge individuals and communities, and their traditional ways of life. At times they upset the cultural and social horizons which they encounter,” said the Pope in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (WDMR) 2016.

The theme for this year WDMR is ‘Migrants and Refugees Challenge Us. The Response of the Gospel of Mercy.’

Perhaps, Sabah is blessed in the sense that it does not have to experience all the violence that some countries face. But it too shares some burden of this crisis with undocumented immigrants coming from the Philippines and Indonesia.

Most recently, the general population of this state showed resentment towards the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis as ‘new foreigners.’

According to the Federal Task Force for Sabah, it is estimated that there are about 80,000 Filipino Muslim refugees. It is further estimated that only 61 percent of them have some form of documentation while the remaining 39 percent continue to risk arrest and deportation.

The government, however, acknowledges the plight of many immigrants who have come here decades ago. Many Filipino refugees and immigrants from Indonesia continue to live below the poverty line due to limited income generating or employment opportunities. Many too have limited access to clean water and electricity.

To survive, they are forced to take in very low level paying jobs. Those who have not acquired permanent residence status or citizenship continue to experience problems such as no access to education, sanitation and health care.

While  the state government can  tackle this issue politically and socially, it is probably everyone’s duty as Christian to show mercy towards these migrants.

In confirming that, Pope Francis said, the Gospel of mercy troubles our consciences, prevents us from taking the suffering of others for granted, and the way to respond to this, grounded in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, is to express in works of spiritual and corporal mercy.

To this end, Bishop Bernard Paul, the new President of the Episcopal Commission for Migrants and Itinerants for Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, called for a parish response to the migrant crisis as he echoed Pope Francis in urging local parishes to become centres where the presence of migrants are made aware of, integrated and accepted into the faith communities, “Share ourselves and our Samaritan response to the “new neighbors” in our midst!”

KK Archdiocese began its local observance at parish level, at the 9:00 am Mass on 4 Sept 2016 at Church of Mary Immaculate, Bukit Padang. – JJ

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