KOTA KINABALU (CS) – Four young and courageous 3rd generation migrants were given the AMOS platform to delve into their life that has been impacted by the fact that they are born the 3rd generation of migrants who migrated to the State for a better living.
The 4th AMOS Conference took place at an opportune time when Pope Francis called the Church to revive her missionary awareness and commitment in the month of October 2019.
Capturing the focus on a revived missionary impulse, AMOS-4 aptly chose for its theme “Baptised and Sent: Our Mission towards Migrants and Refugees”. The Conference, held at the Sacred Heart Parish Centre Oct 6-8, attracted over a hundred participants from the three dioceses of Sabah, and Brunei.
AMOS is a response to the need to look into the issue of ministry to the migrants in Sabah, and is jointly organized by the three dioceses of Sabah. The fourth edition was organized and hosted by the Human Development Commission of Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese (AHDC).
AMOS serves to bring together those in pastoral service of migrants, including those of migrant descent, to study, reflect and suggest ways to “welcome, protect, promote and integrate” migrants in the life of the local church. In addition to that, this year’s conference would receive an update on the local Church pastoral service to migrants, delving into the issues faced by third generation migrants and to propose appropriate pastoral responses.
The Conference opened with Mass, which was presided by Archbishop John Wong, and concelebrated by Msgr Gilbertus Engan and Fr Philip Muji (Keningau Diocese), Fathers David Gasikol and Dafrinn Diwol (Sandakan Diocese). The Mass was followed by dinner, an opening address by Archbishop Wong and an introduction to the AMOS Conference by Dominic Lim, Head of AHDC.
For the next two days during the conference proper, the participants were reminded what choices migrants make in their lives that entail them to give up their past and to forge dreams for their children in an unknown future. They heard of the initiatives of the local church in “welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” the migrants through offering legal (documentation), education (migrant schools or Community Learning Centres), and pastoral (convalidation of marriages, Sunday School and parish integration) services.
This year the participants had the privilege to listen to “real life stories” from four 3rd-generation migrants who shared at length the challenges faced by them. They highlighted how their situation as 3rd generation migrants have impacted their livelihood, education prospects and life’s economy in general.
These youngsters represent the generation that are born here in the State, but without receiving identification nor given citizenship status because their parents are migrants who have migrated here with the hope of securing a better life for themselves and their next generations.
They revealed the difference they encounter in their life from those who have a right to identification: they are not accepted in government schools, and even for those who have been accepted, they are required to pay more for fees and facilities when compared to the locals. Besides, their movements are limited for fear of “checking” by authorities. The lack of ID documentation has also brought untold difficulty to their employment prospects, thus subjecting them to a very harsh working life.
Concluding their tales of sorrow on a bright note, the young migrants said to the conference at large that although they are born 3rd generation migrants, they also want to share their joy of being alive and that they are still able to live here with their parents and families.
A paper on “Children who are at risk of statelessness and their constraints to citizenship” by Mary Anne Baltazar threw further light on the situation of the 3rd generation migrants. Baltazar, who is currently doing a postgraduate study on the same subject, underlined “Children’s rights and wellbeing are being violated, and consequences are that the stateless and undocumented population is growing in Sabah”.
Her research findings revealed constraints to documentation which include hindrances to documentation such as cost, incomplete documents, complicated procedures; and others such as mixed marriages, foundlings (unknown biological parents), etc.
A subsequent Panel moderated by Msgr Gilbert Engan of Keningau, and representatives from the Sabah Magistrate, Consulate of Indonesia, Kota Kinabalu, and the Embassy of The Philippines, Kuala Lumpur opened up a topic for discussion on “How third generation migrants are viewed from the perspectives of the Government authorities”. The discussion revealed that the biggest issues were arising from the remarriages between migrants who already have spouses with locals, and the documentation of migrant young children born in Sabah.
In the final group discussion “As a Church which is alert to the issues of migration, what are the commitments that can be done for the problems faced by third generation migrants”, participants were asked to provide realistic proposals that would help migrants in their community, parish and diocese from the pastoral and humanitarian aspects. Presentations was given by each group and all proposals raised would be organized into a formal statement on a date yet to be determined.
The Conference closed with Mass presided by Msgr Engan in place of Bishop Cornelius Piong who was unable to attend.
The participants adjourned to nearby Msgr Watcher Centre for a closing concert which was enlivened with traditional dance performances from the Indonesian and Filipino communities.
The Diocese of Keningau will host the 5th AMOS Conference in 2021. – Trevor Yaacob / DOSPO/ AC