MANILA, June 2, 2015—With Mary Jane Veloso’s fate still unsure and Southeast Asia’s Rohingya issue as yet unsettled, Catholics in the Philippines have expressed solidarity with Pope Francis in pleading for hospitality and respect on behalf of immigrants and refugees in a world increasingly becoming indifferent to their plight.
Created in God’s image
“As usual, the Holy Father’s petition came just when we need it most. Just like everyone else, immigrants and refugees were created in the image of God and, therefore, have the right to a fair and humane treatment,” said Prof. Nestor Limqueco, university instructor and professed member of the Company of Saint Dominic (CSD), in an interview.
Considering that many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) often experience abuses, discrimination, and various forms of injustices in their host countries, he echoed the Holy Father’s invitation to the faithful that all may exercise due vigilance in upholding their God-given dignity and welfare.
For Edward Era, a former OFW and founding chairman of Filipino Lifeline, a non-government organization (NGO) committed to OFW concerns, the pontiff’s appeal proves the Church gives importance to all people who have left the comforts of their own homelands in search of a better future not only for themselves, but most especially for their loved ones.
“As an OFW, I used to ask myself this: Is working overseas a choice or a need? Before, I thought it was a choice, but now I realize it is more of a need. We need to put food on our table, we need to help out our siblings and parents, no matter how hard it is for us working hundreds of miles away,” he explained.
Noting how the country’s over 1.8 million OFWs keep the national economy afloat, Era bemoaned that many of these “Bagong Bayani” (Modern-day Heroes) rarely, if at all, get the state protection they deserve.
“In my years as an advocate of the rights of migrant workers, I’ve seen so many cases of rape and human trafficking to which our compatriots fell victim. Is this how we treat the New Heroes of our Republic? We must remember that OFWs are heroes in the real sense of the word because the pain and sacrifice they have to endure in order to seek greener pastures overseas are real,” he told CBCP News.
“Like Pope Francis, I enjoin each one to pray for victims of human trafficking and those on death row,” he added.
Meanwhile, Martin Francisco, a religious brother serving indigenous communities on Sierra Madre called OFWs the “new missionaries” since they bring their faith and culture with them to the First World.
“It is only fitting that we pray for our immigrants … They are witnesses to Christ’s love,” he stressed.
Pope Francis’ universal petition for June is for immigrants and refugees to find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)