by Shirley Joseph
Brunei: Sr. Maria Dipal, RGS and Shirley Joseph, representatives from the Diocese of Sandakan attended the 8th Annual Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants (EMI), Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei from 28th April - 1st May 2016.
The 4-day Conference was hosted by the Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei Darussalam held at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (COLA), Bandar Seri Begawan. The event was attended by 18 delegates from 9 arch/dioceses from the three countries. Sibu and Keningau Dioceses were not represented due to inevitable reason.
The first day, 28th April, was a warm and cozy session. Members were feted to dinner where Fr. Arin Sugit from the host diocese extended his warm welcome to all EMI members. Fr Alvin Ng from the Archdiocese of Kuching, shared on the Migrant Sunday Kit.
The EMI members had the opportunity to meet the migrants from Sarawak and Sabah during their Bahasa Malaysia Community Gathering. They were able to mingle around with the migrants and their families during their potluck fellowship dinner.
The occasion was a good platform for migrants to come together to build up their bonding. It was an opportunity for members to interact with the migrants, understanding their plight and joy.
The second day, 29th April commenced with a recollection session conducted by Fr. Alvin.
Morning Prayer led by Fr. Arin before the recollection
Together with foreign workers, they then proceeded to join the Mass presided over by Fr. Alvin and con celebrated by Fr. Arin and Fr. Sylvester Ding Ibau from the Diocese of Miri. Fr. Alvin mentioned in his homily that as a Christian community, we are called, we are chosen and we are commissioned to proclaim the Good News. He called on the members to ponder on the challenges on how to respond to the presence of single mothers, divorcees, gays and lesbians in our church. He quoted that Pope Francis urged us to talk and to have dialogues on the issue.
Fr. Alvin also stressed that we cannot judge those people and that we should change our attitude if we are the one who are ‘guarding’ and preventing them to enter the door of our church. He also added that we must be like Christ, embracing everyone without distinction for we are sent to proclaim in Jesus Christ.
Most of the foreign workers hail from the Philippines, Sarawak and Sabah. Once again, Sr. Maria RGS and Shirley had the chance to meet up with foreign workers from their homeland, Sabah during the ‘Soup and Bread’ Luncheon after mass.
After lunch break, Rt. Rev. Cornelius Sim, Apostolic Vicar of Brunei who had just returned from Baku, Azerbaijan shared on the 7th United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Global Forum which he attended.
The prelate said that 90% of the topics were about immigration and migration. There are many challenges faced by the receiving countries, affecting the migrants and locals. There are positive and negative effects. He added, “To all who are serving in the migrant and refugee ministry, it is a tough task but necessary. We need people like you who are able to present their real life stories. We cannot just leave them behind. They need our help because they are also human just like us. The Year of Mercy urges us to ‘welcome the stranger.”
The second session for the day was on ‘Integral Human Development,’ also presented by Fr. Alvin.
Peter Barnabas, the current Chairman of EMI, then gave a summary presentation on ‘Migration and Development, a Dynamic Nexus’ based on The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) Asian Working Group Meeting held in Manila, Philippines on 22-23 October 2015.
His presentation included:-
1. Opening Remarks by Most Rev. Precioso D. Cantillas, Chairman of Asian Working Group (AWG)
2. Definition of Integral Human Development (IHD)
3. Development and IHD by Johan Ketelers
4. New Global Development Goals
5. Role of the Church
6. IHD is Hindered because of Fear and Indifference – Most Rev. Ruperto C. Santos, Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Chairman
7. Role of the Community Development Workers – Most Rev. Oswald Lewis, India
8. Integration and Assimilation in Community Development – Most Rev. Precioso D. Cantillas
Later after dinner, Mr. Alan Filio, former Chairman of COLA’s Parish Pastoral Council, gave a brief presentation on ‘The Roman Catholic Church in Brunei.’ Mr. Alan himself migrated from the Philippines to Brunei when he was 25 years old about 20 years ago. He informed that COLA Parish has around 5,000 parishioners and 70% Filipinos, only 10% Bruneians and 20% Malaysians and others.
The second day was a fruitful encounter which ended at 9.30 pm with light refreshment.