The church and its witness: protecting migrant workers
By Rev. Cathy Chang
“Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”
Reflection: In my Filipino colleagues I see the courage and determination of Queen Esther as they advocate for the lives of their people. The systematic extermination proposed by Haman threatened several generations of Esther’s people. While she didn’t know their names, she knew that she was responsible for their lives. She knew that she needed to act and to risk her own life.
From the moment they begin preparing to go overseas, the lives of Filipina domestic workers are always at risk. At her first job, Mary Jane Veloso worked as a domestic helper for an employer who attempted to sexually assault her. On the way to her next job, she carried drugs in a bag prepared by her recruiter. She was sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Indonesia. Like Mary Jane, Jennifer Dalquez faced similar advances from her first employer. One day when protecting herself during an impending assault, she fatally wounded her second employer. Soon after she was sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates.
Laws in host countries do not protect migrant workers, often resulting in death or execution. Thankfully Jennifer appealed her sentence and is no longer on death row, but Mary Jane is still on death row after 8 years in prison.
Action: Lobby for stronger protections of migrant workers, such as in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which is moving towards adoption by member states of the United Nations this December. The migration of overseas Filipina workers like Mary Jane Veloso and Jennifer Dalquez needs to include protections that uphold their dignity and safety. Without these protections, they become human trafficking victims.
Prayer: Lord God, you have created us in your image. Today we remember Jennifer Dalquez and other unnamed migrant workers who face life-threatening conditions from their employers. We also remember Mary Jane Veloso and other unnamed migrant workers who are on death row. Move legal authorities to provide protection and seek justice for these migrant workers. Amen.
Rev. Cathy Chang is regional facilitator for Addressing Migration and Human Trafficking with Presbyterian World Mission. She is based in the Philippines and works throughout southeast Asia. Previously she served as associate pastor at the Bertha E.R. Strosacker Memorial Presbyterian Church in Midland, Michigan, and Lilly pastoral resident at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.
This year’s A Season of Peace resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues like human trafficking and sustainable development, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the days of this year’s A Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect on:
- Peace that passes understanding: personal testimonies of faith and peace within self, within families, within communities
- Partners in peace: interfaith work for peace and justice, building peace between us while witnessing to peace in our wider world
- Peacemaking and practice: stories and reflections on building bridges and crossing divides
- Go and see: reflections from travel study seminar participants
- The church and its witness: reflections on addressing trafficking in its varied forms
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 2, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 7.