The church and its witness: in times of exile
By Rev. Joram H. Calimutan
Esther 7:1–10 and Luke 4:18–19
“He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Reflection: Queen Esther’s story narrates the oppression, vulnerability, and total disregard experienced by the Jewish people during their exile. They’ve been toyed with and sold by their captors. Now they face the threat of annihilation because of their principled stand for faith, human rights, and dignity.
As an oppressed minority, Esther hid her identity, forced to please her captors even at the extent of using her body for mere survival. Now Esther wittingly uses her status to advance her people’s struggle and to save their lives.
Her story is remarkably similar to the situation faced by many of the 258 million migrants all over the world. Millions of migrants, including refugees and uprooted peoples, are in exile in highly developed countries. Their urgent need to survive forces them to be separated from their families and commodified in the international market. They suffer from oppression and are vulnerable to all forms of abuse, exploitation, slavery, and human trafficking.
Yet, amidst their miserable condition, these people find empowerment and strength in studying the realities of forced migration, in organizing themselves, and mobilizing a broad number of people in advancing the struggle for justice, human rights, and decent jobs.
Action: The realities of forced migration, war, and poverty that have deprived millions of the chance to live abundantly are challenging churches and ecumenical organizations to journey with migrants, refugees, and uprooted people. Jesus’ declaration of his mission and ministry in the Gospel of Luke is a fitting paradigm of proclaiming God’s message of liberation and solidarity. Take time to learn more about human trafficking: presbyterianmission.org/human-trafficking.
Prayer: O God of life and history, be with us as we journey with migrants, refugees, and uprooted people in their struggle for life, justice, and dignity. May we faithfully proclaim your message of liberation, and may we find the courage to stand in solidarity with them so that these sisters and brothers of ours may find hope, strength, and empowerment. Amen.
Rev. Joram H. Calimutan is currently the program coordinator of the Faith Partnership and Solidarity program of the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants based in Hong Kong. He previously served as a church pastor in the Philippines and chair of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of the Creation Committee of the Southern Tagalog Regional Ecumenical and Advocacy Movement.
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.