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Join the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program in a journey to Southeast Asia

14-day travel study seminar will examine labor trafficking in the Philippines and Hong Kong

By Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service

The Cordillera mountains of North Luzon beckon us to learn more about the ways people in Southeast Asia have struggle to survive. Courtesy of Roceni Bakian

LOUISVILLE — A travel study seminar to the Philippines and Hong Kong — May 1–15, 2020 — will focus on the root causes and current challenges of forced migration and labor trafficking. The trip includes two days of travel, seven days in the Philippines and five days in Hong Kong.

Along with Presbyterian Peacemaking Program staff, the seminar will be co-led by the Rev. Cathy Chang, World Mission’s regional facilitator for addressing migration and human trafficking in Southeast Asia. Since 2015, Chang has served as a mission worker, along with her husband Juan Lopez, at the invitation of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and other Asian partners.

Apply by Jan. 1, 2020. After that date, applications for the Philippines and Hong Kong travel study seminar will be considered as available space allows.

“When people think about the Philippines, they might remember something about World War II or the People Power Revolution, four days of nonviolent demonstrations in February 1986, leading to the removal of then President Ferdinand Marcos,” Chang said. “When people think about Hong Kong, they may have seen images of recent pro-democracy protests.

Colleagues from Hong Kong Christian Council and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants will inform travel study seminar participants about the current challenges for the church and society. Courtesy of Cathy Chang

“What people might not know is the historical conditions in both the Philippines and Hong Kong that contribute to labor migration,” Chang said. “In the early 1900s, Filipinos started migrating to the U.S., primarily Hawaii and California, to work in agricultural jobs. Today,” she said, “about 10% of the Filipino population (about 10 million people) lives or works abroad because of poverty exacerbated by contractualization and lack of industrialization.” In fact, there are so many overseas Filipino workers that the acronym OFW has been added to the newest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

According to the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration, nearly 6,000 Filipinos leave the country every day to work overseas. As early as the 1980s, Hong Kong received monthly influxes of Filipina domestic workers. Today’s domestic workers in Hong Kong come mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia.

This seminar will introduce the historical context and contemporary challenges of the labor export program of the Philippines. Through community visits in Manila and North Luzon, the largest and most populated island of the Philippines, participants will observe the urban and rural conditions that contribute to forced migration. Seminar participants also will meet the families of Filipino migrant workers left behind, and worship with a congregation with members who are primarily domestic workers. In the Philippines and Hong Kong, leaders representing different churches and organizations that assist in organizing and mobilizing migrant workers and their families, will help participants understand their struggles for justice and dignity.

Chater Road, a historic thoroughfare in Hong Kong, is closed by the government on Sundays to allow live-in domestic workers a place to gather on their day off. Nearby luxury shops are still open for business on Sundays. Cathy Chang

Travel study seminars to different parts of the world through the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program have for many years offered opportunities for Presbyterians to learn firsthand through the people and partners most impacted by conflict, injustice and oppression. As participants return home to the U.S. informed and transformed by their experiences, they are ready to share stories and bear witness to all they have seen and heard.

“While human trafficking is a worldwide problem, countries in Asia are increasingly vulnerable,” Chang said. “By taking part in this study opportunity, participants will better understand the role of the church in the context of forced migration and the struggle of migrants for human rights, justice and decent lives.”

The PC(USA)’s  222nd General Assembly (2016) adopted a comprehensive human trafficking policy called “Not for Sale.” At the heart of this policy is the desire to empower people in their work while addressing underlying inequality and inequity in the global economy. This policy affirms that because all people bear the image of God and work is considered a calling, we can participate in the redemption of God’s Creation.

On a past trip, The Rev. T. Denise Anderson, co-moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016), along with Presbyterian Mission Agency staff members from World Mission, Peacemaking and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, examined how issues of migration and human trafficking impact tribal minorities, refugees and migrants.

Anderson, who is now coordinator of racial and intercultural justice in the Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, reflected in a devotion written for Human Trafficking Awareness Day in 2017: “I noticed many parallels between labor, migration and trafficking issues there and in my own United States,” she wrote. “There is pain everywhere, and we often navigate through life oblivious to it. Such things ought not be so.”

On Sundays — the only off-day most employers allow for domestic workers — Indonesian domestic workers enjoy each other’s company in public places. Cathy Chang

For more information about either the Philippines and Hong Kong seminar or the Central America seminar, including a sample itinerary and link to an online application, visit the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s travel study seminar web page or call 800-728-7228, ext. 5805.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s travel study seminar series is made possible by gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering.


Additional journeys available through Presbyterian Peacemaking

The Central American Migrant Trails seminar — Feb. 17–28, 2020 — is a 12-day exploration of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. This journey, co-led by Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, and World Mission staff members Tracey King-Ortega, regional liaison for Central America, and Leslie Vogel, regional liaison for Guatemala and Mexico, will help concerned Presbyterians better understand why an unprecedented number of Central Americans are setting out on the migrant trail north with children in tow. Participants will examine the potential and actual consequences of U.S. policies, including mass deportation. Apply by Nov. 1. After that date, applications will be considered as available space allows.


Poster from the front door of Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants, one of the migrant-serving institutions in Hong Kong, lists common violations of employers. Cathy Chang

The Mosaic of Peace Conference: Witnessing for Peace and Wholeness in a Land Called ‘Holy’March 15-28, 2020 — A Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference in Israel/Palestine, will be co-led by Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, and Douglas Dicks, World Mission’s associate for ecumenical partnerships in Israel and Palestine, who serves in justice and peacemaking in conjunction with St. Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem and other partners in the region. Apply by Oct. 15. After that date, applications will be considered as available space allows.

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