Setting the pace for goodness
AT THE RECENT Asian Methodist Conference, the presentation on ministry to the migrant workers emphasised the need for the Church to hear and act on the plight of the migrant workers. The question that was posed to us was: “Are these migrant workers treated as modern-day slaves, particularly the domestic helpers and unskilled workers who work to the demands of their employers?”
Many of us do have domestic helpers in our homes. Is it true that these helpers are treated like “modern-day slaves”? What about employers who have migrant workers in their employ? Are the workers treated with dignity?
There is an arm of church ministry that reaches out to the migrant workers in many of our churches. The ministry includes regular worship services in their mother tongue and a weekly fellowship-cum-meal. Specific programmes are organised on festive seasons to incorporate them into the Christian community. We thank God for such ministries of love and kindness shown to these who need to be cared for by our churches. However, are we as individuals setting the pace for brotherly acceptance and love? Are we aware that migrant workers are people too?
The plight of domestic workers is constantly highlighted in the media. The duration of their working hours and abuses that are sometimes hurled at them are issues that make us wonder how an average person could treat another human in that manner. We question the wisdom and necessity of maids having a day off each week. As employers, we rationalise that there are other ways that the maid could relax and be free of duties for the day. The need for the maid to be with her fellow countrymen and to be outside a closed environment is often forgotten.
Colossians 3:22-4:1 admonishes a balanced treatment of employee by employer and vice-versa. However, these verses will only move Christian employers and Christians in general. It is sad when some employers think of themselves as “masters” and treat their employees as “slaves”, and in so doing misuse their helpers. Christian employers have the responsibility to set the right example by treating our employees with dignity.
All migrant workers have left homes to seek employment in foreign lands so that they may provide a decent living for their families back home. Every domestic worker and every foreign worker misses home, family and friends. The least we should do is to show these workers the love which we receive from God. This is only possible if and when we fully acknowledge that these women and men who work in our homes or at our companies are fellow creations of God. They deserve to be treated with dignity, considered with respect and offered love. They too deserve that common justice.
The Rev James Nagulan is the President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference.