From Toronto to Manila for meetings of the Global Ecumenical Network on Migration
November 3, 2012
This is Alfredo Barahona, the migrant justice coordinator at KAIROS. Welcome to the new migrant justice blog!
I’m heading to the Global Ecumenical Network on Migration (GEM) meetings in Manila. This is profoundly significant as the Philippines is one of the biggest migrant labour exporting countries in the world. I was last here in 2008 for the 1st International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees.
Despite attempts by some members of the Philippine government to deny that an official labour export program exists, the truth was revealed to me on the flight when I received the Customs and Immigration Card that is distributed to each person travelling to the Philippines. On this official, government form there is a section reserved for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). So, even before landing in the country I learned about its official labour exportation program. In addition, before passing through Philippines’ Customs, there are two immigration forms to complete and both have sections reserved for OFWs only.
This week the GEM, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and the migrant Filipino grassroots organizations will dialogue and deliberate on issues such as the theological, spiritual, ethical and ecclesiological challenges and tensions between national identity, citizenship, ethnicity and diversity.
Participants will also discuss the ecumenical response to migrant worker issues regionally, nationally, and internationally. The GEM meetings will identify the theological, spiritual and ethical challenges to and within the ecumenical movement in response to migrant workers and their struggle to protect their rights and dignity.
GEM members will indulge in the traditional Filipino hospitality and generosity expressed through artistic and cultural performances by local community artists. I have witnessed this before and continue to be inspired, motivated and deeply encouraged by the high level of organization of the hosts, which includes a huge contingent of members from MIGRANTE International and the International Migrants Alliance (IMA). Hasta la próxima!