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We Are Their Strength, We Speak for Them
Monday, May 29, 2017

(Message read by Fr. Resty Ogsimer, on behalf of His Excellency Bishop Ruperto C. Santos of the Diocese of Balanga, chairman  of the  Episcopal Commission  on Migrants and Itinerant People, at the CFC Migrants Convention for Calabarzon on April 29, 2017) 

LIFE is  a  journey.  We  are  all  pilgrims here  on  earth.  We  are always on  the move, searching for something better, a more peaceful and secure life. We want to give or offer to our loved ones what is best and most beneficial to them. All these desires prompt us to go to foreign lands and there seek to fulfill our plans for a better life. 

Migration  thus  becomes  a  means  to attend to the needs of those we care for and love. We migrate to find work that will sustain them and make them more secure and well provided for in the future. People  are also  forced  to  migrate to  escape violence  and lawlessness  and uncertainties in their homelands. Migration is often done not for a personal or selfish reason. One does so for the good and welfare of those who are left behind or for the safety of those we bring along. 

Yes,  people  are  always  moving;  are always on the go. We travel. People migrate. And  across  the  miles, in  foreign places  we  meet as travelers,  as  fellowsearchers and  even  dreamers.  How  do we relate to one another? What are our attitudes to migrants? Certainly in these encounters there are things in us that we have to get rid of; and also some things that need to be developed and improved upon.   What  are these?  First is fear. We don't have to fear them. And second is indifference. We must not be indifferent to them. 


"Don't be afraid. It is I" (Matthew 14:27). Jesus Himself says this. And He tells it to all of us. We are hindered from accepting migrants because  of  fear; we  become  afraid.  Fear  paralyzes.  Fear isolates. Because of fear one is hesitant to communicate or to cooperate with the other. Our fear can make a person suspicious of the other’s words and actions. Fear brings about mistrust. Fear reduces us to cowardly silence and takes away our voice. 

Take away that fear and one becomes  free  to  interact  and to integrate with one another, and with the society. Remove fear  in one's heart  and  one builds up confidence in oneself and in the community. 

Now  it  is  fear  of  migrants that makes others avoid them or unwilling to accept and assist them. What is that fear? Oftentimes, it is fear that makes them  think  that  their job  or employment would be  taken away from them. But this is not so. On the contrary, migrants are added labor  force  to  an aging  society.  The Compendium of Social Doctrines of the Church urges "that immigrants from  less  privileged areas  of the  earth  and  their arrival  in developed  countries  should not be perceived as a threat to the highest levels of economic growth" (217).  Blessed  Pope John  XXIII  in his  encyclical Mater  et  Magistra admitted also the "right of the family to migrate" and that "freer movement  of  goods, capital  and men would lessen inequalities among nations" (53). 

What  is  that  fear?  It  is  the fear  that  something  bad  will happen to them.  But man is basically good. Remember that God "saw all that he had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).

When  migrants  come  to any  country  it  is  not  to  do something bad or  to  inflict harm.  They  migrate  for  the sake  of  their loved ones, that is,  to  sustain  them towards  a better future or to keep them safe from the danger in their home  country. Laborem Exercens  tells  us "emigration  in search  for  work  must  in  no way become  an opportunity for financial or social exploitation" (23). 

Faith  fosters  our  welcome of  a  migrant.  Instead  of  fear let us have faith. Our faith in God  tells  us  that  we  are  our "brother's keeper" (Genesis 4:9). Our faith in Jesus reminds us, "I was a stranger and you welcomed  me  into  your  house" (Matthew 25:36).  With  our faith  we are  not  afraid  to  be with  migrants and  refugees and  to  care  for them.  With our faith we are not afraid to get involved with them and to help them be integrated in our communities.  With  our  faith we are not afraid to step up to the  plate  and  to  serve  them. The words of Jesus Christ ring loudly for us: "Whenever you did this to these little ones who are my brothers and sisters, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40). 

Let me share with you this inspiring story. An earthquake hit  a certain region  in  Italy. It  was  terrible  and  terrifying. Many suffered.  It brought  so much destruction, injury and death. The people of the town worst  hit  were  in  dire  straits and needed much help. Many from  the country  moved  to unite and help. 

Our  Overseas  Filipino Workers  grouped  themselves according  to their  days  off and  presented  themselves  to the civil authorities. They said, "We will offer our skills and our strength. As domestics we can wash clothes and dishes, clean tents. We can also watch and take  care of  the  children  and old people. We are doing these with your people in Rome, and we  will  do  it  for  your  people here in L'Aquila. What we do is  small  and  simple  but  this manifests  our love  and  how much we  care.  We  are  also one with you in your pain and problem." 


Indifference also hinders our acceptance of migrants. Indifference means  being callous, insensitive  and  blind  to  the suffering and needs of others. It means evading the pitiful realities in life. We could do something better and beneficial, and yet we choose not to. We could be charitable and compassionate;  but  we  are  hesitant and afraid to get involved. We fear that such involvement would disturb  our  comfort zones or demand from us our time and treasure  that  we  do  not  wish to give. We have all the means and resources  to  make  a  difference, to  help  or  serve;  but we shrug our  shoulders,  put our hands in our pockets, and walk away. 

Letting go of indifference is taking the initiative and doing what is called for and necessary without  being  told  or  with no  one compelling  us  to  do so.  And  we  do so  not  to  earn praises or rewards. Not desiring reciprocation, we still make the first move to share and to serve because  we  care  and  are  concerned  for  the condition and situation  of  others,  especially those  in  need,  our migrants and  itinerant people.  When we  are  charitable  and  show compassion we can accept and mingle with anyone and anybody. Jesus teaches us to take the  first  step  to  be  of  service, as He said to His disciples "We must  go  on  to  other  villages around here. I have to preach in  them  also.  Because  that  is why I came" (Mark 1:38). 

Our  attitudes  towards  migrants  can  be  further  nourished  by these two  actions: responsibility and solidarity. 


"God blessed them and said to  them,  “be  fruitful  and  increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:28). We are God's stewards. We are accountable to God. We are responsible to His creations and creatures. Responsibility is our ability to respond to God's call. 

Every  need  calls  for  a  corresponding  action.  Every  cry demands a response.  For the welfare  and  wellbeing  of  his loved  ones, man leaves  his home. For the safety and sustenance  of  their family,  they migrate.  To  be  responsible one will do everything for the safety  and salvation  of  his  or her beloved. And this is what a migrant thinks of and does. 

And  we  are  also  called  to assist  and  accept  them.  It  is also our calling  to  help and to  heal  their  hurts.  We  are accountable to God for them. We  are  responsible to them. Our ability to respond is a call to  action.  It  is  to  respect,  not to discriminate; to receive and not to reject; and to recognize and  acknowledge them  and not to ridicule them. Our Holy Father Pope Francis asks us to open our homes, churches, and monasteries to shelter and save our migrants and refugees. He said, "Let the Church always be the  place  of  mercy  and hope, where  everyone  is  welcomed, loved,  and  forgiven."  It  is  our responsibility  to  speak  for them and  about  them  in  our communities,  in  our  society and in our world. We are their voice. We are their strength. 


Solidarity  is  oneness  with others,  with  a  cause,  with  a principle. It is  being united. No one is left alone. No one is abandoned.  No one  is forgotten.  Here  a person  is  able  to affirm, "I am with a group. I am in a community." Solidarity is belonging. Evangelii Gaudium attests that no  one  can  proclaim that "religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life without influence on societal and national life" (183). 

Man  is  a  social  being.  Everything he does or fails to do affects his surrounding,  his community. Man interacts. He is in communion with another, in solidarity with one another. Pope Francis  admitted  in  his meeting with the young people in  Rio  de Janeiro,  "I  want  to see the church get closer to the people."  We are  for  all.  Our faith is open to all. It is wholly social,  and  in solidarity  with one  another,  whatever his  or her creed, color, race and customs. 

Our  Church,  being  a  Mother,  is  impelled by her maternal care and love to protect and to  pastor  our  migrants  and  itinerant people, providing them safety, security and above all spiritual assistance.  Thus the  pastoral  care  of migrants  and  itinerant people  is  an  ecclesial affair and concern. Our Church strongly exhorts her  children to  be more  hospitable  to  them towards their  full  integral  human development. She is so concerned with their wellbeing and welfare that she opens her door to enable them to be faithfully and fruitfully integrated into the Catholic churches of the migrants’ host countries. The  Church  shows  her  catholicity, that is, her universality by welcoming, accepting and treating all equally. In the Church no one is treated with fear or with indifference since all are her children. There is no discrimination, no hostility, no contempt. She is a Church without borders, also without biases and favorites.

When the Church welcomes a migrant or a refugee, she recognizes Jesus in them because Jesus said, "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who sent me" (Matthew 10:40). Let  us  cast  away  our  fear  and remove  all indifference in our hearts. They need us and we need them. Let us fulfill our mission with responsibility  and  stand  in  solidarity  with our  migrants,  refugees and  itinerant  people especially  the children  and  women  who  are the most fragile, who have no voice.

Ruperto Cruz Santos, DD 
Bishop of Balanga
CBCP Chairman 
Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People



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