PIMAHT Statement on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

Assistance and Compassion for those in need: Reduce the vulnerability of migrants to human trafficking

PIMAHT Statement on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

“Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (Romans 12: 11-13, NRSV)

Hundreds of OFWs, along with other locally stranded individuals are cramped at NAIA in the hope to go back home. They lost their jobs abroad. Meanwhile, the grim news of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia picking trash in order to survive received sarcastic and insensitive comments and accusations from defensive public officials rather than understanding and compassion. Thousands are now in quarantine facilities with no definite schedules to go back home. They are being killed slowly by hunger, apprehension and severe economic loss.

The Philippine Interfaith Movement Against Human Trafficking (PIMAHT) is greatly alarmed by the conditions of migrant workers who are trapped in uncertainty either abroad or in the country. We join them in solidarity as they demand for swifter and efficient services from the Philippine government.  As people of faith, we hope to lift their spirits high as they battle all forms of anxiety and uncertainty brought by the pandemic, lost jobs, and stranded in alien lands.

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the worst health crisis in recent memory.  The economic impact it caused has significantly affected Filipino migrant workers throughout the world. Mass terminations and displacement of Filipino migrant workers are occurring in the cruise, tourism, construction, airline and other service industries. According to the Department of Labor (DOLE), half a million to a million displaced OFWs are expected to return to the Philippines by the end of 2020. However, only 50,000+ have been repatriated back to the Philippines so far. All of these are happening while affected OFWs are having difficulty in accessing the services from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). At the height of the lockdown, assistance is limited to a marginal number with no transparent and systematic guidelines in terms of qualifications and requirements that made it almost impossible for the majority of OFWs to access.

For the global maritime industry, particularly the cruise ship industry, the job security of our sea-based migrant workers will be severely impacted. They currently make up the majority of the 27,000 repatriated OFWs in the Philippines. Our Filipino seafarers and their families are also suffering from the severe loss of livelihood.

Given the pandemic’s impact on the global economy, both our land-based and sea-based migrant workers are fearful of how they and their families will survive, uncertain of their futures. The children and the families left behind for migrants still abroad are also vulnerably impacted, being dependent of their income affecting not just their basic need such as food but also their children’s education and continuous learning. The pandemic has also made families vulnerable due to the threat of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) in which ongoing rescue operations for these children are made by our anti-trafficking law enforcement authorities.

Today, July 30, as the world commemorates the UN-declared World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, we especially offer our prayers and intention for our migrants workers and their families along with other affected migrants of other nations. We urge especially our government to deliver a more efficient, sustainable, and comprehensive assistance to our people. Then and again, we say that migrants go out of the country to find better job opportunities to sustain the needs of their families. The economic impact of this pandemic, if not addressed, is a potential threat to the already impoverished lives of our people. It makes them an easy prey for human traffickers who are just finding the opportune time to deceive the vulnerable.

As people from different denominations and different faith traditions but who are united for a common commitment to stand against human trafficking in all its diverse forms and to support victims of human trafficking to reclaim their dignity and to seek justice,   we are called to be in solidarity with our migrant sisters and brothers in their great hour of need.   We are thankful for the churches that have already responded to the needs of migrants and their families, through prayers, counseling, food relief and other services. We continue to extend our love and compassion to our kapwa, and keep the challenge of opening our church doors for radical hospitality in times especially when we are made to physically distance ourselves from each other.  Let us join them in their demand to receive decent, comprehensive assistance from those whose primary duty is to protect the people.

Prayer for Distressed Migrants due to the pandemic

God, the author of love

How many times did you reveal your deep love to your beloved sons and daughters?

How many times did you teach us to love each other as we love you?

Yet, how many times did we forget this great commandment?

As we confess our sin of selfishness and individualism, we come to you in united prayer

Bringing to you the plight of our sister and brother migrants

May we embrace them in comfort, deep compassion and solidarity

In the midst of the protocol to physically distance.

God, the author of liberation and justice

You assured as many times over that your people will be liberated from oppression

Like our ancestors  who were once slaves, You freed our forefathers and foremothers from their bondage as slaves to the old empires.

But you taught us too to participate in this liberation

Just as you taught your sent prophets to redeem the people

May we be reminded by that great participation when we feel tired, weak, and succumbing to the anxiety brought by this pandemic

Teach us to participate in your people’s quest for liberation as they survive from deep economic loss and uncertain future

God, the author of movement

How many times did you convey to us the radical messages of movement building through your parables and teachings?

How many times did you urge us to come together so that a change may be achieved?

Just as you taught the early people to unite and demand better from the empires,

May we learn how to come together, despite of differences

For a common goal to join the migrants in their call for a more systematic and comprehensive response from the government.

God, the author of healing

You have shown us your power of healing

You have healed the blind, the lepers, the dead

But even this, must come after an act of assertion

Just as how the bleeding woman was healed after a daring act of touching the hem of your robe.

May we then, as your people, learn to assert our rights to be healed

From the sickness brought by COVID-19, from anxiety, from hunger, and from poverty.

May we learn to assert that right to be healed collectively

So that everyone is redeemed.

Through your deep love and great examples.

AMEN.

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