Member Churches of CCA observe Asia Sunday with focus on ‘Stateless and Trafficked People: Our Co-Pilgrims’.
Posted on 10 June 2019
Asia Sunday service at the Che-Lam (Chi-Nan) Church in Taipei city
Member churches and councils of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) in different parts of Asia observed the Asia Sunday on 2 June, 2019.
The theme of the Asia Sunday-2019 was ‘Stateless and Trafficked People: Our Co-Pilgrims’. Asia Sunday is observed every year on the Sunday before Pentecost, which coincides with the official inauguration of the Christian Conference of Asia.
Asia Sunday observance focuses on a particular theme every year and reminds member churches and councils, as well as other partner churches and ecumenical organisations around the world, to reflect on a specific Asian issue/theme.
A four member staff team lead by the General Secretary of CCA Dr. Mathews George Chunakara participated in the special ecumenical service organised by the churches in Taiwan for the Asia Sunday observance.
The service was held at the Che-Lam (Chi-Nan) Presbyterian Church in Taipei city.
Dr. Mathews George Chunakara delivered the sermon based on the biblical texts Leviticus 19:34, Exodus 23:9 and Ephesians 2: 19, and highlighted following aspects in relation to the contexts of the stateless and trafficked people who are forced to live as strangers and aliens in every situation:
- The Old Testament has much to say regarding sojourners or exiles and the plight of those who flee from their own lands.
- God commanded the Hebrews to remember their exile and oppression in Egypt and allow it to motivate hospitality to foreigners. “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:34). More precise and clear commands were given, which can be found in the Book Exodus: “Don’t oppress an immigrant. You know what it’s like to be an immigrant, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). The essence of these messages is reflected in the New Testament in many places: “love your neighbour”, “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”.
- What does it mean or what is the implication when it is said “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household…with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone”?
- We are reminded of the truth that we belong to and we are part of God’s household, and God dwells in us. What is expected in the new Covenant is that no one is treated as a stranger or a foreigner. This is applicable in our context too whether a person lives in our midst as stateless or a victim of human trafficking or as a victim of forced migration.
Statelessness and Trafficking
While illustrating the situation of statelessness and human trafficking in the present context, Dr. Mathews George Chunakara added:
- The stateless and trafficked people who live in our midst or who are forced to be in our midst are aliens as they are not natives of their original land, but they are treated as strangers. We know the feelings of an alien who stands in front of us as a stranger.
- Statelessness and human trafficking are often intertwined, and are grave and widespread human rights problems of the contemporary world. Both issues have even been linked through the common claim that statelessness puts a person at greater risk of becoming a victim of trafficking.
- Millions of Asians, including women and children, are at risk of being stateless and trafficked as migrant workers both within and outside the region. The stateless persons who are not recognised as nationals by any state have no nationality or citizenship and they live in vulnerable situations.
- As the stateless people living in particular geographical areas are not protected by any national legislation, the consequences of their situations of statelessness are profound. Statelessness affects all aspects of life and is a massive problem for twelve million people who are located in different parts of the world. These people became stateless due to various reasons and circumstances, mostly as a result of the denial of citizenship.
- Persecutions of ethnic minorities and discrimination of indigenous people, etc. exist. There are also individuals who become stateless due to personal circumstances and ethnic, religious or political reasons due to which they flee to neighbouring countries.
- Stateless people exist in most Asian countries. Forty per cent of the identified stateless population of the world live in Asia and the Pacific.
- Today, trafficking in persons thrives as modern-day slavery. There are nearly 36 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, of which 23.5 million, nearly two thirds, are from Asia.
- As the consequences and impacts of statelessness and human trafficking are enormous, the Christian response warrants to address this menace with urgent priority. It is important to care for migrants, trafficked and stateless as the human family is intimately connected or interdependent.
- There are numerous issues linked to movement of people within and beyond borders, especially the rampant rise of inequality, ethnocentrism, racism, violence and extreme nationalism. All these dehumanising factors visible, evident and happening in our midst today are degrading the image of God and the basic dignity deserved by every human being created in the image of God.
- It is in this context that the Code disclosed to the Hebrews by Yahweh and narrated in Leviticus chapter 19 becomes relevant for us when we reflect about the situation of the stateless and trafficked people.
- The essence of the teachings and the instructions to be followed on how aliens who live among the Hebrews should be treated offer insights on the status and rights of the stateless and trafficked who live in our midst. The insights and instructions given to the Hebrews were the high point of Hebrew spirituality. The Hebrews were told how to treat the resident aliens as equals among them.
- The quintessence of the clear instructions emphasise further requirements too: the resident aliens are to be loved as the natives love themselves, guarantee against any sort of discrimination or oppression.
- The treatment of the resident aliens in our midst should be set out on the principles of equality, inclusion and security. Our Christian response and witness, therefore, require the protection of the basic dignity of everyone including the stateless and trafficked who live in our midst.
- The Church as an instrument of caring for God’s creation must protect those who have become stateless, those who are trafficked to exploitation and those who are forced to migrate to other places from their ancestral land. Our response must also address rescue and rehabilitation of the victims as well as protection of the rights of the stateless and trafficked people, and reintegrate them back into their community to lead a meaningful and dignified life.
- God’s option for the vulnerable and disadvantaged categories suggests that God is concerned about them and accompanies them and journeys with them as their co-pilgrim. The same God asks us to be co-pilgrims with such vulnerable, rejected, excluded and marginalised ones.
- God asks us to ensure the integration of all of them to our communities and applies the law introduced for their betterment. God asks us to treat the stateless and trafficked people who live in our midst to be treated and considered as both citizen and guest. God who is the creator of the heavens and earth and all that is within it is concerned about His creation, and human beings are made in His own image.
- In order to achieve God’s mission of caring for all and protecting the dignity of all, we are called to participate in God’s plan and design for all God’s people, care for the suffering people in our midst. The stateless and the trafficked are definitely the ones who experience such vulnerabilities in their lives. They too are God’s people.
- The underlying theological assumption of care and concern for those who are suffering is not someone outside of God’s salvific plan, but they are all created by God in His image. The question before us is how we relate to the suffering ones, the stateless and the trafficked ones who live in our midst, our vicinity or beyond our immediate vicinity.
The Asia Sunday service was led by PCT General Secretary Rev. Lyim Hong-Tiong, Che-Lam Church senior pastor Rev. Huang Chun-Sheng and PCT Ecumenical Relations Secretary Rev. Lian Chin-Siong.