By DEACONESS JOY PRIM
United Methodist Church (Missionary serving in Hong Kong)
September 13, 2020, 15th Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 103:1-4, 9-12
As the months of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to add up, there are governments around the world who have tried to provide economic support for the majority of their citizens. Yet, over and over again, there are repressive governments who choose to forget the most oppressed and neglected communities whether that be in urban poor communities, and the distressed sectors like that of migrant workers. Meanwhile, governments pass social distancing policies which the police enforce more strictly in the communities left out in the name of public health while the rich are able to gather without threat of arrest.
During my first Sunday in Hong Kong, as I joined overseas Filipino workers along Charter Road, I was shocked to see many policemen roaming in large groups than the government-allowed “groups of 2.” They were handing out flyers telling the migrant domestic workers to “Stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.” This level of police enforcement was not seen during the week but only on Sundays, the most common day off for OFWs working as migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong.
One OFW explained that it was her first day out in three months. Her employer took these flyers very seriously but still let her go out to do the shopping and taking care of the kids. After three months, she had begged for one rest day to see her friends and send money back to her family in the Philippines. Why did she have to beg for so long to finally be allowed her legally mandated day off? While her employer continued to enjoy their weekends off from their work and time to rest with their family, she had been forced to stay home, in her work place, and continue working through her day off.
How many more OFWs like her are stuck working through their rest day? The HK government tends to treat migrant domestic workers as possible vectors of the disease while being quite stingy in including migrant domestic workers in their social protection plans. While their employers benefit from social protections, they continue to expect their domestic workers to continue to serve not six but now seven days a week. Just as the unmerciful servant refused to show mercy.
What would Jesus say of our actions in these pandemic times?
Each Sunday, OFWs who can go out join together in groups to educate their fellow OFWs on the newest HK social distancing policies. They use Tagalog language in educating fellow OFWs. They distribute hand sanitizers and masks to keep one other safe. They offer Know your rights webinars through Zoom, in compliance with social distancing protocol, and also to reach out those who are not allowed to go out.
I learned that in the Philippines, a community kitchen to help feed poor communities forgotten the government has experienced harassment and the staff got arrested. Jory Porquia, a humanitarian worker and community organizer was killed the day before the Labor Day. In the midst of crisis and pandemic, the government has prioritized the passing of the Anti-Terror law over ensuring access to PPEs for health workers on the front lines fighting the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
How can we continue to live into our calling as Christians to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly in Jesus footsteps to uplift those forgotten and ensure that no one is left behind? As the pandemic continues without an end in sight so must our actions of mercy, love, and justice with more creativity to adjust to these uncertain times. For that is what Jesus called us to do.
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).