Pastoral care for migrants, a priority for Indonesian priests
Migrant outreach becomes a priority for UNIO Indonesia at its 14th meeting, which drew more than 2,000 priests and bishops. Father Maxi Un Bri becomes the association’s new head until 2026.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The 14th national meeting of UNIO Indonesia, a Catholic association of clergy founded in 1983 in Jakarta, brought together 2,513 priests and bishops from 25 to 29 September in Mataloko, Archdiocese of Ende.
One of the objectives of the meeting was to examine pastoral care of migrants in the Southeast Asian country and its 37 dioceses.
This was highlighted in various testimonies, like that of Fr Chrisanctus Paschalis Saturnus, a priest who serves in the Diocese of Pangkalpinang and lives on the island of Batam, a strategic crossing point for migratory flows between Indonesia and Singapore.
It is from here that hundreds of undocumented migrant workers from different parts of the country are smuggled to Singapore and Malaysia.
Father Saturnus is known for the assistance he provides to people in difficulty and the support he gives to Indonesian migrants so that they are not caught up in illegal human trafficking.
“As priests, we cannot let this modern human slavery happen before our eyes,” Father Paschal said at UNIO Indonesia meeting.
The association’s 14th meeting also offered a chance to listen to the stories of those who were illegal migrants, such as Agustine Wodo.
"For 12 years in Malaysia I built a better life as my family had severe financial difficulties here in Indonesia,” he said. "After working undocumented at a palm plantation, I managed to get my papers and this changed the course of my life as a migrant worker," he added. At present, he works as a teacher in a village in the Central Java province.
This meeting served as a platform to share good practices for the reception and interception of migrants; one is called Tuka Tuku Teka, a program that provides residents in Ngada a certain financial security to avoid illegal departure.
“This issue has not been taken seriously by scores of dioceses, despite strong public exhortations by Pope Francis to end modern human slavery,” said Fr Ferry Sutrisna Widjaja, diocesan priest in the Diocese of Bandung. For this reason, “The Church of Indonesia is expected to perform its pastoral migrant care.”
The final document of the UNIO meeting, which included this appeal, was released today, whereby pastoral care of migrants should be put into practice in each diocese to meet modern humanitarian challenges.
According to recent data published by the Indonesian Migrant Worker Protection Agency (BP2MI), at least 135,791 Indonesians were working abroad as of June 2023.
Sister Laurentina SDP from Kupang told AsiaNews that almost every week she receives a coffin with a dead migrant worker to send to their family.
This meeting saw Fr Maxi Un Bri chosen as the new head of the UNIO association until 2026.
(Father Ferry Sutrisna Widjaja contributed to this article)