United Methodist Women and General Board of Global Ministries have sponsored an international delegation of influential leaders from around the globe. To learn a bit about each delegate and the important work they do in their communities, please see below for their short bios.
International delegation has arrived!
United Methodist Delegation
People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights and
United Nations High Level Dialogue on Migration & Development
New York, 28 September – 5 October, 2013
Church Center for the United Nations
Hosted by General Board of Global Ministries and
United Methodist Women
Vivi Akakpo is the Executive Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) Women and Migration Programme. The Programme seeks to strengthen and empower African women to face the challenges of life emanating from socio-economic injustices, culture and traditions, political crisis and turmoil, natural and man-made disasters, etc. Vivi experienced personal migration challenges when she accepted to be moved to her organization’s Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya from January 2006 to March 2010. She however recognizes that it was a chosen migration and not a forced one. She comes from Togo (West Africa) and is currently based at the AACC Regional Office in Lome, Togo.
Through her training in Emergency and Disaster Management at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe and other trainings in Refugee and IDPs Protection and in Building Safer Organizations (BSO) which main goal was to improve NGOs’ capacity to anticipate, receive and respond to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by members of staff, Vivi developed a special interest in the advocacy of forgotten refugee crises and situations as well as in how migration impacts women’s lives. Before becoming the Women and Migration Programme Executive Secretary, she served the AACC in other capacities such as: Regional Coordinator of the Ministry with Uprooted People for Central and West Africa and Continental Coordinator of the Ministry with Uprooted People.
Richard Kofi Ampofo is the founder and the President of the Italian Lay Movement Council, a committee which has the aim of including and integrating multicultural societies respecting their differences, being united in diversity. He is the President of all the Ghanaians in Italy, a member of the Italian Methodist Conference, and the representative in Europe of the Methodist Church of Italy.
Born in Ghana, he arrived in Italy at the age of 22, studying and working there ever since. Father of three children, he assists the municipality for mediation purposes, and for intercultural issues as well. Employed in the logistics department of the Toyota Company Italian branch, Richard has been dedicating his time and energy to support and actions towards immigrants and refugees in many countries. His work has contributed to social improvement and awareness on integration, education, and civil rights issues. Italy has many refugees. Richard’s organization helps them to obtain their documents and their rights, and to try and find a role in their new territory. They have founded a school for them in order to learn Italian. Together with an association named “Pellegrini della Terra” (Pilgrims of the Earth) they help women to get out of degrading situations and prostitution. They also have a center where immigrants find their shelter, clothes and a meal, should they be in need of it.
Regional Context: In the last few years Italy has been the destination of many thousands of immigrants, coming from all over the world primarily for economic or war-related reasons. They would like to see a policy of tolerance, support, education and equal rights implemented in our regions, in order to transform the differences into richness, the problems into opportunities, hostility into respect.
Rachel Bachenberg is from Kansas City, Missouri. She has a BA in Religion from Nebraska Wesleyan University and received her RN from Bryan Memorial School of Nursing. Rachel is a Registered Nurse working at Truman Medical Center in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Rachel has been active in UMW including as Dean and Assistant Dean in the Missouri West School of Christian Mission. She also served as District Christian Social Involvement and Christian Personhood, served on Missouri Legislative Training Event Committee as well as the Missouri Conference Coordinator of Social Action. She was involved as a Study Leader for Schools of Christian Mission from 1983-2010. Rachel was a US-2. Since 2009, Rachel has served on the UMW’s National Human Trafficking Team. In 1995, she attended the UN’s 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, China with Church Women United and in 1998 she traveled to Indonesia with the General Board of Global Ministries Culture and Mission Tour.
Regional Context: Rachel is an active United Methodist Woman and a member of the National UMW Human Trafficking Team. Four focus areas for UMW are Climate Change, Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking, and Immigration/Global Migration. Two of those areas of concern come together in this global context. However, too often Human Trafficking and Immigration/Global Migration are not connected. The complexity of each issue seems to separate them. Both labor trafficking and immigration have been historically part of UMW’s purpose for being in mission, yet there seems to be a disconnection in our processing and making the connections in today’s Global Context, including in preparatory materials for our time together this week.
Rachel plans to speak about labor trafficking as it connects to immigration in coming months at a UMW District Fall Meeting and a Legislative Event Workshop. In both places, there has been a growing concern that Human Trafficking is seen only from the context of Sex Trafficking and often we forget to speak about labor trafficking both globally and in the United States, even though labor trafficking represents a significant percentage of trafficked persons. . Rachel comes to this event to learn and gain perspectives that connect these issues. She also seeks ways to share this with other UMW members within a global as well as an ecumenical and interfaith context.
Sasikumar Balasundaram is a Sri Lankan native. He is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Kentucky. He received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of South Carolina. His dissertation entitled “Freedom from Camp: Housing and Power in the Experience of Long-term Sri Lankan Refugees in India”, focused on the theme of forced displacement. His research advocates against warehousing of refugees. Currently, he teaches courses on refugees and humanitarian aid. He has ongoing research projects with children and youth living in refugee camps. Balasundaram was also a 2007 recipient of the Crusade Fellowship of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Regional Context: The conversation of voluntary migration and forced migration in Sri Lanka has been shaped by economic globalization and the country’s three decades long civil war. Over one million Sri Lankan women are employed as unskilled domestic workers outside of the country. The vast majority of them work in Middle Eastern countries. Migrant women contribute more than half of the country’s US$ 3 billion in remittances annually to the Sri Lankan economy. In recent years, numerous cases of sexual abuse, torture, and death of migrant workers have been reported. However, there has not been any substantive measure taken to protect the rights of migrant workers. Additionally, almost another one million Sri Lankans have been displaced within and outside of the country by the country’s protracted civil war. More than 80,000 young Tamil widows in the North and East of Sri Lanka still live without safe shelter, employment, livelihood opportunities, or security. Violence against women and men in the North and East is widespread in postwar Sri Lanka. Since the war ended in 2009, hundreds of minority Tamils have fled to Australia and other countries. While some lost their lives during the dangerous journey in the Indian Ocean, others have been placed in refugee camps in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands by the Australian government. These refugees live in a state of limbo. Another 75, 000 Sri Lankans have been living in Indian refugee camps for the last 25 years with no durable solution. The majority of the camp refugees are still stateless.
In response, governments of relevant Middle Eastern countries and Sri Lanka must work together to ensure the safety, well-being, security, and rights of Sri Lankan migrant domestic workers in the Middle East. The Sri Lankan government must withdraw its military presence from civilian areas in the North and East of Sri Lanka and allow the displaced ethnic Tamil minority communities to resume normal life in their native villages. The international community must put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to take meaningful actions to ensure the freedom, dignity, livelihood, and security of the displaced Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Together the governments of Sri Lanka and India must work on a durable solution to resolve the quarter century old refugee situation in India. Warehousing of Sri Lankan refugees must come to an end. The status of statelessness of the 40,000 Sri Lankan refugees living in Indian camps must be resolved immediately to ensure human dignity.
Esther Barkat was born and raised in Pakistan. She is a first generation Pakistani immigrant to the US. Her migration was easy and without any major difficulties. However, as the immigration policies of America became more and more complicated, bringing her family members to the States became more difficult. It took several years for her husband’s family to join her and her husband. The most tragic part of this process was that her father in-law’s turn to come to the US came thirteen year after his death. At present, she is teaching at West Virginia Wesleyan College. She serves on the United Methodist Women Board of Directors. She is actively involved in her church.
Her interest in immigration-related issues sparked when she got involved in the South Asian Youth ministry. The purpose of this ministry was to equip South Asian youth with resources to help them get adjusted in the US. With the help of General Board of Global Ministry and General Board of Church and Society, she, along with other leaders organized conferences for South Asian Youth to discuss issues related to migration and personal adjustment. Meanwhile, she also got involved in her university’s initiatives to address cultural diversity. She has developed and taught courses that related to diversity in the US with issues related to immigrants as the central theme. For her, it was imperative to make her students and others understand the fact that living with dignity and integrity is everyone’s human right, including those whom we call undocumented.
Regional context:Esther’s concern is the issue of persecution of religious minorities, especially Christians in Pakistan. Since Pakistan was founded, Pakistani Christians have progressed tremendously in all fields. Christian institutions established by missionaries have given the Christian community an opportunity to flourish and make progress. However, Christians living in Pakistan face many challenges. The discrimination against Christians in Pakistan is very openly practiced and is a constant concern for Christians.
Constitutionally, minorities have equal rights in Pakistan. However, the discrimination of Christians is practiced in varied forms without any consequences to those practicing these acts. In a 2009 report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has noted 13 countries of particular concern that engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing and egregious violation of religious freedom. Pakistan is among those countries. In recent years, many people have faced harsh punishment under the Blasphemy Law as well as two assassinations of elected officials.
The government of Pakistan does not condone these acts but also is very silent when it comes to religious persecution. Not only Christians but also other religious minorities live in fear for their lives. Upward mobility for religious minorities is very limited. They face blatant as well as institutional discrimination. To avoid persecution and discrimination, many try to leave Pakistan to find refuge somewhere else. However, the immigration system sometimes works against them. If they somehow find a way to migrate to a foreign land they face many challenges that include assimilation issues, adjustment issues, financial problems, family disintegration, racial profiling, and mental health problems. It takes several years of struggle before they settle in new land.
Since religious persecution is a serious issue, not only in Pakistan but many Muslim countries, I would like to see the vulnerabilities, rights and empowerment of religious minorities addressed. An international standard should be developed to protect all religious minorities so they are not forced to leave their home countries.
Carol Barton is the executive for community action with United Methodist Women, an organization of 800,000 women in the US engaged in global mission for women, youth and children. In this capacity she coordinates the Immigrant & Civil Rights Initiative which includes a program on Women & Global Migration. She works to engage members in education and advocacy for just migration policy at the national and international levels. Carol has been involved in global migration advocacy since 2009 through civil society participation in the Global Forum on Migration & Development and the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (PGA) as well as the World Social Forum on Migration. She serves on the Civil Society Steering Committee for the 2013 UN High Level Dialogue on Migration & Development, and on the NYC Host Committee for the PGA. She is a co-convener of the Women & Global Migration Working Group, which will have an active presence at the PGA. Carol has been an active advocate for women’s human rights in the US and globally on issues of gender justice, economic justice, and racial justice.
Regional Context: Migration in the US context is both an economic and racial justice issue. For much of the nation, increased migration has created fear of job competition in a recession, and fear of changing demographics. The US is moving towards becoming majority people of color, and for many white people who have benefitted from the privileges of power, this has created an intense back-lash. At the same time, the media and schools do not offer the public an understanding of the role that US economic and military policy has played in undermining people’s livelihoods in many nations around the world, nor the strong lure of jobs in agriculture, construction, service, food production and high-tech industries, which rely on cheap migrant labor. In most discourse, blame is placed on migrants themselves. “Why do they come? Why do they break the law? Why don’t they go home? Why don’t they assimilate?” And the growing focus has been on criminalization of migrants, detention and deportation (some 400,000 a year under the Obama Administration).
Thus, much of the work of United Methodist Women on migration focuses on racial justice. In addition we support low wage workers’ campaigns for decent wages and benefits—many of them migrants.. In 2012 we offered a spiritual growth study on “Immigration and the Bible,” to explore the Bible as a migration story and look at current realities in that light. Since 2006 we have been engaged in an Immigrant & Civil Rights Initiative, offering bible study, education, migrant accompaniment and advocacy for just immigration policy. Thousands of United Methodist Women have mobilized for service & advocacy on the issue. Currently the US Congress is considering immigration legislation. While we have intensely advocated for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and other reforms, the current bill would also invest $46 billion to militarize the border and criminalize newcomers without documents, intensifying existing problems.
Rosa Bernard is a United Methodist Woman, who serves on the National UMW Trafficking Team and has served on the Conference Team for the last four years. She is engaged in creating awareness of Human Trafficking throughout the State of Indiana. She is also the Chair for Church Women United and V.P. Ecumenical Celebration and a member of the Church Women United State Board.
Rev. Sonia Brum is an Executive Secretary for Racial and Ethnic Ministries for the General Board of Global Ministries. She is an ordained elder with the South Carolina Annual Conference and served as a Director of Hispanic Latino Ministries for the past 12 years. Sonia is originally from Brazil and has served as a missionary in Panama, Canada, and in the U.S.
Rev. Francisco Cañas is the Director of National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministries for the United Methodist Church, which is housed at General Board of Global Ministries.
Nellie Choi is a second generation Korean American. She recently graduated from Union Theological Seminary with a focus on Psychiatry and Religion and background in Theology of the Arts. Her previous ministry includes pastoral counseling, chaplaincy and administration at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University. Currently, she serves as a Children’s Minister and Christian Education Coordinator at Arcola United Methodist Church, a Korean Immigrant community and Korean-American church. She has been working with United Methodist Women in the Global Migration and Global Justice office as of January 2013. She is editor of the new UMW and World Day of Prayer e-book, “Seeking Fullness of Life: Biblical Meditations on Women and Migration from Women around the Globe.” She continues to expand and explore her passion for social justice, advocacy and human rights efforts with the UMW.
Rev. Nora Colmenares is Assistant General Secretary of Mission and Evangelism for the General Board of Global Ministries. Her work focuses on Multicultural Church Development and Racial Ethnic Ministries.
Glory Dharmaraj is Executive Director of the Interfaith Mission Institute for the Asian American Federation. She is retired Director of Spiritual Formation and Mission Theology for United Methodist Women. She developed the mission study on Immigration and the Bible with the writer of the study, Joan Maruskin, for United Methodist Women. Glory has conducted studies and workshops on immigration at the regional and conference levels in the U.S. Glory is an author and co-author of many books, including Concepts of Mission, Mutuality inMission,Many Faces and One Church: A Manual for Cross–Racial and Cross-Cultural Ministry, Christianity, Judaism and Islam: A MissiologicalEncounter. She also wrote the denominational mission study on India and Pakistan. Her forthcoming books are Theology of Mutuality and Mission from the Margins which lift up the role of immigrant gifts.
Recently she presented a research paper on interfaith in the Oxford Institute in England. She has addressed several national and international level conferences on the theme of Christian mission. She served as a delegate of the World Methodist Council to the Edinburgh 2010 World Missionary Conference in Scotland, and chaired a parallel session on interfaith there. She is married to a United Methodist clergy person, and has served with him at churches in Bombay, Illinois Great Rivers and New York Annual Conferences.
Rev. Jorge Domingues is Deputy General Secretary of Mission Theology and Evaluation for the General Board of Global Ministries.
Kyle Dyer is an intern at United Methodist Women. She recently graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She is currently a student at Monmouth University, working on her Master’s in Social Work with a concentration in International and Community Development. As a social work student, she has had the opportunity to learn about the importance of human rights and the vast social justice issues that affect people around the globe. She hopes that her involvement in the People’s Global Action for Migration, Development, and Human Rights can help her gain new knowledge and perspective that can both assist in her studies and future endeavors in international development.
David Farley is the pastor of Echo Park United Methodist Church, a multiethnic congregation in Los Angeles. David also pastors the Native American Circle of Life, an outreach church in downtown L.A.
David is the Chairperson of the Immigration Task Force of the California Pacific Conference. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Filipino Migrant Center, the board of the Cal-Pac Neighborhood Immigration Clinics and the Los Angeles Interfaith Advisory Committee of The National Farm Worker Ministry.
Regional Context: As the pastor of a multiethnic urban congregation in L.A., 80% of whom are from immigrant families, David Farley is immersed in the elements of the immigrant experience and the struggle for immigrant empowerment. As the Chairperson of the Cal-Pac Immigration Task force, he is involved in the development of immigration welcoming congregations; organizing immigration clinics in local churches; advocacy on immigration reform –a pathway to citizenship, the protection of migrant rights and the reunification of families; supporting Dream Student Movement; supporting State immigrant rights legislation; detention visitation and advocacy; contesting issues of militarization of the border and the dangers faced by emigrants. Globally we have had long-term relationships with migrant groups such as Migrante International the International Migrants Assembly and Father Solalinde in Mexico.
Alexandra Franco is Program Assistant of Justice and Relationships, Mission and Evangelism for the General Board of Global Ministries.
Rev. Luis A. Garcia was born in Monterrey, Mexico. After completion of his college education in Mexico, Luis received an invitation from the Bishop of the Methodist Church in Mexico to work for the Heifer Project in Mexico. That was when he began his experience in intercultural relationships, including ministry among different ethnicities in the rural areas of Mexico. One of the project goals was to prevent economic migration by creating sources of income for farmers.
In 1992 Luis and his wife Janet were accepted as missionaries by the General Board of Global Ministries and served in Chile, South America in a vocational High School for native people in both the Northern and Southern areas of the country. In the Northern area, he saw issues of economic migration from Bolivia and Peru to Chile. He encountered similar issues on the U.S. border. Upon return to the States in 1993, he became a pastor with the UMC and has been serving as a local pastor in the South Bay Area of San Diego, California. Pastor Luis volunteered for the Joint Commission with the Methodist Church of Mexico to develop a program to mobilize congregants in the U.S. to support the work of deportees back to their villages.
Regional Context: Presently, Rev. Luis A. Garcia serves a congregation in the community of Nestor California, four miles from the border. There are three main areas of intervention. Firstly, to create an accepting border that reflects the relationships of good neighbors between communities on both sides of the border.Secondly, to create emergency or mercy programs to supports those who are caught in the transition, either deportees or those trapped at the border and facilitate their process to return home. And thirdly, to attack the root causes of forced economic migration, by establishing development programs in sending communities and countries.
Betty Gittens is executive for International Ministries for United Methodist Women. In that capacity she oversees the Ubuntu program which enables US United Methodist Women to build relationships with women partners around the world. She is also involved in supporting global partnerships and scholarships. Betty serves on the Global Ministries/UMW Global Migration Table and is co-convener of planning for United Methodist Women’s participation in this delegation. Betty previously served in the section of Christian Social Action at the Church Center for the United Nations, and with the General Board of Global Ministries.
Susie Johnson is executive for Public Policy for United Methodist Women, based on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. In that capacity she leads UMW’s legislative work at the national level and works with members on state-level advocacy. Susie coordinates UMW’s Human Trafficking Initiative.
Judy Kading is a life-long Spanish-speaker as a high school teacher, a traveler in the Spanish-speaking world and a long term Volunteer in Mission in Costa Rica. The opportunity to be a volunteer with Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors (IJFON) gave the opportunity to use her skills in a faith-based ministry dedicated to helping immigrants and refugees. Living in a small town in Iowa where there is little cultural diversity, Judy volunteers with IJFON at their legal clinics or in the main office. When she serves, she has the blessing and the opportunity of becoming acquainted with some of the bravest and most faithful people that she knows–immigrants and refugees. The people who volunteer with her are great witnesses to the fact that the church at its best does reach out to welcome the stranger. Judy has the challenge of seeking ways to be an advocate for policies both in the US and abroad that will benefit migrants and immigrants.
The way Judy became more informed about the needs of immigrant and refugee communities has been as an English as a Second Language teacher and as a volunteer for 14 years with Justice for Our Neighbors, which gives free advice and counsel to immigrants and refugees, including court representation. If it were not for the United Methodist Church, these migrants would not have the resource of a free service for complex immigration problems. Because they have five different sites that hold legal clinics, they are involved in outreach in small and large communities in Iowa. They see some of the other human services and their struggle to accommodate migrants. They have become particularly involved in services to migrant victims of domestic violence as the state attorney general has mandated the reorganization of services to undocumented immigrants—VAWA and U visas. It is disheartening that the same industries that provide the jobs that will be filled by immigrants are uninterested in funding any of our services—part of their campaign to wrap themselves in deniability when it comes to employing undocumented immigrants.
Regional Context: Migration in Judy’s context, that of a white woman living in rural Iowa, is a bit like living in parallel universes.Here in Iowa migrant communities are confined to particular cities and towns that have an industry, usually a value-added agricultural industry, which utilizes immigrants or refugees as a significant part of the labor force. Regularly, the industry brings in the immigrants or refugees without any kind of consultation with the leadership of the town–superintendents and teachers, city officials, clergy, health care facilities, volunteer organizations. Immigrants and refugees just suddenly appear and schools, hospitals, churches, municipal officials have few resources to know what to do to best help them, teach their children, understand their language or culture, access competent interpreters or translators, teach them to utilize the municipal services. The industry assumes very little responsibility for the immigrant and refugee workers beyond the work-day. There is no spirit of collaboration between business and the rest of the community when it comes to preparing for migrants and finding out what works has become a process of trial and error. Sad to say, in most community there are two different universes living side-by-side: English speakers and Spanish-speakers and with time a variety of refugees from African nations and Burma, to name some of the most frequently represented groups.
The state government has gone from having the only Bureau of Refugee Services in the U.S. to slowly defunding it until its budget is almost non-existent. The Lutherans and the Catholics previously had strong refugee ministries, but have all but closed these down because of the slow reduction by the federal government in monies dedicated to helping refugees make adjustments to their new lives in Iowa. We in the United Methodist Church in Iowa are dedicated to keeping Justice for Our Neighbors financially stable with the hope of adding a third immigration attorney in the next couple of years. Judy hopes to dedicate more time and resources to advocacy for fairness to immigrants and refugees as well. It would be wonderful if other denominations were interested in joining us in this effort in Iowa.
Lisa Katzenstein is an Executive Secretary of the Leadership Development office of the General Board of Global Ministries. She sees scholarship programs as a key vehicle to support the “Right to Stay.”
Miran H. Kim is a United Methodist Women in the Program Advisor Group in the Virginia Conference. She attends the United Methodist Church of Greater Washington, which is a Korean-American ethnic congregation located in McLean, Virginia within the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Miran is actively involved in church leadership, finance stewardship, and overseeing the development of small group leadership. She has served in various capacities as a delegate in various UMC conferences. Miran’s passion for outreach to mission and ministry is to pave the way for future generations to develop UMW leaders and emphasize inclusiveness in mission outreach programs. Miran feels called to serve in migration and human rights areas of ministry on the larger global platform at the United Nations. United Methodist Women leadership must be based upon strong Christian ethical principles and values toward developing a strategic vision to address the present human sufferings.
Regional Context: United Methodist Church of Greater Washingtonactively support a great variety of mission work spread throughout the key continents, mainly in Mexico, Central America, Africa and the emerging support for migrants of North Korea. Our concerns as an established Korean-American community in the Washington DC metro area is for the volatile situation in North Korea. We pray that the Lord guide our church, and the entirety of the United Methodist Church, to carry on the Lord’s will toward peace and stability in today’s volatile and unjust regions.
The Rev.Myungim Kim is the Executive of the Asian and Pacific Islanders Ministry Plan of the General Board Of Global Ministries. She is an ordained elder in the Greater New Jersey Conference. Prior to coming to the General Board of Global Ministries, she served as a chaplain of Centenary College, pastor of three congregations (Newton, Totowa, and Pennington), and the Director of Annual Conference Relations at the General Commission on Religion and Race. In addition, Rev. Kim has served in numerous national leadership roles in our denomination: Executive Committee Member of the Board of Directors for the United Methodist Development Fund (2004-2008); President of the National Association of Korean American United Methodist Clergy Women (2009-2011); and Executive Committee Member of the United Methodist Council on Korean Ministry (2009-2011).
Wonho Kim is a student of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He is from South Korea. He serves as a student representative for the Candler International Student Committee. Working in a Korean immigrant Church and a multicultural church, he has had a special interest in human right issues for immigrants, refugees, and multicultural families.
Before Wonho came to seminary, he completed his Juris Doctor from the Handong International Law School in South Korea. He had done legal internships in the Korean Constitutional Court (2005), the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office (2009), and Shin & Kim (2005-2006). Wonho also did a legal internship with Judge Roy Moore, a current Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Alabama (2009). Wonho served as a leader and an advisor for Legal Association for North Korean Human Rights and Developments (2008-2010).
Rev. Richard Koch Lorenz received his degree in theology from the Methodist University in São Paulo, Brazil. He also studied Education. In the 2007, the College of Bishops of the Methodist Church of Brazil sent him as a missionary to Barcelona, Spain. He worked with immigrants from Latin America in Barcelona, Madrid and Gerona for three years. Today he is a missionary of the General Board Ministries assigned to pastor two Portuguese and Spanish-speaking churches in Geneva Switzerland.
Through an agreement with the Methodist Church of Switzerland and the General Board, Rev. Koch Lorenz works with Latino immigrants in Switzerland. He supports Latino families, pioneering work with the Brazilian Consulate to restore the citizenship of Latin American immigrant families not only from Latin-America, but those who migrated within Europe due to the financial crisis. He also supports families arriving from Portugal and Spain.
Randa Krakow is the Mission Coordinator for Social Action for the San Diego District of the United Methodist Women in the California-Pacific Annual Conference. She attends San Dieguito UMC in Encinitas, California, where she is chair of the Missions and Social Action Committee. Randa has a particular interest in combating human trafficking. She is a member of the San Diego County Human Trafficking Advisory Board. She is a retired elementary school teacher, having worked for 35 years in the Newhall and Del Mar Union School Districts. Randa traveled to the Tijuana border with the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders in February of this year, increasing her work in advocacy for migrant rights.
Regional Context: The interests and issues I am concerned with is the border between San Diego and Tijuana. Many immigrants come here because of poverty, corruption, violence, and very little job opportunities in the south. Many have been deported back to Mexico, having left their families in the States broken and destitute, so they try to find any way possible to return. More people have been deported during Obama’s terms than in all others combined. They frequently risk death to return to their families. I am concerned about the children left behind when their parents are deported.
There are deplorable conditions of private prisons that hold deportees and asylum seekers. Corrections Corporation of America has no incentive to rehabilitate or resolve cases, because they get paid by the number of people kept incarcerated. Due to the North American Free Trade Agreement there are many international factories that have sprung up a few miles south of the border where there are no safety or work place regulations. People are so desperately poor that they will work for obscenely low wages.
Mary Ellen Kris is a candidate for Deaconess in the United Methodist Church and hopes to be consecrated at General Assembly in Spring of 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. Since May 24, 2010, she has been a Consultant to the General Board of Global Ministries, providing leadership, coordination and promotion of the Ministry with the Poor Area of Focus of the United Methodist Church. In 2006, Mary Ellen began attending Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan where she became a member of the Poverty Initiative at Union, with which she remains affiliated. She received her Masters of Divinity degree from Union, with a concentration in Poverty and Justice, on May 21, 2010.
Mary Ellen is currently the Chair of the NY Annual Conference (NYAC) Board of Church and Society, a member of the NYAC Vision Team, a member of the District Superintendency Committee of the Metropolitan District of the NYAC, and in 2012 led the UMW Poverty Study at the Cooperative School of Mission. She is also a Director of the United Methodist City Society, a member of the Advisory Board of the Federick Center for Social Justice and Dispute Resolution at Fordham Law School, and a member of both the UMW and the Mission, Church and Society Committee at St. Paul & St. Andrew UMC.
Because Global Migration is intimately related to poverty and justice, it is a priority of Ministry with the Poor. In her capacity as Chair of the Conference Board of Church & Society, Mary Ellen has become familiar with and supporter of the Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) work in her Conference and would like to see that work greatly expanded. In addition, the Conference Board of Church & Society continues to be a strong advocate of just and comprehensive immigration reform.Her personal interest is in the intersection of global migration and economic justice, particularly unfair and abusive wage and labor practices that are systemic in the migrant/immigrant labor force, as well as human trafficking.
Rev. Tsaurayi Kudakwashe ‘TK’ Mapfeka was born, raised and educated (for the most part) in Zimbabwe. TK was ordained an elder in 1993 and served in various parts of the country as a pastor, running mission centers and served in the office of the Bishop as Director for the Conference Council on Ministries. In December 2001, he was appointed for pastoral leadership to congregations forming out of his membership who migrated to the UK.
For TK, matters of migration and displacement have come into his horizon by way of three related ports; personal, professional, and academic. At a personal level, for more than ten years, TK and his family have lived as immigrants in the UK. He is a Minister of Religion by profession and of the twenty years of service, has given to the UMC more than half of that time in service to a grow the migrant community. He is currently doubling full time service in ministry as a member of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area Cabinet responsible for membership in diaspora with full time study as a Hebrew Bible PhD student with King’s College London. TK’s contact with the Leadership Development Office has been in the wake of his quest to seek assistance to pursue a research topic that is arguing for diaspora as a major heuristic key in biblical interpretation.
Regional Context: It is particularly importantto balance the much appreciated sense of global citizenship on the one hand with the need to anchorpersons in real spaces of the globe, on the other. It is very disturbing that migration brings with it a loss of the sense of belonging, as immigrants are made to feel like they do not belong either in their homeland nor their host-land. For any policy on migration at whatever scale to be sustainable, this is one question that must be addressed. Being a theologian and keen Biblicist, I appreciate that for the question to be addressed adequately, it will take a lot of cooperation of disciplines and interests.
Sophony Lamour is United Methodist Women staff at the Church Center for the United Nations in the community action, and environmental justice programs, and a contributor to the new book of meditations, “Seeking Fullness of Life,” on realities of women in migration.
Gabriela Liguori, daughter of Italian migrants who arrived to Argentina after the Second World War,is a Social Worker (Universidad de Buenos Aires) and a professor at the School of Social Work at the Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA) and Universidad Nacional de Lanús (UNLa). She joined Comisión de Apoyo a Refugiados y Migrantes (CAREF) in 1995 and by 2006 she was the general coordination of this organization. CAREF is the Argentine Commission for Refugees. It was created in 1973 by the World Council of Churches and has worked ever since to defend migrants’ and refugees’ rights both in Argentina and the region.
Regional Context: Argentina is one of the leading countries in the world to recognize migration as a human right. This breakthrough was achieved in 2004, when a new migration law was passed, changing the paradigm from migration control and criminalization to a human rights-based approach. It was the product of years of advocacy and dialogue with different representatives of government.
Current challenges that are faced in the country are: implementation of the migration law (next year will mark its tenth anniversary); regional integration and migration from neighbor countries; migration from countries that are not part of Mercosur (Dominicans, Senegalese, and others); and gender and migration, specially sexual and reproductive rights of migrant women.
In relation to the Five-Year Action Agenda, we are most concerned in seeing implemented policies related to rights and protection.
Luis Luna was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Luis’s family is originally from Mexico. Through his parents’ pursuit of higher education and endeavor for better job opportunities, they moved back to Mexico when Luis was six months old. Luis’s grade school education in Catholic school was when he was introduced to religion. At the age of 16, Luis migrated to the United States in order to receive a better education, attending Woodstock University. Luis is currently a senior at Kennesaw State University, majoring in International Affairs, and plans to attend graduate school to further pursue his passion on migrant issues.
Migrating from one country to another was not easy–he faced many barriers. Although Luis studied English in Mexico, the language barrier was challenging. Luis increasingly realized his difference as a migrant, being perceived as a Hispanic minority, and judged by skin color and linguistic difference. He befriended other Latinos who shared his perspective and struggle. Luis connects with Latinos in the US from many nations—some who have been able to achieve their academic goals and others who have faced obstacles to pursuing those goals.
April Niguidula-Morito is the program director of KAPATIRAN. She has been connected with KAPATIRAN for the past 12 years as a Counsellor and Program Director. KAPATIRAN is a church based NGO established in 1988 by the Anglican-Episcopalian Church, Tokyo Diocese. KAPATIRAN serves the Filipino migrant community in Japan providing crisis intervention, counselling and other direct services. This year, as part of the 25th year of service, a new program for Japanese-Filipino Migrant Youth was launched. April is a member of NetFil (Network of Filipino Social Development Workers in Japan), which was awarded the Geny Lopez Gawad Bayaning Award in 2012 for the work that they did in serving the Filipino community in the Tohoku region who were affected by the triple disaster of 2011. Support for the Filipino community which started from the time of evacuation continues through the present phase of rehabilitation and community building. April holds a Masters of Arts degree in counselling psychology. Since moving to Japan over 25 years ago, she has been serving Filipino migrant families in various capacities as a counsellor, trainer and supervisor. She is an active member and elder of Tokyo Union Church, an International, Inter-denominational English-speaking church.
Regional Context: There are many social issues involved in the migration of Filipinos overseas. Many Filipinos continue to seek opportunity, new lives overseas because the lack of economic stability in the Philippines. Overseas Filipino Workers and migrants are hailed as the modern heroes—remittances are still largely the country’s source of revenue. While the decision to leave the country is still a personal choice, the reality is that there are little to no options of employment or stable income in the Philippines.
Many migrants enter into marriage with much older men in Japan who are introduced by friends or relatives. These marriages are fraught with cultural and communication challenges. There is a high rate of arranged marriages among undocumented migrants who endure to stay in the host country. Even amidst the difficulties Filipino migrants face; domestic violence, trafficking, entering arranged marriages that demand payment in return, etc., many still opt to stay even illegally, at the risk of their safety and the safety of their children.
Migrants were adversely impacted by the triple disaster in 2011—tsunami, nuclear disaster and economic crisis. The language barrier made it difficult to know when and where to flee, to know exactly what the dangers were, where to avail of help and support. Even now, two and a half years later, obtaining proper, unbiased and clear information such as the level of radiation and knowing how to determine the safety level to make informed decisions for their families is insufficient and difficult. Access to mental health serves and counseling in their native language is minimal. In response, what is needed isregulation of migrant labor recruitment and labor mobility mechanisms; Creating of jobs in the Philippines; A; Addressing protection and needs of migrants in distress; and . Addressing vulnerabilities, rights, and empowerment of women and children.
Rosangela Oliveria is a Brazilian living in New York City with her family. Her father’s family first migrated, leaving rural poverty for Rio de Janeiro. Her mother’s grandparents were from Italy. The reasons are different, but migration continues its spiral movement.
As UMW Regional Missionary with women in Latin America, Rosangela heard the stories of migration from Central America to US, from Peru to Chile, from Bolivia to Brazil— stories of deportation and integration, the pursuit for a better life in the midst of discrimination and persistent poverty. Presently, Rosangela works with the International Committee of the World Day of Prayer, which has a worldwide ecumenical network of women looking into their own community to unfold the stories of migration. With the focus on migration in 2013, the WDP has raised awareness about global migration and placed women in the blessed position of asking themselves about welcoming the stranger in the midst of unwelcoming times.
Rosangela lives in a local community that is becoming increasingly Hispanic but still shares space with the previous migration layer of Eastern European people. The right to move, cross borders, return or stay, is deeply human. For the Guarani culture, it belongs to the spiritual realm. For Abraham, this journey was the path to God. For Jesus, this is a call to love the neighbor. The right to development and right to migrate are key to seeing migrants not as commodities for economic development, but as human being in search for life in its fullness. Women constitute half of the migrant population and most of them continue to work in unprotected and low paid jobs and to be vulnerable to violence and gender inequality. I would like to see reinforced the commitment for human rights and polices that let women enjoy a life free of violence – be it economic injustice or physical abuse.
Rev. Rosanna Panizo is originally from the Methodist Church of Peru where she was ordained and for ten years was involved in developing the Comunidad Biblico Teologica (CBT)-Methodist Theological Seminary in Lima,Peru. Rev. Panizo came to the USA sixteen years ago to do graduate studies at Duke Divinity School, NC. After graduation she was invited by Bishop Edwards to engage in ministry in the North Carolina Conference. During her first appointment at Community UMC in Butner, an English-speaking congregation, she became aware oft the “hidden” presence of immigrant neighbors in a trailer park area of town. She began visiting the neighbors and listening to their stories. After that she was appointed to an extension ministry inThe Latino Center in Carrboro where she learned about the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic backgrounds of immigrants coming from South, Central and North America. In this journey she assumed one of her “new identities” as a self-exiled “Latina” in the US and since then she has been doing ministry among poor immigrants in Durham and Alamance counties in NC and recently in her role as a United Methodist missionary. She is a clergy member of the North Carolina Conference.
Regional Context: In Rev. Rosanna’s experience doing ministry with first generation immigrants, she has seen the devastating consequences of racism within the churches and society at large. This new wave of immigrants in the US responds to the crisis of economic models that produce human “leftovers” not only in America but in the whole world. These masses of people are “economic refugees”. For many to migrate is the only choice to survive for themselves and their families.
This issue needs to be addressed in the frame of Human Rights of immigrants. Many migrants are treated as refugees, coming from a violent system to experience other forms of violence here. We must provide them with a better legal and moral framework to advocate for their/our rights. At the state level (provincial) undocumented immigrants need to have access to driver’s licenses and in-state tuition for college education (for the ones who attended and graduate from the state school system). Immigration Reform in the US in an urgent need.
Jim Perdue is a missionary of the General Board of Global Ministries and the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry. He is currently assigned as Coordinator for immigration, border concerns, and other social issues. His work with the immigrant community touches three interlinked areas of The United Methodist Church: advocacy for U.S. federal immigration policy reform; the development of a context-based leadership training process for use with new and existing Hispanic/Latino community ministries at the base of the immigrant community and church; the development of context-based training processes for non-immigrant and non-Hispanic/Latino churches desiring to reach out in ministries with their immigrant communities. Jim is in strong agreement with the need for all 8 civil society platform points in the U.S.
Judith Pierre-Okerson was raised in the Methodist Church in Haiti where she was very active. She immigrated to the United States in 1988 and joined The United Methodist Church. Since then, Judith has served the church at all levels, including as delegate to General Conferences (2004, 2008), and Jurisdictional conferences (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012). She served on the board of the General Commission on Religion and Race (2000-2008), the General Board of Global Ministries and Women’s Division (2008-2012). Judith is currently serving as the chair of the United Methodist Women board of directors Governance Committee.
Judith lives in Miramar Florida and is a member of Miramar UMC, a multi- cultural congregation. Currently, she teaches elementary school age children with special needs in Miami Dade County Public Schools, a truly global community, where students speak 56 different languages and represent 160 countries
Regional Context: Judith’s advocacy work with migration began shortly after she migrated in the United States. As the board member and later, the chair of the Refugee Women and Children, a program spearheaded by local UMW in response to the influx of, first, Latin American and later Haitian women in South Florida. In 1991, Judith joined the Miami Office of Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program working with Cuban and Haitian Refugees Resettlement until 2002. In 2004, as the Chair of Refugee Program of the Florida Conference, Judith helped opened the first Justice for Our Neighbor (JFON) program in Florida. JFON is a network of legal clinics that provide hospitality and compassion to low-income immigrants through immigration legal services, advocacy, and education.
Julia Ponce was born in El Salvador and immigrated to the U.S. fleeing the civil war there. She has worked in conflict resolution and international labor rights for US-based NGOs. She currently works for the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry at the General Board of Global Ministries.
Janis Rosheuvel was born in Guyana, South America. She has worked in the fields of international development and gender rights at the Tahirih Justice Center, Women for Women International and Episcopal Relief and Development. From 2007-11 she served as Executive Director/Organizer at Families for Freedom (FFF), a New York-based network of immigrants resisting mass incarceration and deportation. Janis was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship from 2011-12. She fulfilled her Fulbright in South Africa where she documented the work of social movements organized by migrants, shack dwellers and other working class activists. She currently serves as Executive Secretary for Racial Justice for United Methodist Women. She also lectures on migration and crime at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and serves on the boards of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). Janis holds a BA in International Studies from American University in Washington, D.C. and an MA in Conflict Resolution from the University of Bradford in West Yorkshire, England.
Rob Rutland-Brown is Executive Director of Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist Immigration Ministry. JFON provides legal counsel to immigrants in the United States through local church clinics. See http://njfon.org/
Elmira Sellu is a regional missionary of United Methodist Women. She works mainly with women in the West Africa Central Conference and the East Africa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She work towards their empowerment in all areas of their lives, thereby enabling them to contribute meaningfully to the enhancement of their communities. Elmira holds a Higher Teachers Certificate, a diploma in Women’s Studies and a Bachelors Degree in Human and Social Studies. Having been forced to become a refugee on two occasions, in 1997 and in 1999, and caused to live and work outside her home country for 10 years, Elmira has become very interested in the well-being of migrants, especially refugee migrants.
As a regional missionary working with women in different countries, Elmira has worked with refugee migrants and displaced persons. Some had to flee their homes because of war and others for economic reasons. She has ministered to refugees form Sierra Leone, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Elmira is currently witnessing thousands of people leaving the provinces in Sierra Leone in search of greener pastures in the capital city, Freetown and neighboring countries. This is mainly due to the harsh economic realities on the ground in the provinces. This is, however, having severe repercussions on the capital city.
Action: One specific policy need in her country and in the region where Elmira works is the policy of decentralization. This would enable people in the hinterland have access to jobs, goods and services, like their compatriots in the capital city. Migration for them would then be of choice rather than of necessity.
Marie Sol Sioco-Villalon is a full-time pastor of the Southwest Philippines Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She served as deaconess of the church from 1979 to 1989, responsible for the Christian Education ministry of several churches in Mindoro, her birthplace. In the early 1990’s, she became a pastor of and served two churches in Palawan and Mindoro. In 1994, she was appointed district superintendent and served the rural district for 6 years.
In 2001, Marie went back to school to take graduate study on theological studies, but kept her hands busy with social work while meditating on spiritual truths. Seeing the sad plight of indigenous Mangyans of Mindoro, she volunteered to work for the welfare of internal refugees and Filipino migrants who were displaced from their homes because of poverty, militarization, and forced to migration to find better jobs abroad because of unemployment in their country. Today, she is actively involved in advocacy and direct services to victims of human trafficking and forced migration in the Philippines.
Regional Context: 4,500 Filipinos are forced to leave the country every day to find better jobs abroad because of unemployment and underemployment in the Philippines. They are called Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), tagged by the government as modern heroes because of the large amount of remittances that they send home to the government. In 2011, the OFWs’ remittances totalled 21 Billion US dollars and contributed significantly to the Philippine economy. Unfortunately, the Filipino migrants’ rights and welfare are not given special attention in return. The labor export policy of the government is the main reason for the more than 12 million Filipino migrants scattered in two hundred forty countries.
For the first time in our history, four Filipinos were executed abroad under one presidency in 2010. The number of Filipinos in death row has increased from 108 to 123. At least 7,000 Filipinos are languishing in jails abroad without legal assistance and at least 20,000 are stranded and awaiting repatriation. This number has increased due to the Saudization policy of Saudi Arabian government and the wars that happened and still continuing in Egypt, Libya and Syria. Every weeks, hundreds of Filipinos return to the Philippines distressed, frustrated, sick, abused, and trafficked. A minimum of 7 Filipinos are brought dead in the cargo areas every day.
Due to these injustices, the United Methodist Church in the Philippines initiated a ministry to the OFWs and their families in 2005 up to the present. We have organized several churches to provide the OFWs and their families counselling and other required services, especially to victims of abuse and human trafficking. We engage the government to respond to their needs especially when they are stranded, abused and trafficked. The UMC in Manila performs advocacy and direct services to Filipino migrants. We lobby for better laws and for government funding that will ensure migrants’ rights and welfare. The government should address the root cause of forced migration. And to provide better jobs with decent living wages for its citizens while providing the essential services to those already working overseas.
Jeanne Roe Smith, a United Methodist Deaconess, is the chaplain at Wesley Foundation Serving the University of California Los Angeles, UCLA. Jeanne has served there since January 2009, and in that time discerned that migrant rights, educational access, gender and sexual orientation inclusion are primary concerns for ministry. Jeanne began her career in campus ministry at the Wesley Foundation in Cincinnati in 1998, where she worked in interfaith dialogue, community organizing and advocacy for students on the margins of campus life.
An Im/migrant Welcoming and Reconciling faith community, WFSUCLA works closely with students, faculty, families and congregations in educating and advocating for im/migrant rights. The campus ministry engages DREAM eligible students in worship, community activism, and has two DREAM Ambassadors who offer workshops, presentations and worship experiences locally, regionally and nationally. Many of the students come from im/migrant families, mixed status families, from across the state and world. The students work to integrate their academic, intellectual and spiritual learning into a holistic and global respect of the world and self. United Methodist students as well as students of other (and some no) faith traditions participate in worship, dialogue, community service, activism, art and creativity as ways of engaging, exploring and experiencing their faith, the faith of others and building bridges of understanding and respect.
Rita L. Smith is a native of New Yorker, born and raised in Harlem. A graduate of Roosevelt High School she matriculated at Tuskegee University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She is a recent Chicago Public School teacher, coach, counselor and administrator retiree.
A child, youth and young adult member of St. Marks UMC in Harlem, she transferred her membership to Gammon UMC, now Resurrection UMC, when she and her husband moved to Chicago. Active on many committees she has been a lay leader, lay member to annual conference, and is a certified lay servant. She authored and received one of 27 grants from the Bishop’s Initiative on Children and Poverty. Rita is a past president of Chicago Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Inc. On the conference level, she is past chair of Older Adult Ministries and served on many other committees as well. She was elected as the first reserve delegate to the 2012 General Conference and delegate to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference. She serves as UMW President in the Northern Illinois Conference, and has previously served as Mission Coordinator for Social Action for UMW.
Regional Context: As a United Methodist Women (UMW), Rita believes the migration issue is one of critical concern. The UMW advocate for human rights and this subject matter falls under that umbrella. While many migrant workers are often the “indigent’ persons, they lack many resources. Labor rights, education, human resources, homesickness, broken families and are, in the need for English as a Second Language. Most often these persons are unskilled, human trafficked and, or recruited illegally. In the USA, the immigration population is growing and increasing. With the recent “talk” of building a Mexico border wall once again, the indigenous communities will be affected most. Farms will be dismayed, the ecosystem harmed and traditional cultural practices will be harmed if not destroyed, not to mention the detention centers will in all likelihood grow. As we look at solutions for the migration issue, we must keep faith as the forerunner as we seek equality through economic, social and legal justices; after all, the world is our neighbor. We must find ways to welcome all, accepting God’s given gifts and talents from everyone.
Katie Steinbach is an undergraduate student at Hunter College in New York City. She will graduate this December with a major in Political Science and a minor in Spanish language. She is interested in United States and Latin American relations with a focus on gender, among other policy areas. She has been interning for United Methodist Women in the Immigrant and Civil Rights Initiative since February of 2013, where she has been involved in global migration advocacy work. She has played a leading role in supporting the Women and Global Migration Network and the development of their women’s platform for the UN-HLD.
Bishop Julius C. Trimble was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 16, Julius answered the call to ministry while an active youth member of Christ United Methodist Church in Chicago. Bishop Trimble was elected to the Episcopacy by the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church on July 18, 2008. He previously served as a pastor of United Methodist churches in the Chicago area and in East Ohio. He served as a District Superintendent in Cleveland, Ohio from 1996 to 2003.
He is President of the North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops and has been serving as Co-Chair of The United Methodist Inter-Agency Immigration Task Force. He brings to his ministry a history of ecumenical and inter-faith work in the areas of violence reduction, mental health advocacy, education and social justice. As Resident Bishop of Iowa, he is supporting emerging ministries with new immigrant communities, while continuing his efforts on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.
Monalisa Tuitahi is an immigrant from the South Pacific who sees her work as an attorney, a lay worker within all levels of the Church, and a United Methodist Woman, as a calling from God to engage in advocacy; in seeking justice for all people. She is married to the Rev. Saia Tuitahi, and is the mother of four wonderful children. Monalisa is a leader in the Pacific Island National Caucus of United Methodists (PINCUM).
Devorah Umipig-Julian is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries. Debbie is a native of Isabela, Philippines. She was privileged to grow up surrounded by her parents who modeled the teaching of Jesus Christ, the reality of their faith and beautiful examples of faithful service to God, church and people. It was the love for people and call to service that led her to study Social Work in college. She received her Masters in Social Work with a specialization in Administration and Supervision from the University of the Philippines.
Over the years, she served in various capacities in whatever local church she belonged to, including teaching Sunday School to children, Youth, Young Adult and women migrants. She headed up international conferences based in Japan, prayer meetings, mission team, married couples, parents in prayer, community-based groups and human rights efforts. She is currently working with the Christian Coalition for Refugees and Migrants under the umbrella of the National Christian Churches in Japan (NANKIREN in Japanese . It was established in late 1989 to protect the rights of these migrants. It engages in individual case advocacy; visting o detention centers; legal counsel; organizing; education and training. The work with the migrants is overwhelming; we continue to play a significant role in advocacy and lobbying urging those in power to work for the rights of these migrants.
Regional Context: The migrant population in Japan encompasses both documented and undocumented foreigners. Documented foreigners hold the immigration status of student, entertainer, caregiver, trainee, spouses of Japanese citizen, permanent resident and long-term resident. The undocumented consist of two broad groups – “over-stayers” and “illegal entrants”. Over-stayers are those who entered Japan with a proper visa (most commonly a short-term (tourist) and remains after its expiration. So-called “illegal entrants” or undocumented people entered either without passing through immigration control or by using falsified travel documents. These migrants came as far Brazil, Columbia, Peru, African Countries, Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Turkey) Pakistan, and countries from Japan’s neighboring south.
Over the years these migrants began to settle in Japan for longer periods, some married Japanese citizens, while a majority lack of proper working visas which leaves them vulnerable to work place exploitation and other human rights violations. An overwhelming number of these migrants are working in the construction, manufacturing or service industries. Both men and women migrants work in factories and restaurants. The construction industry hires mostly males, while many women foreigners work in bars as hostesses. Japan’s bubble economy collapsed in 1991 but migrants did not return to their countries of origin. Again, with the economy’s downturn from 2008, many migrants faced ever bleaker job prospects in their home country, so they cling on despite periods of unemployment and dismissal from employers.
Japan is notorious for racist and xenophobic statements and treatment by employers and its bureaucrats, politicians to foreign migrants. They condemn the presence of migrant workers; they believe that foreign migrants reduce the wages of local workers and endanger public order and peace. Although there are adverse responses to migrants, that there is a significant Japanese minority which supports migrants.
Carline Vital is of Haitian nationality residing in the Dominican Republic. She is president of a nonprofit organization ODEMIHF, working since 1995 with Haitian immigrant women and their families in vulnerable areas of health, education, gender, human rights, evangelism and sustained development. Carline is a student in theology mastery of leadership. She had a post graduate degree in Social Reforms and politics. She specialized in research studies of Afrocarribeans. Carline is the first chairwoman of Soroptimist International in the Dominican Republic.
Regional Context: Most Haitian migrants to the Dominican Republic are undocumented who become victims of serious human rights violations. This issue is now broader and more complex with profound difficulties. From the perception of many Dominicans, Haiti is seen as a threat to the social stability of the Dominican Republic; “Haitian workers displace Dominican workers” and “Haitian immigrants bring disease in Dominican Republic.”
David Wildman is Executive Secretary of Human Rights & Racial Justice for the General Board of Global Ministries. He also relates to Middle East and Afhanistan. He serves on the GBGM Global Migration Team.
Dr. Yani (Yeon Hee) Yoo received her Ph.D. degree in the Old Testament from Union Theological Seminary, New York. She is the author of God of Abraham, Rebekah, and Jacob. She is publishing articles using newer interpreting methods of the Bible. She teaches Old Testament classes at Methodist Theological University, Seoul, Korea and serves an English-speaking congregation.
She worked as a consultant/regional missionary of Asia and the Pacific region appointed by Women’s Division, GBGM, UMC. She closely works with Scranton Women’s Leadership Center, a UMW- related foundation in Korea, in implementing programs to empower women migrants.
Regional Context: Korea first received migrant workers in 1993 calling them industrial trainees. Under the system the workers were merely “trainees” and thus were not protected by the Labor Standard Act. Since 2004 both Employment Permit system and industrial trainee system have been used. In short, Korea is like most receiving countries which ignore the rights of migrant workers, while exploiting them to their economic benefit, supporting employers. There are about 800,000 foreign registered workers in Korea (June 2012, Statistics Korea; 150 million including all kinds of migrant workers). There are about 330,000 women migrant workers. According to a survey, about 11% of women workers experience sexual violence or sexual harassment.
Migrant workers and NGO activists in Korea believe that the foci of discussion about migrant labor need to move from remittances for development to the rights of the workers. The oppressive international legal system of the workers needs to change. To enhance their rights regionally and internationally migrant workers need to be organized and have power. Migrant workers in Korea demand the following from governments: abolishment of Employment Permit system and instead create labor permit system; freedom of changing work places, guaranteeing the three basic labor rights (unionization, collective bargaining and industrial action), stop crackdown and deportation and legalize unregistered laborers; legalize migrants’ trade union; employment centers’ maintaining neutral stance between employers and migrant workers; allowing application for permanent residence; allowing inviting families.