Not Just Numbers But People With Dignity

Not Just Numbers But People With Dignity

Indonesia hosts some 14,000 refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Iraq. They arrive in Indonesia hoping to be approved for third-country resettlement, which could be decades away.


One of the refugees is 27-year-old Nimo from Somalia. She along with four other Somalian refugees, including a child, were invited to share their experiences after a Sunday Mass on September 29 in the parish church of Sts Petrus and Paul Mangga Besar, Central Jakarta to commemorate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

“Being invited here, we feel like we are being treated as human beings. We want to open your heart to our experiences as refugees stranded in your country. If you cannot help us, at least you can pray for us,” shared Nimo.

The event hosted by the Jesuit parish was coordinated by the Peace and Justice Commission of the Jakarta Archdiocese in collaboration with the Jakarta Archdiocese’s Migrant Care Network. More than 100 parishioners and human trafficking activists attended the dialogue and experience-sharing session.

Besides hosting refugees, Indonesia is also a major sender of migrant workers to countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia. In 2018, of the 4.5 million Indonesian migrant workers, more than 1.9 million were undocumented. The real number could easily be higher because victims of human trafficking are usually difficult to identify.
Fr Ignatius Ismartono SJ, director of Sahabat Insan, a Jesuit organisation for migrant workers in Indonesia, facilitated the sharing of lessons learned and good practices of the Migrant Care Network. He invited everyone to let their hearts be moved by compassion and care for the most vulnerable people. 


Six speakers from religious congregations and a lay person shared their experience in handling and accompanying undocumented migrants and victims of human trafficking. Sister Agatha of the Religious of the Good Shepherd cried when she shared how she rescued and accompanied a victim of human trafficking, moved by gratitude for the opportunity to save even just one victim from the atrocities of human traffickers. “It is not about number, it is about a human being with dignity,” she said.

In the Archdiocese of Nusa Tenggara Timur, the Local Migrant Care Network in collaboration with the Commission for Justice and Peace-the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of the Bishop Conference of Indonesia (KKP-KWI) facilitated an exchange on the danger of human trafficking in Uzuramba Barat Village, Ende.

Fr Aegidius Eko Aldilanta O Carm, KKP-KWI Secretary, shared how migrant worker families can be empowered through livelihood opportunities. Sr Laurentina Suharsih of the Congregation of Divine Providence testified to the pastoral care involved in receiving corpses of Indonesian migrant workers repatriated to their hometowns. Because of her involvement in receiving and taking the bodies from the cargo terminal to their families, she was dubbed “Sister Cargo”. In the last nine months she has received 88 Indonesian migrant workers’ corpses at the El Tari International Airport, Kupang and taken them to their hometowns. Sr Laurentina is one of the few people in West Timor even trying to track the missing. Since 2012, she has traveled across the island to educate villagers on the dangers of human traffickers.

In his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis tells us that the presence of migrants and refugees helps us to read the “signs of the times” and recover essential dimensions of our Christian existence and humanity that are at risk of being overlooked in a prosperous society.

“It is not only the cause of migrants that is at stake; it is not just about them, but about all of us, and about the present and future of the human family,” says Pope Francis. “Through them, the Lord is calling us to conversion, to be set free from exclusivity, indifference and the throw-away culture.” 


Fr Adrianus Suyadi SJ is the Secretary for Social Ministries of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific