Monday, 25 January 2010

What kind of migrant are you?

At this morning's service in the chapel we closed the week of prayer for Christian unity with a reflection and celebration on hospitality. This was also a way to mark the beginning of the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe year of the churches in solidarity with migrants.
Roswitha Golder, a minister of the Protestant Church in Geneva who worked for over 12 years with the Latin American Methodist community in the city, preached and interpreted the testimony of a member of her community. We sang and prayed and reflected on the meaning of hospitality. Ortensia, from Bolivia, spoke about how she was grateful for the opportunity to become a migrant worker as it meant she had been able to pay for the higher education of her children - her son had now qualified as an engineer. It was a moving tesitmony as she talked about how her own qualifications as a medical secretary were not transferable to Switzerland but that she was nevertheless grateful for the opportunities to provide for her family that working in Geneva provided.
Later when he was opening the exhibition made by the different migrant churches congregations, our new general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit spoke about how stories of migration spoke to almost all of us present. In Geneva in particular, many of us are migrants, but some of are much more privileged migrants than others. Issues of justice and migration have to be taken up by teh churches. Barbara Robra, who worked with the different churches from the "Witnessing together" network on the artistic project behind the exhibtion, spoke of the vibrancy and life in the congregations and the creativity that shone through, both in the panels that had been made but also in the quilting projects that had been part of the exhibition.

Thinking back to Ortensia's testimony I began to think about what kind of migrant I am. It is so easy for workers in international organisations to not think about themselves as migrant workers, to not recognise the privilege we have to be where we are, doing what we do. Do I think I am entitled to everything that comes my way because I'm an international worker? Am I a grateful migrant worker, do I give thanks to God like Ortensia was able to do so movingly this morning? Probably not in quite the same sort of way ... I speak about my faith and life in different ways. Yet the simpliciity of her gratitude spoke volumes to me of how important giving thanks is. It also brought some of my cynicism into sharp relief and called me to conversion: "Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God".
Am I really able to be a hospitable privileged migrant worker, or do I just pray but not practise what I preach?