Rome (Fides Service) –The number of Filipino immigrants to Europe grows steadily and this presents a major challenge for the Churches in the West. In Middle East countries Catholic Filipino immigrants find it difficult to profess their faith and they suffer from lack of religious freedom. This was the picture outlined by Father Paulo Prigol, Italian Scalabrini missionary aged 45, who is responsible for the Scalabrini Asia and Australia Province. He was on mission for 14 years in Manila and for 12 head of the Filipino’s Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Care of Migrants. Fides spoke with Father Prigol when he was in Rome for the 5th Conference on Pastoral Care of Filipino Immigrants in Europe 3 to 6 November attended by about 40 delegates from 11 different European countries.
Father Prigol explains: “Filipino migration has changed in recent years. Once mainly domestic workers, today Filipinos are ever more highly qualified. It should also be said that 60% of Philippines’ 8 million emigrants in the world are women, working in Asian countries such as China Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. In Europe there a demand for trained nurses in countries such as United Kingdom, Ireland, France Germany, Italy and Switzerland, and Filipinos make excellent nurses. In a few years immigration has assumed a new face and today it is much more qualified ”.
He also explains why the government of the Philippines encouraged emigration: “Each day about 2.700 Filipino citizens emigrate, almost one million every year. They leave with the hope of returning soon but they rarely do because in the new country they start a new life. The Philippines has an unemployment rate of 10% and the government regards emigration as a safety valve for the problem and what is more money sent home by 8 million emigrants around the world is a reassuring income for the country. However the local Church says that economic advantages are not everything and it underlines emigration’s negative effects on families. Very often only one member of the family leaves and this is a blow to families, emigration breaks up the country, it is not good for society. ”
The difficulties encountered by immigrants include, “different language, differnt culture, differnt life style. Filipino people are naturally very sociable, they need to get together frequently, they rarely can and this means they suffer. Very often they are underpaid and in certain countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia for example, they are denied religious freedom to practice their faith and religion and its practice is for Filipino Catholics is very important. Some countries even prohibit Christians from wearing a cross and ther ahve been cases of Christians sent to prison for possessing a Bible or attending prayer meetings in private homes. In countries with a Christian majority Filipino immigrants find it easier to insert themselves into society and receive assistance from the local Catholic communities.”
Father Prigol said that from the Conference “it emerged that in the present sitaution the Churches of Europe are called to be even more open and welcoming, to invest more human and resources to assist immigrants and improve lobbying for the rights of immigrants. In this field the Church in Italy is certainly in front line.
The Church in the Philippines, for its part, works in the field of education promoting seminars for students, teachers, church personnel to explain the positive and negative aspects of emigration”. (PA) (Fides Service 7/11/2003 Lines: 52 Words: 652)