Meeting the needs of migrants in Malaysia
By Andrew Ng | Founding Chairman, Migrant Ministry Klang | West Malaysia in East Asia
Diaspora is a word of Greek origin meaning "dispersion" or "scattering." It refers an individual or people group leaving their homeland and being on the move, voluntarily or otherwise. It is not a new phenomenon. But the scale of global people movement today is astounding with 244 million migrants living in a country other than the one they were born in (2015). Diaspora movement is generally regarded as resettlement caused by expulsion, slavery, famine, ethnic and religious conflicts, as well as wars. However, it can also be due to economic migration, with people searching for better lives overseas.
Millions of migrants
In the case of Malaysia, the Lower House of Parliament in a 2015 session revealed a figure of 2.7 million registered migrants in the country. Additionally, an International Human Rights group estimated that there are more than 4 million unregistered migrants in Malaysia (Tenaganita estimated unregistered migrants to be over 5 million). Taken together, there could be more than 6.7 million migrants calling Malaysia home. It would mean that the migrant population in Malaysia now outnumbers the local Chinese population.
In the first part of 2016 alone, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kuala Lumpur registered more than 158,000 refugees from more than 50 countries, with the majority consisting of a stateless people from Myanmar. More than 50,000 of these were classed as asylum seekers.
Recently there was a debate happening in the social media regarding the government's plan to allow more than 1 million Bangladeshi workers to immigrate. Additionally, the government has announced that it will take in several thousand Syrian refugees. Currently about 70 percent of the migrants and refugees share the same religion as the majority of people in Malaysia. If implemented, these measures will create an even greater increase in our migrant population.
Is the presence of Diaspora people in Malaysia a temporary phenomenon? Most business people think the migrants are not going away any time soon. The Malaysian economy is now heavily dependent on migrant labor. Many migrants are born in Malaysia and are better in Bahasa Malayu than in their own native dialects.
How then should the Body of Christ in Malaysia respond? Should we fortify our houses and sanctuaries to improve our security? Or should we build bridges to reach out to these migrants and refugees?
How we minister
Migrant Ministry Klang (MMK) is a partnership ministry of SIM and has been building bridges for 15 years. Our motivation comes from the fact that we are commanded to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. There are no illegal human beings in the world. All are created in the image of God.
Our objectives are: rescue, relief, restore and rehabilitate.
To accomplish our vision, we have a shelter home that is an implementing partner of UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur. It is a home to take care of unaccompanied minors, refugees who arrive without parents. Through our El Shaddai Centre Bhd (ECB), our registered non-profit entity, MMK runs a refugee school endorsed by UNHCR. At the time of writing there are about 430 students originating from six countries. In the school, we offer a weekly character building class, in which Bible stories form the majority of the curriculum. Eight years ago, when the school was first initiated, there were only 22 children. Today, many of the graduates are teenagers and young adults. To meet the changing needs of our graduates, ECB initiated life skills projects such as aquaponics, urban farming, second chance thrift shops and our Touch Nature Soaps (a social enterprise selling hand-made specialty soaps). These life skills projects are vital for the teenagers and young adults of the refugee school, but also for their parents. In the future we hope to add a computer centre to train young adults in computer literacy, assembly and repair.
Under a program called H4R (Healthcare for Refugees), MMK provides a regular mobile clinic to various refugee communities, made possible by about 40 volunteer doctors, nurses and pharmacists. During these rounds of medical services, we have "befrienders" to come alongside the patients and encourage them while they wait to see the doctors. There is a great need in our H4R program for trauma counselors.
It is through these four-fold humanitarian ministries of rescue, relief, restoration and rehabilitation that we engage with these migrants to help them thrive and build relationships.
How you can join and support
The first step in this ministry is to be informed about the influx of migrants and be sensitized to love migrants and refugees.
ECB has a Ministry Partnership program that lets supporters:
1. adopt a child
2. adopt a teacher
3. adopt a project
4. donate funds or in-kind donations
ECB has a Ministry Partnership Training program that offers:
1. one-day exposure trips
2. one-week inter programs
3. short-term partnership programs (3-9 months)
4. longer-term ministry partnership programs (minimum one year)
The global movement of people is on the rise. Surely God has a purpose. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
• migrants in Malaysia to find hope and restoration in the gospel.
• more mission workers who have a deep love for refugees and migrants to join us.
• MMK's ministry to effectively demonstrate Christ's care toward people.