Churches in Canada urged to protect migrant workers

By Rowena Papasin, Balitang Canada

Posted at Oct 31 2013 09:29 AM | Updated as of Oct 31 2013 06:51 PM

SURREY, British Columbia - Churches have long been a sanctuary for the oppressed. But for the World Council of Churches, it's time for this sanctuary to expose abuses against migrant workers.

Surrey pastor Reverend Stuart Lyster said churches should be more pro-active in their defense of migrant workers.

"There are other cases like what happened to Leticia where the church needs to be more than a sanctuary for people, it needs to speak out and have a prophetic voice," said Lyster.

The Christian organizers plan to expand the group to include representatives from the Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and other faith.

Lyster said that during the recent International Consultation of Churches Witnessing with Migrants in New York, the only bright light was their report on the case of caregiver Leticia Sarmiento.

"What is remarkable about her is that she had stuck with this process where the government has appropriately criminalized the employer," he said.

Invited by Lyster's church, Sarmiento spoke about her life and the reason why she spent years away from her family to take care of other families.

She said she decided to work abroad after giving birth to her last daughter because she doesn't want them to experience the hardships that she personally went through.

Sarmiento recounted her experiences working in Saudi Arabia, being bombed in Lebanon, mortgaging their farm so she can work in Hong Kong, for the employers who sneaked her into Canada.

Now, she's being urged to write a book.

"Gusto ko rin para magkaroon ng halimbawa sa iba pang mga Pilipino," Sarmiento said.

Migrante-BC's Beth Dollaga added, "I think it should be documented in a way that you know, we learn, continue to be educated and not only be educated but be inspired of these women and migrants who have told their stories".

Migrante is open to helping Sarmiento write her story.