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Publication of the Apostleship of the Sea in East and South East Asia

That They May Be ONE

ISSUE 02 | 2009

A Fisherman’s NIGHTMARE Do not be afraid, it’s CHRISTMAS!

Hong Kong | Indonesia | Japan | Malaysia | Myanmar | Philippines | Singapore | Taiwan | Thailand | Vietnam


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From the desk of the Regional Coordinator: SEEDS OF SORROW IN THE STORY OF JOY

In Thomas Merton’s book “Love and Living”, he wrote: “If we… accept God’s revelation of Himself in the Infant of Bethlehem, we must realize also that this acceptance has grave consequences for our lives. It means accepting One for whom there is no room in the “inn” of an excited and distraught world… We see this in the disturbing symbol of that census which brings “the whole world” into the books of a Roman imperial power. If we accept this Infant as our God, then we accept our own obligation to grow with Him in a world of arrogant power and travel with Him as He ascends to Jerusalem and to the Cross which is the denial of power.” These words challenge us this Christmas season to accept and welcome into our ports the people of the sea for whom there is no room in the “inn”. The implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code has to some extent become the modern day census which brings “the whole world” into the books of a new Roman imperial power. In some ports in the world, the ISPS code has made life more difficult for seafarers and ship visitors. Some seafarers are denied shore leave and some ship visitors find it difficult to go onboard vessels. Despite the constraints and difficulties that we face in our work among seafarers and fishermen, we are challenged to provide a “room” and a space for them to feel at home.

During this time of the year the seafarers long for the warmth of their homes and families. With yearning in their hearts they listen to the song “I’ll be home for Christmas” and wished that the song becomes a reality. Sadly their wishes will not materialize. Pirates hold some seafarers in captivity and they live in fear and anxiety not knowing when they will be set free. Some are languishing in foreign jail as they have been falsely accused of crimes they have not committed. Some are waiting for the economy to pick up as their vessels are laid up in ports. Some fishermen working onboard modern-day slave ships are working on very onerous employment contract. These sad realities loom in the lives of the people of the sea. Our work in the Apostleship of the Sea brings hope to these people. Could we accept them as our brothers and sisters and open our hearts to them so that they can find a fitting room in the “inns” of our hearts? It is only then that we will be able to accept the Babe born in the stable as our God. Have a blessed and joy-filled Christmas.

Fr Romeo Yu Chang, CICM

Message from Rome Do not be afraid, it’s Christmas! Two thousand years ago, in a humble manger Jesus was born, while the angels were announcing to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people”(Lk 2,10).

celebrate, renews in our heart the conviction that in whatever situation we are in, we are not alone,because God is with us for ever. Jesus the Lord is our travelling companion and shares our life's journey be it our joy, our struggles or trials.

As chaplains and volunteers you might be busy visiting vessels, distributing Christmas gifts and maybe experiencing frustration in caring for abandoned and stranded crews.

As chaplains and volunteers, give witness to a new vision of the world! If God is with us, we can work together also to build a new society, where we are effectively all brothers and sisters without differences and discriminations.

As seafarers or fishers this might be the happiest Christmas of your lives, the first Christmas after many years at sea, spent in a new home, perhaps with a new born baby or maybe just together. For others, it will be a lonely Christmas in a foreign port or in the middle of the sea, remembering the loved ones far away. Even if you will be at home with your family, you might still be sad because in this time of crisis you have lost your job and there is no money to celebrate. But in spite of your hardship, the message brought by the angels is repeated to all of us today: do not be afraid! In spite of all the difficulties that we are experiencing could make us feel insecure and afraid, the mystery of Christmas that we

As seafarers and fishers, share this message with the people that you encounter! If God is with us, our hope is for ever, in spite of fears and uncertainties. It is with joy that we greet you this Christmas and wish the blessings of the Infant Jesus for you, your families and friends.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! ?Antonio Maria Vegliò President ?Archbishop Agostino Marchetto Secretary


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AOS Japan-Kobe

OPPORTUNITIES

Sr. Isabel Kato reports on AOS JapanKobe port using the SWOT analysis.

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$26-DSDQ7RN\R 8SGDWHRIRXUZRUNLQ The AOS Tokyo has a new office! For this we have to thank the Tokyo Port Authority, the ITF Tokyo Office, the JSU, and JCPT in particular, along with many others. Their much-needed assistance has given us not only a new premise but also brought the port community closer together through mutual understanding and cooperation. In our search to find a place to call our own, many positive changes have occurred. The Tokyo Port has expanded it’s network and has begun working more synergistically towards making life better for the seafarers, dockworkers and their families. The many organisations at the port has warmly welcomed the AOS into their community more than ever. The AOS, whilst still maintaining its individual character, has locked arms with everybody at the port to

bring about a positive change which will be beneficial to all. The removal of the public phones from the portside has greatly inconvenienced the seafarers, who need to contact the families and loved ones, especially at this time of the year. In response to this problem, the AOS has begun a USB modem rental service. Currently, we only have one USB modem available, but the service seems to be proving rather successful. It would be nice, if Santa or one of his elfs could offer some monetary or practical solution to this problem.

Merry Xmas to all AOS Japan Tokyo


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A Fisherman’s Nightmare In August this year, I received an e-mail asking for assistance to locate Mr. Jhomar Orilla, 24, a Filipino national. Jhomar is a marine course graduate. Married with two children, he had graduated with honours from a nautical course in a Philippine college. He was promised a salary of US$1,000 to work onboard a cruise ship. He left the Philippines with a tourist visa on 26 Jan for Singapore. From there was sent to Mauritius where he boarded a Taiwanese fishing vessel, Yi-Long. His agency in Singapore was Beverly Maritime Agency and the person who entertained him there was a certain Albert Lim. Jhomar was made to sign a three-year contract, requiring him to work between 15 and 18 hours daily with a monthly salary of US$200. He was able to keep US$50 while the other US$150 was kept by the agency. That was completely different from the promise made to him back in the Philippines where a monthly salary of US$1,000 was agreed upon; to work onboard a cruise ship. Jhomar paid the agency 23,000 pesos as placement fee. He was told that if he went home before his three-year contract expires, he would have to pay the agency US$2,000 or they will not let him go home. That was a point of no return for him. Having spent so much money to secure the job, he found himself as a modern-day slave. Since Jhomar left the Philippines, he had not communicated nor had he sent any allotment to his wife and two children. One of his children was sick and was looking for him. His parents called Beverly Agency but were told that the agency had nothing to do with Jhomar and did not have any responsibility for him. In September, his sister came to Singapore with her husband to look for her missing brother. Jhomar's plight was highlighted in the daily “Today”. The fishing vessel was in the open seas during the fishing season and there was no way to contact it. It was only when the job was done that the vessel would sail back to Singapore for dry-dock repairs and to change its crew. Those who have finished their contract or those who want to go home because they could no longer bear the hardship of working onboard these fishing vessels were resigned to the fact that they would not get the remainder of their salaries.

Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), which has 654 member unions representing 4.5 million workers worldwide, is unable to help since the ITF is only able to help qualified seafarers with a seaman’s book. The Philippine Embassy in Singapore is also unable to help since their contract is illegal and has not passed through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). It is also difficult to prosecute the recruiting agency in the Philippines since most of these agencies are fly-by-night operators. The Ministry of Manpower's(MOM) investigations have found that Beverly Agency is not an employment agency and hence, it is not regulated under the Employment Agencies Act. MOM has established that there are no recruitment activities or job matching carried out by the agency in Singapore. Beverly’s overseas business partners carry out actual recruitment of the seamen. Instead, Beverly Agency works as a managing agent for overseas clients and handles administrative work. Managing agents provide business service and, in this case, include arranging for seamen's visas, lodging and providing meals for the seamen while they are on transit in Singapore. Jhomar’s fishing vessel arrived in Singapore on 4 December and he flew back to the Philippines on 6 December. For Jhomar and his family, the near one-year experience onboard the fishing vessel had been a nightmare. His family is just grateful that he is home safely. His dream of earning money to care for his family has been dashed. What is left is the painful memories of being duped. There are many like Jhomars navigating the treacherous waters of the vast seas. I have met some of them and have welcomed them into the parish house of St. Teresa on their way back to their home country. Their stories are basically the same: they dream to get out of the mire poverty but along the way they are tricked and exploited. They returne home without realizing that dream. Their plight makes me think of the parable of the final judgment. As we will stand before God, He will ask us, "Where are your scars?" And we will look at ourselves and then back at God and tell him, "We have no scars." God will ask us, "Was there nothing worth fighting for?"

The vessel waits for the next fishing season to sail once more with these modern-day slaves. And so the process starts all over again. Jhomar and those like him have no legal protection and has nobody to take up the cudgels for them The Singapore Organization of Seamen (SOS) affiliated with the National Trades Union Congress(NTUC) and the International

They dream to get out of the mire poverty but along the way they are tricked and exploited. They returned home without realizing that dream.

As we care for these people, we will have scars in our hearts and we know that these people are worth caring and fighting for. Fr. Romeo Yu Chang, CICM


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SEA Regional Welfare Committee Meeting The South East Asia (SEA) Regional Welfare Committee Meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 2 to 5 November 2009. The local team of Ms. Apinya Tajit, Apostleship of the Sea Thailand, and Ms. Sirisiri Ploenpit, Women Workers’ Unity Group Thailand, in collaboration with the International Committee on Seafarers’ Welfare (ICSW) organized the meeting with the aim of making it a meaningful gathering of those involved in the welfare of the seafarers. The Apostleship of the Sea (AOS-Thailand) was very involved in the preparation and participation of the event. Bishop Laurence Thienchai Samanchit, gave the opening speech and participated in the whole proceedings of the meeting. There were also observers from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Thailand’s Office of the Commission for Migrants and Itinerant People. During the meeting, the group discussed about the following:

‡ 1DWLRQDO:HOIDUH%RDUGRUWKHLUHTXLYDOHQW ‡ QDWLRQDOODZSURYLVLRQVLQDFFRUGDQFHWR,QWHUQDWLRQDO Labor Organization (ILO) instruments ‡ 6HDIDUHUVDVVLVWDQFHLQWKHHYHQWRIDEDQGRQPHQW ‡ SURFHGXUHVIRUFRPSODLQWVWRVKLSYLVLWRUV ‡ DSSURSULDWHFRPPXQLFDWLRQSURWRFROV ‡ OHJDODLGWRVHDIDUHUV ‡ SLUDF\DQGFULVLVSUHSDUHGQHVV On the last day, the group visited the port of Bangkok, under the guidance of the Ports Authority of Thailand. A river cruise dinner sponsored by Fr. Soodjen Fonruang, Port chaplain of Sriracha, Thailand, concluded the event. The participants had a nice and relaxing evening, soaking in the night view of the city. AOS Thailand

Celebration of National Seafarers’ Day (NSD) A meaningful celebration of National Seafarer’s Day (NSD) was held on Sunday, Sept 27 in Bohol Philippines. With the theme "Filipino Seafarers Angat Ka Pa Rin”, the committee designed the event with seafarers, their family members and other industry stakeholders in mind. The celebration started as early as 6am with the wreath-laying at Knights of Columbus Seaside in memorial to all seafarers and those who had perished at sea. This was followed by a procession leading to the JJ’s Seafood Village along the Knights of Columbus Drive where Mass was celebrated.

In his homily, Father Victor G. Bompat stressed to seafarers to always bring Christ on board in witnessing the spirit of love and prayers. He called Filipino seafarers modern-day heroes because of their significant contributions to the national economy and urged the Philippine government to work towards addressing the concerns of seafarers and their families. One of the highlights of the day was an entertaining song and dance programme. The items were put up by the wives and children of seafarers and several students of the Philippine Maritime Institutes. Mrs. Lenie C. Escatron, assistant port chaplain and president of Seafarer’s Family Association, highlighted the GLIILFXOWLHV IDFHG E\ WKH IDPLOLHV RI VHDIDUHUV$ SODTXH RI appreciation was presented to members by their wife and children. This was without a doubt the most touching moment that made many teary-eyed. AOS Bohol

Father Victor called Filipino seafarers modern-day heroes

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That they may be one AOS Japan and AOS Incheon, South Korea held its first AOS International Meeting from November 10-12, 2009, in Incheon Diocese, South Korea. Participants from the two countries gathered for three days to share on how to work together and respond to the needs of the seafarers in Asia. Participants were warmly welcomed by Bishop Boniface Ki-San Choi, Bishop of Incheon, South Korea, and AOS Incheon Chaplain Fr. Juanito Jang You Sung, MSC. Fr. Romeo Yu Chang, delivered the message of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People that stressed the need to work together despite differences in language, culture and situation in order to provide pastoral care for seafarers and their families. Bishop Tani Daiji, Bishop Promoter for AOS Japan, thanked the AOS Incheon for the wonderful event which had enabled them to meet. Japan and Korea churches have been working hard at promoting and strengthening their friendship and cooperation. It is indeed a good opportunity to be able to have that bonding among the AOS volunteers from both countries too. Fr. Romeo, the keynote speaker for the AOS international meeting, stressed that even though there is a language barrier, the one thing that binds Japan and Korea together is the passion, the desire and the commitment to be of service to the people of the sea. He also stressed that it is the language of love and hospitality that connect all to the seafarers.

To understand and better appreciate the work carried out by the two organisations, a presentation on their respective AOS activities was done on the second day of the meeting. AOS Incheon traced the growth of their ministry by using the image of the rainbow. They highlighted their history and explained how they were able to deepen their sense of mission by creating an AOS community of volunteers that were committed to the people of the sea. The Japanese, picture of AOS based on the volunteers and Japan.

on the other hand, presented the Japan as a whole. The report was SWOT analysis submitted by the chaplains from the different ports in

The reports gave volunteers an insight into how each country run their AOS ministry despite the lack of resources. During the culminating mass, AOS Japan Bishop Promoter Bishop Tani and Incheon Diocese Bishop Boniface Ki-San Choi signed a resolution for better cooperation. The meeting was indeed a graced-filled event, seeing the many volunteers from AOS Incheon who had worked hard to make us feel at home at this three-day meeting.

A Joint Statement The commitment to the mission of AOS brought us together to reflect on our identity and on our ministry. We are living in a world marked by global, economic and ecological issues that affect the lives of the people at sea whom we meet in our ministry. We see our mission as a response to the call from God. He would want us to witness his universal love. That love was revealed in Jesus Christ who offered his unconditional love for all and for everyone with its full redemptive meaning. We feel that we are called to bring our activities into our Asian values like community concern, charity, family spirit, diversity, love for peace and respect of nature. We are aware that there are areas in our tradition where our values need to be enlightened by the light of the

Gospel. That is why we need more formation regarding our identity and motivation for our commitment. We hope that the opportunity for more encounter and sharing will be possible in the future and that we will be able to establish a network for more effective cooperation and solidarity in the region. Bishop Marcelino Daiji Tani Bishop of Saitama Chairperson of Committee for Migrants, Refugees, and the people on the move CBCJ AOS Bishop of Japan Bishop Boniface Ki-san Choi Diocese of Incheon, South Korea

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CHRISTMAS WITH SEAFARERS

In 2007, the Catholic Newsletter announced their need for volunteers who were able to speak and write English. I was very interested in that volunteer work but I sure hesitated in my old age of 76. I had a chance to consult with Fr. Augustine, the chaplain of Pusan and Ulsan AOS. Fortunately, I was accepted as a member of the ship visiting team. It has made me really happy since then and even going up the gangway weekly sure helps my health a lot. The main reason I applied for the mission was that two of my children live abroad and I miss them a lot. So, I want to help the seafarers who are apart from their families, instead of thinking of my kids. I feel touched and tearful whenever I am with those lonely seafarers who remind me of my kids separated from me. Their homesickness is as serious as my longing for my two kids. For that reason, I feel so sad and happy whenever I am with them. And it is such a painful moment to say good bye to them when I leave the ship. Most seafarers take us back to the gangway and wave us good bye.

Currently, we are very busy shopping for and wrapping Christmas gifts. In December, we put on Santa clothes and deliver a package to each seafarer in all the ports in Pusan. For this, all ship visiting members, pastoral lay leaders and Maritime University students willingly participate in our great festival together. We also hold a big Christmas party for the seafarers and all volunteers of AOS at the Seamen’s Center in collaboration with other religious groups. On the day of the party, some of us prepare food from early in the morning. Some are busy with Christmas decorations and some provide delightful programs for the party after mass. Some musicians and singers are preoccupied with the rehearsal of their performances and some pick up the seafarers from all the ports. During the party and when they get Christmas gifts from us, the seafarers’ happy and big smiles make us happy. These beautiful and vivid memories must be cherished in our heart forever and ever. I deeply appreciate God for giving me a good chance to serve the people of the sea at this old age. I want to burn my last breath to love the people of the sea.

Two years has already passed since I started on this valuable mission. Christmas and Easter are very significant for us. So, we prepare a special party and gifts for the seafarers on these special occasions. During Christmas, Fr. Augustine would usually set up practical plans. He is very considerate of our mission.

AOS South Korea volunteer

I deeply appreciate God for giving me a good chance to serve the people of the sea at this old age.

Merry Christmas to all and

have a blessed year ahead

NAVIGATE CHRISTMAS 2009  

Magazine for seafarers