This month I had the chance to meet an extraordinary artist who is displaying some of her black and white photographs at an exhibition in Hong Kong. What’s so special about her? #1 – She’s only 28 years old. #2 – She is a Filipina who studied nursing in college. #3 – She used to be a ‘maid’ for a rich Chinese family in Hong Kong.
Her name is Xyza (pronounced Zi-sa) Cruz Bacani. I heard her speak at my church in Kowloon at the opening of her photo exhibition of foreign domestic workers living in a shelter called Bethune House. For around 10 years Xyza worked for a wealthy elderly Chinese woman living in the posh Mid-levels area as a nanny for the many grandchildren who came to visit daily. Though Xyza loved photography, she couldn’t afford a camera until her employer lent her money to buy a professional one, and after that, there was no stopping her. Then her stunning photos came to the attention of a well-known Filipino photographer in the U.S., who forwarded them to the New York Times. Xyza’s life completely changed when she won a 2015 Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellowship in New York. She was able to quit her job, travel around the world and pursue her calling to give a voice to invisible people through her pictures.
Hong Kong has around 300,000 foreign domestic workers who leave their homeland in search of jobs to provide for their families. They are mainly from the Philippines and Indonesia. Xyza considers herself one of the lucky ones who found a good employer. She still stays at her former employer’s home when she comes back to visit Hong Kong. But many domestic workers are not so lucky, working an average of 12-16 hours a day, 6 days a week, 24 hours on call. Edwina Antonio, director of Bethune House, said on one of our radio broadcasts recently, “Obviously, because of debt bondage and the demand to escape from poverty in the home country it is a put up or pack up situation. Put up with the situation where you have to endure all kinds of abuse from contract violations, verbal, physical and even sexual abuse or pack up your things. But this would mean loss of job, loss of potential income and loss of support for their families back home.”
The Hong Kong Christian Council will help promote concern for foreign domestic workers on International Migrant Sunday, December 20th. We are sending a bi-lingual prayer (Chinese and English) to all churches in Hong Kong for use in the service on the 4th Sunday of Advent.
Let me share that prayer as we honor all those laboring far away from home and loved ones seeking a better tomorrow. We acknowledge Bishop Ruperto C. Santos as author of portions of this beautiful prayer adapted below:
On International Migrant Sunday, we remember the migrant workers living among us in Hong Kong. May they labor in the city in safe and just conditions, and may we who benefit from their labor be truly grateful for what they provide. May migrant workers encounter caring and gracious employers. May they have decent and rewarding jobs.
May they have a peaceful stay. May their sacrifices bear good and lasting fruits.
Watch over them and keep them away from harm and danger. Spare them from sickness and accident. Keep them from unscrupulous persons wishing to take advantage of their vulnerable situation. Protect them with strong laws that safeguard their rights and dignity. Watch over O Lord, those whom they leave behind. Let their love remain always faithful. And let what they earn be spent for good.
Empower the churches of Hong Kong and all who walk alongside migrant workers around the world. May we be filled with courage and joy to bless migrant workers and their families for a future filled with hope.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, pour on us your grace, that when we are called to solidarity – we may boldly respond by truly loving our neighbors as we love ourselves,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
May I also take this opportunity to say thank you for your faithful prayer and financial support of Global Ministries that allows me to serve in the communications ministry of Hong Kong Christian Council. Let us continue to work together for healing and reconciliation in our world, our nations, our communities, our families and ourselves.
In the peace of Christ,
Judy Chan serves with the Hong Kong Christian Council. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.