ECMI adopts new approach in its ministry

The ECMI (Episcopal Commission for Migrant and Itinerants) has adopted a new approach in its ministry across the region of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.

Jul 30, 2021

The representatives from all the dioceses during the ECMI meeting.


By Peter Zeter

The ECMI (Episcopal Commission for Migrant and Itinerants) has adopted a new approach in its ministry across the region of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.

During the ECMI Conference on July 20, the word ‘cluster’ was introduced to signify a territorial pastoral significance for the different dioceses or areas. Previously, ECMI generally used the diocesan territory to identify, cater and translate its pastoral essence and mission. However, the current situation has paved the way for the ECMI to readjust its structural set-up to better express itself to the migrant communities whose cries of anguish and needs were not given enough attention amidst the pandemic.

In his welcome address to the 56 representatives online, the biggest ever participation for the ECMI meeting, Dominic Lim, the outgoing chairperson of the ECMI EXCO, carefully and consciously used the word to mark and visualise the differences of each diocese and area and to explain how they had ministered to the migrants under the current pandemic situation.

Conscious that the word currently has medical connotations, Lim stressed that the pandemic has highlighted significant shortcomings in the pastoral situations which the Church has to investigate. This prompted the ECMI to discern, identify and reorganise itself, as a result of which several dioceses were grouped together to form clusters. The dioceses within clusters face similar pastoral situations such as the presence of migrant communities and, by forming into a larger pastoral unit, instead of each diocese being left to cater for the pastoral needs of the migrant communities on its own, this approach is intended to amplify and strengthen efforts to minister to the migrants and itinerants in the region in a more efficient and organised way.

Also, under this new approach, instead of a representative for each diocese, an ‘exco’ will be elected from each of the clusters — the cluster of Brunei, the Sabah cluster, the Sarawak cluster, the Peninsula Malaysia cluster, and the Singapore cluster, to form a new line-up of ECMI excos, a commission headed by one of the bishops of the region. In keeping with previous selection practices, these excos are selected from among candidates suggested by the respective bishops of every diocese of the regions. Each cluster will be electing an individual who will speak for and embody the pastoral situations of migrant and itinerants in the cluster he represents.

The reason behind this, said Lim, is that the pandemic has brought out both the strengths and the weaknesses of everyone in the various organisations, be they individuals, parties, NGOs, religious bodies, or even the Church. The current situation also highlights the initiatives and resources of the various groups which the ECMI hopes would make more impact with an efficient, concerted effort and better networking within the regional Church.

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