Indonesian workers deserve a much better deal

Posted by Anthony Law

I’ve just been for a Lenten retreat at a Trappist monastery on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island.

On the steep road going uphill to the guesthouse, there are the Stations of the Cross. These have been a popular and useful tool for retreatants and pilgrims to reflect on Jesus’ suffering.

At each station, there are two Chinese characters and a simple drawing which depicts what Jesus was going through.

At the sixth station, which tells the story of Veronica wiping Jesus’ face which was then imprinted on her handkerchief, the two Chinese characters are yin rong, which means “imprint” and “face”. But these two characters carry a homophonic meaning, so they could also be understood as “Indonesian workers.”

Coming back to the city from my retreat last weekend, I saw hundreds of those Indonesian workers outside their Consulate General’s office, petitioning their state leader Susilo Yudhoyono who was in Hong Kong for a two-day  visit.

Not speaking Bahasa, I managed to talk with two ladies and learnt what they were asking for. Among their petitions, they were calling for a raise in salary, to bring it up to the recently established minimum wage.

Coincidentally, just across the street from the Consulate General is the Christ the King Chapel of St. Paul’s Convent. Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen was there, assisting Cardinal John Tong Hon to anoint some adults who will be baptized at Easter. In a conversation with him, he remarked that we should uphold human rights, regardless of individuals’ nationality or race.

That made me think of those poor Indonesians, who could not have their needs fulfilled by talking directly to their employers but had to ask for the political intervention from back home!

I was reminded of the rich young man in Mark’s gospel who asked Jesus, “what must I do, Master?”

Jesus’ answer was simple. “As you do to the least of these brothers of mine, you do to me.” And he later added, “you must love your neighbor as yourself.”

I would add that the employers of Indonesians should respect and reward the spiritual perseverance of people who pray five times a day, and understand their physical weakness when they fast during Ramadan.

The employers should also consider giving them a fair salary, even above the minimum suggested by law.

When you see those Indonesian workers’  faces, adorned with a the scarf to fulfill their Muslim teaching, try to be friendly to them and love them as your neighbors.

What do you think of this? Please share your opinion.

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Filed under Asia, Indonesia, Women's rights