Migrants in Japan is all about ‘the deepening of a life of faith’ during this time of Pandemic

For the first two weeks, the people were still all right and did not complain. Actually, the migrants were enjoying lockdown, because at least they could rest and spend time together  with family and with friends. But as the time passed, they began to panic :‘How could this be happening?’ They stopped working… but no work means no-pay.   The heads of the family / the breadwinners, asked “How can we live? Aside from their own family, here in Japan, they are still supporting their parents and sibling in their own country. As a result, many migrants felt anxious and hopeless.  They lost jobs, lost contact and were separated from their loved ones and from the many people they used to be with.  Many women felt strange and became troubled with what was happening around them.

Many things happened to the migrants: their hearts stirred with mixed emotions.  And when we asked how has the pandemic affected you personally? How is your relationship with God, with family and with others? Where do we find hope and life?  These questions raised a dilemma during the time when we were in lockdown and so uncertain about when is this pandemic would end? We lost contact with and were separated from the many people we used to accompany. For a while, we stopped engaging in our regular daily activities; we felt strange and unfamiliar with what was happening around us. The changes in our daily life: no work, avoiding visiting crowed places, as much as possible and reduced face to face communication with friends and even with some members of our own families.  Migrant women in particular, who are single-parents, were scared and stressed; some of them experienced depression; they could not  cope with the situation. They felt the pressure of changing their use of time which was the biggest change in their daily activity.   Some women were more stressed still, because their children spent more time playing video games rather than doing their studies; their husbands spend more time on hobbies – gambling and drinking which lead to more conflict between husband and wife (domestic violence) and conflict between parents and children. For example: the story of Carmen. She was  a Peruvian, 81 years old, her husband had died 11 years ago.  They had a son, now 33 years old, with whom they had no communication for a long time. During the pandemic her son, Nico, come back because he had lost his job.  Carmen was happily welcomed hers son.  After a week of living together Carmen noticed that was Nico very emotional, especially during meals, as if he didn’t like the food and was angry with her.  One day, Nico come home from job hunting very upset.  At that moment,  Carmen was preparing noodles for lunch. When Nico learned that their food was only noodles, he became furious and threw the noodles into Carmen’s face and left.   Carmen could not do anything, she just cried and tried collect the noodles from off the floor, so she has something to eat. As of now, her son is still jobless.

Jett ‘s Story; Jett is 50 years old and from Pangasinan City, Philippines. In 1994, she married  a Japanese electrical engineer, who worked in a power plant in Fukushima.  They had two children, a girl and a boy, are were a happy family. Jett sometimes volunteers in ENCOM, visiting migrants who are detained in the immigration detention center.  During the pandemic, her husband was in lockdown in Fukushima, and the daughter was in lockdown in Chiba, where she works.  Jett and her son, Jeffrey, were living together in their house in Yokohama.  She always worried about the health of her husband and daughter and was so stressed that  she could not sleep. As she had a history of depression previously, she could not adapt  to the many changes caused by the pandemic and her depression recurred.   She had just celebrated her 50th birthday, last Sunday, when I visited her.  I was really touched because she is so depressed that she cannot move even to open her eyes. Jeffrey is so good and does everything for her, cooking, washing and cleaning the house.   Jett thanks God for having such a very good son.  Her husband and daughter are still in their work place and they communicate through online calls.

There is resistance to the “new normal”  because we can no longer go back to what we used to have, except for the fact that we need to deal and confront this “new normal” by facing what is uncertain and unfamiliar in our lives.  This means that we must go out of our comfort zone, adapt and risk what is unknown, in order to grow, especially by attending masses online, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, carefully washing our hands and body, so as to protect ourselves from the virus. We must make choices and we need not be afraid . Instead, we desire to be courageous for it allows us to overcome our fear and act according to our best selves.  In all of this,  we were encouraged to pray. At times, we even beg from deep down, that our desires, plans, fears and anxieties about the future will be ordered and directed by God’s loving grace and generosity.   Migrants in Japan have been through a lot.  I have learned from their strength, and the greatest help I have received from the migrants, who were in trouble and, living through difficult times, was my prayer life.  It gave me strength courage, and support.   When I look back to the involvements I had with migrants, I can truly say I was not the one doing it but it was Christ in me.

Sr. Nilda Dhay Marqueses,aci