Who Is Our Neighbour?

“Which commandment is the first of all?” 

When an elite member of the society asked Jesus this question, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, you shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:28-34, NRSV).  

But what does it mean to love your neighbour as yourself?  

For me, it means that we treat others as we would like to be treated, and we regard them as persons with dignity as we ourselves would like to be regarded. Now, while many of us try our best to live out these commandments, there are neighbours that are often forgotten here in Singapore—our migrant workers. 

The work of these neighbours can be seen everywhere in Singapore. They build the homes we live in, help maintain our public transport systems, help keep our public spaces clean, among many other critical contributions. Sometimes, we also hear of their heroic deeds. Most recently, a migrant worker rescued a child who had been stuck outside of a window ledge

While we owe much to these neighbours of ours, they often do not receive enough appreciation despite their work and while in dormitory living conditions in Singapore. Construction workers, for example, can be seen working in the heat, and sometimes, they can be observed going about their work when it rains. Many migrant workers also struggle with loneliness as they had to leave their families in their home countries in order to earn a living in Singapore, in the hope that they can provide a better future for their families. 

Thankfully, with more awareness being raised on the living conditions of migrant workers, there is more being done to affirm their dignity and show them gratitude. For example, ItsRainingRaincoats is an initiative to spread kindness to migrant workers. With the help of volunteers from all over Singapore, they distribute needed items or gifts and organise events to raise awareness on their lives here. Our Caritas family member, Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI), is another organisation that reaches out to migrant workers. They work with migrant workers through case management, skills development, community outreach and formation.  

If we take seriously the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves, let us think about what we can do for our migrant workers. We can acknowledge their presence and contribution whenever we see them. It could be as simple as a greeting, thanking them for their work, or even buying them a cold drink on a hot day. 

As we begin the new year of 2021, let us commit to be more like Christ by keeping in mind our neighbours and showing them love whenever we can.

Kieran Tan is an aspiring social worker. He is currently studying on a part-time basis, while gaining experience in the social services sector as a Programme Executive trainee at Caritas Singapore. He also enjoys competitive sailing when he has the time for it.