In the month of June, I spent the entire bulk of my time in New York City. To me, it was very refreshing to see the different types of people and lifestyle that one would typically not find here in Singapore. During my stay, there were two incidents that left me thinking about how we should treat the foreigners living in our own country. Both incidents happened when I was taking the subway.
One of the incidents happened when I was staring at the map trying to figure out which line I should take and where I should alight so that I could change to another line (honestly speaking, it’s more complicated than what it sounds like). To my pleasant surprise, a lady approached me asking if I needed help. She then showed me the direction that I needed to head towards. Needless to say, I was very grateful. The second incident happened when I was already in the subway and as an American walked out, he attempted to spit at me but the closing door of the subway train took the “bullet” and I watched the guy’s phlegm slowly slide down the train doors.
For us, the maps of the MRT are easy to read and we face no difficulties in trying to find our way around Singapore. However, the same may not be said for a foreigner. Taking this issue one step further, there are plenty of foreigners in our midst who live here in Singapore and have difficulties adjusting to the cultural differences. There are also those who work for hours under the sun and face certain injustices that are not being addressed. How should we as Christians respond to this situation that we are facing?
Not too long ago, a policy was introduced stating that the government had plans to increase the population of Singapore to 6.9 million by the year 2030[i]. This faced many objections and even sparked a protest[ii]. But this is not the first time that Singaporeans have complained about issues regarding foreign workers. As I recall both of the incidents that I faced, I wonder whether we are more like the American lady who offered to help me, or the other guy who attempted to spit at me. Do we as Christians show the same kind of hospitality and grace to the foreigners in our midst? My personal take is that regardless of our opinions on certain policies like the population white paper, or their label “foreign worker” or “foreign talent”, we should offer help and extend the grace and compassion that was extended to us by Christ. No matter how much we may hate or oppose the idea of a city over populated by foreigners, or our university slots being taken up by foreigners, the point is that some of these people are already here. Many of them are our colleagues or people we see daily, making them our direct neighbours. I think we need to realize that the rejection of a policy should not lead us to a rejection of people (or at the very least for this particular scenario). So while some of us may disagree with the government’s plan to drastically increase the population, this should not justify or give us an excuse to treat the foreigners among us with hostility.
Many of us are familiar with the parable of the good Samaritan where the question of “who is my neighbour” was posed to Jesus. I think it is extremely interesting and thought provoking that the implication of Jesus’s reply was not so much of who our neighbour is but whether or not we are behaving as a neighbour to others. I think this is certainly a point worth pondering on…Are we as Christians, neighbours to the people who are around us? Or do we treat them with hostility because we never supported the policies that brought them here in the first place?