OCT 17, 2022: Two teen brothers from Myanmar got up on stage, took turns doing magic tricks while the other explained what was going on. A family of four from Pakistan sang Psalm 136 in Urdu. Nigerians took over the stage with their rhythmic dance moves. A group of seven and eight-year-olds danced to an upbeat praise and worship song in their traditional Myanmar longyi. And then there were three young Sri Lankan girls dressed in colourful pavadas and with jasmine flowers in their hair doing a traditional dance.
This was a talent competition where 13 teams with almost 70 performers took part. And they were migrants and refugees who are in Malaysia who were mainly Catholics. This was the Migrant Got Talent 2022 was held on Oct 9 at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre in Kuala Lumpur before and audience of about 350 foreigners and locals.
The winner was the Filipino team D’Movers from who won over the judges and the audience with their village dance performance that had a contemporary twist. The Indonesian team Horas Mbolaso from St Teresa’s Church in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, won the second prize. This was an upbeat traditional dance that had the audience clapping and swaying to the beat. The third prize went to the two Myanmarese magicians who called themselves The Brothers, who incorporated strong messages on environment protection in their magic tricks.
A member of the group called St Claire from the Jesus Caritas Church in Kepong, said that this was the first time they were participating. “Each team member performed with all their heart. We wanted to share our God-given talent, to show the real purpose of life, and to enjoy together all of the God’s blessings. Despite in all our problems in life, we want to show that in God’s name, we are united.”
This team were made up of members who were from the Philippines. “It’s a great idea for us immigrants to be seen, heard, and recognised. We feel like we are being cared for, and are welcomed. It’s not easy for us to be accepted by certain people in society. We are ignored because of our colour, culture and tradition. We are happy that you, locals, embrace us and gives us space to be love, to be feel, and to be heard.”
Another performer says: “Participating in this show made us feel welcomed, regardless of where we are from and our culture. We are glad that we are made to feel at home, by giving us the love that we had way back in our homeland, by giving us importance. That feeling of unity and togetherness make us feel like we belong to one family. Thank you for bringing us this show. We are not aiming for the prizes in this competition, but the prize (of heaven) that we will get in Christ.”
Karen Kavetha from St Teresa Church in Nilai says that this is the first time she’s involved in this event. “I enjoyed watching the different cultural performances – for free!”
One of the panel of judges, Celeste Santhanasamy from International Catholic Migration Commission, says: “This is more than just a talent show. Seeing the talent of the migrants and refugees is a reminder of their individuality and they too have a lot to offer to the community. The event also provided a platform to the migrant and refugee communities to gather and reflect on other imperatives in life like faith, dignity, friends, community and hope.”
Another panel judge, Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna from the NGO called Our Journey, says: “It was an eye opener for many who only look at migrants and refugees from a labour lens. The event was also an avenue for migrants to socialise with other communities and enjoy themselves.”
There was no shortage of talent in that hall this afternoon, with the audience almost constantly holding out their camera phones to capture the performances on the stage. The excitement and joy were evident when just about everyone went on stage for a group photo. The event was livestreamed via YouTube and the participants’ families in their home countries were able to watch it live.
Kuala Lumpur Archbishop Most Rev Julian Leow made a brief appearance at the early part of the event to show his support. Among those who attended were Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam and celebrity Francesca Peter who was also one of the competition judges. The event was opened by Ecclesiastical Assistant Rev Fr Christopher W. Soosaipillai (edited 7.55am Oct 17), and emceed by Josephine Tey who is the Coordinator for the Archdiocesan Office for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerants.
Tey says: “The theme for the event was ‘Building Future Together’ and this has many layers of meaning. These migrants are here to help build the future of Malaysia through their work in construction and infrastructure building, retail, agriculture and such. They are also here to help build a future for their families back home who depend on their remittances. And they are also building a future together with the locals in a spiritual sense, because they are also part of the Body of Christ here in Malaysia, in our parishes.”
The coming together of various cultures extended beyond the stage. The buffet table was filled with food from the different countries, prepared by the migrants.
“We had local food and also food from the migrant communities, lucky draw prizes and gifts from corporations, NGOs and other religious groups. Just about every group contributed,” adds Tey.
This is the second time this competition is being held with the first in 2021 and that was held online due to the Covid pandemic lockdown in Malaysia. The competition was supported by the Archdiocesan Office for Human Development director Teo Kar Im.
For just one moment, the migrants and refugees put their problems aside to have some wholesome fun. It takes moments like this to make us realise that we are all the same under God’s heaven.