Carolling in the red-light district
Silent night, holy night.
The evening rain kept pelting on the carollers’ faces.
All is calm, all is bright.
Still the singers went out into the streets of the red-light district, where the neon lights of the brothels shone emptily.
Round yon virgin, Mother and Child; Holy infant, so tender and mild.
Carrying guitars, song sheets and baskets of gifts and tracts, over 60 volunteers joined the OM team to share the Light of Christmas with hundreds of sex workers, pimps and brothel caretakers in a locale in Singapore.
The carollers went from brothel to brothel and to the streets in four teams. The women, pimps and brothel caretakers, whom the local outreach team had befriended over the last one and a half years, welcomed the carollers. In a good way, the rain had perhaps stopped their clients from coming to the brothels that evening. Many were available to carol with the teams.
One by one, the ladies ambled to the brothel doorways in their high heels. Dressed in heavy make-up and revealing, tight-fitting clothes, most of them looked timid and weary. While others in Singapore were gathering to celebrate Christmas, these ladies were still eking out a livelihood in the rain.
Iris*, an OM staff worker said, “My heart broke when I saw the ladies coming to us so up close and personal.”
Depending on where the women hailed from, the carollers greeted them and sang familiar Christmas songs in the ladies' native languages - Thai, Vietnamese or Mandarin. Slowly, the women joined in, mouthing the words of the carols, and breaking out in smiles every now and then.
The carollers shared with their newfound friends how much Jesus loved them, then gave them gospel tracts and gifts of beautifully handmade floral candles and tissue pouches. The ladies were clearly looking delighted and relaxed by then, receiving the gifts with clasped hands and words of gratitude.
Kristy*, a volunteer, shared, “I am so glad OM organised carolling amongst the sex workers who are most often despised in society. As we went from brothel to brothel, I noticed how the women must have felt - small - because of their job, as they fought shy of appearing before us. They were afraid. However, they soon let up as we showed that we accepted them, just as the Christ of Christmas accepts them.”
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
*Names have been changed.
Published: Tuesday, 10 January 2017
Credit: See Keen TAN