Saturday, 31 October 2015

European church leaders consult on refugee crisis

The World Council of Churches recently held a consultation on the refugee crisis in Europe. This press release was issued before the meeting: Refugee crisis to be discussed in Munich by 35 bishops and other church leaders from 20 countries

The international refugee crisis will be the focus of a consultation of 35 bishops and church leaders from 20 countries, to be held on 29 October in Munich, Germany. There will be representatives from churches in the most affected regions and from most of the church families in Europe: Orthodox, Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed, Methodist and representatives from the Middle East and Africa, as well as representatives from ecumenical organizations and from church-based humanitarian and refugee organizations.

They have been invited by the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, and the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria, Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, who is also chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)…

Afterwards, ACNS reported: Church leaders urge “safe passage” to those seeking refuge

The suffragan bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd Dr David Hamid, has joined other bishops and church leaders from a number of denominations in calling for safe passage to those seeking refuge.

The recommendation is one of a number contained in a communiqué issued following a church leaders’ consultation in the German city of Munich…

The full text of the communiqué can be found on the World Council of Churches website.

Also, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has published a roundup of actions being taken by churches and Christian aid agencies: Churches respond to the refugee crisis.

And here’s a report on one specific activity: Anglicans to support reception centre for refugees at remote lighthouse on Lesvos.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 31 October 2015 at 11:08pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

No comments here as of when I'm typing this, and half of the nine on the TA report on C of E bishops' letter to the UK PM were fussed up about the veracity of Jesus' birth narratives. Nothing either on +David Hamid's (excellent) blog on the DioEurope website... What really DOES animate us apart from sex and gender issues? That's terribly unfair, and I almost withdraw it in this, my first outing on TA since becoming a pensioner - Yea!

Did I miss the Action Plan of the UN or of the EU? I certainly didn't miss that of the UK Gov. because they are like rabbits in the headlights, in a total state of unmanaging disability in relation to more foreigners coming into the UK from anywhere; let alone the House of Peers (what DOES that mean?) getting above their station, gracias a Dios.

As 'just' a few more bodies are washed up on Lesbos (which, come on, has always had a b) we are told how the whole of Russia is in mourning for the loss of those on the plane from Sharm el Sheikh. It seems to me that this European, Christian, ecumenical and international communiqué on the refugee crisis should be determinedly shoved under (or preferably UP) the noses of international world leaders for their urgent humanitarian attention.

Now that I have much withdrawn from public life, I do seriously wonder whether it's secular or religious leaders who are the bigger group of.... Now then, it was you who filled that space!

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Monday, 2 November 2015 at 12:25am GMT

Peter Edwards, I'm not quite sure what you're saying. Churches are actively engaged on the ground, there is plenty of local fundraising, Christian Aid is present, many bishops have spoken out.
Can more be done? Definitely! Should more be said? Quite probably!

No comments on TA... I know there are many who will disagree with me here, but I maintain that it makes sense to spend your energies where you can most change the status quo.
And so I get involved with the Green Party or other organisation when I'm concerned about the environment, with local aid projects when I'm concerned about the use of foodbanks and with international aid organisations when I'm concerned about refugees.
Even if Church was a bigger player in all of these, I still don't see that anything would be gained by me commenting about the issues on TA.
But when I want to change the opinions on gender and sexuality within the church - then, and only then, does it make sense to spend my time posting here.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 2 November 2015 at 8:53am GMT

Okay, well if you want a discussion on the refugee crisis (I am personally unclear about what needs to be done) here are a few questions as kickstarters:

1. How do we differentiate between refugees and economic migrants, or should we even try?

2. If half the world would like the (arguably) better opportunities of living in Western Europe, where exactly do you draw the line (if you even need to)?

3. Do the people of the UK actually want a further influx of migrants (whether economic or seeking asylum)? Is there a democratic will to open the doors?

4. Setting aside possible causes of the mayhem in the Middle-East, is it better to locate escapees from the chaos closer to their homes, with a policy of ultimate return to homeland? (The Cameron argument, I suppose.)

5. What can individual Christians and local Churches do, regardless of government or Communion decisions?

6. (And this is a blunt one, risking charges of racism etc) Should migration be stopped, and even reversed? Is Britain a better place, in terms of ethnic mix and culture than it was as a predominantly white British way of life? Has migration already had negative effects as well as positives?

7. Where does it stop?

8. What would Jesus say? And what, theologically, should we conclude about inclusion, about making sacrifices for others, about compassion?

My own position is not clearcut or worked out, so please don't assume my questions reflect my position. I'm just responding to the suggestion we ought to be discussing this critical situation on a website called "Thinking" Anglicans.

Words and talking shops are easier than actual practical actions. What are the practical possibilities for Christians? How do we solve the fact that the world has a sea of suffering, violence, poverty, helplessness - and what to do if migration becomes a tide that radically changes or subverts or transforms our privileged ways of life? Do there have to be limits, however hard, to migration - if there are limits to our capacity to assimilate, to school, to nurse, to fund the refugees and migrants from so many places of desperation? Or is compassion indivisible, as much a right for 'others' as for ourselves?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 2 November 2015 at 10:53am GMT

Susannah, ok I’ll bite.
1. Yes, we must try to differentiate, because refugees are protected according to international law.
2. I don’t believe that half the world would like the opportunity of living in Western Europe. It’s not true that the majority of people in poor countries are queuing up to leave. Most only come when life in their own countries becomes unbearable. The Economist published research that what determines whether people leave their countries or not is not absolute poverty but whether they have a functional government or whether all state institutions have broken down.
3. Interestingly, the same Economist in its recent edition on a possible Brexit states that whether Britain instinctively wants more migrants or not is one thing, but unless it increases immigration in the next 30 years it will not be able to pay for its ageing population.
4. Yes it is better to locate refugees nearer to their home. It’s better for them too. And it’s largely being done. But in the case of Syria the neighbouring countries have taken vast numbers already and simply cannot do any more. Britain, incidentally, has a shoddy record of accepting refugees but is the largest donor of overseas development aid in the EU.
5. I don’t think individual Christians can do much to effect political stability in broken down countries. But in general, we can invest in microloans (MyC4 and other other organisations are accessible for extremely small-scale investors and investors can charge up to 0% interest) to increase local employment in Africa and other developing regions, we can invest in people’s education etc.


Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 2 November 2015 at 5:52pm GMT

6. Should migration be reversed? Where would you end? I’m being reminded of the memes of American Republicans calling for immigrants to leave and native Americans asking when they are planning to go. Migration has to be stable… but consider that at the moment about as many people from the EU have come to Britain as there are Britons living in EU countries. The difference being that the ones coming here tend to be young and looking for work, whereas those living abroad tend to be retired Britons moving towards the sun. In the issue I just mentioned, the Economist also states that those coming to Britain make a net contribution whereas those who live abroad tend to be a drain on their host countries’ health systems. And the migrant who simultaneously comes to live off our benefits while stealing our jobs doesn’t exist.
7. Where does it stop? We can and should have a reasoned debate about immigration. We should not have to have a debate about refugees. They deserve help. Legally and morally.
8. What would Jesus say? I expect he’d want us to take our global responsibility seriously. But we would be ill advised to believe that this will take only one form. Whatever we can do to make the world a more stable place is what’s needed. Making sacrifices does not necessarily mean accepting large population streams and calling those who struggle with that selfish. But it does mean accepting that we have a global responsibility.


Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 2 November 2015 at 5:52pm GMT

As a Christian I feel I can only believe in unrestricted migration for equality of opportunity regardless of country of birth.

My countervailing difficulty is this: as a Christian should I welcome an influx of other religions into the country? Is preserving the Christian fabric of the country a higher obligation than allowing unchecked migration on equality grounds? It might be. And until a hear rational discussion of that to help me make up my own mind, I don't feel I have much to contribute on this subject.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 2 November 2015 at 8:43pm GMT

Maybe I wasn’t clear, but I was surprised that this item, posted on TA, on the WCC website and on +David Hamid's Blog had not attracted any comment in more than 48 hours.

My point includes, saliently, that the current situation with refugees, wherever and from wherever, is far too critical to be left to 'charity' to address; and that the world's leaders have been inadequate, thus far, in bringing any real solutions to bear - neither in war-torn areas of political instability and utter incompetence, nor at the point of delivery in action for fellow human beings seeking refuge.

I commend, particularly, for urgent political attention Affirmations 1, 7, 8, & 9 at the start of the report, and Recommendations 1, 3, 4, 6 & 8 - though all are entirely valid. The recommendations do, however, address not just Christians but in passing 'people of goodwill'. As we all know, not all Christians are good enough at goodwill; and the world is full of the most dreadfully inhumane individuals, many of whom are running countries and supporting regimes - or other regimes which are judged to be less politically unacceptable.

Greece, as we all know, has been through the political and economic mill, and was seriously mauled by the Brussels leadership who showed little compassion to their own, let alone other peoples’! Greece continues to be among the front-line recipients of hundreds of migrants. Read Bishop David's blog headed 'Rachel Carnegie of Anglican Alliance' which is at the very end of the current page of (and may soon be at the top of Older Posts). You can, of course, read other good stuff of which I am sure many are unaware...

Briefly here, a reference to a café owner in central Athens who allowed refugees to use his loos first thing in the morning; and was told by the police this was against the law - giving assistance to irregular migrants. And the failure for more 'legal' assistance to be organised - by an overstretched governmant and city council. Once again, left to the Salvation Army, the Anglican Chaplaincy and others of faith and goodwill.

I remember, when in an English parish, the efforts to raise money to provide an MRI scanner for an NHS hospital. Simply not good enough to leave such things for ‘charity’ to pick up.

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Monday, 2 November 2015 at 11:50pm GMT

"I don’t believe that half the world would like the opportunity of living in Western Europe. It’s not true that the majority of people in poor countries are queuing up to leave. Most only come when life in their own countries becomes unbearable. The Economist published research that what determines whether people leave their countries or not is not absolute poverty but whether they have a functional government or whether all state institutions have broken down. "

I recommend everyone read the poem quoted in this article:

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 3 November 2015 at 11:40am GMT

Thank you, Pat, I have saved that poem.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 4 November 2015 at 1:25pm GMT
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