European churches migrant body told during rising xenophobia, its work is vital

(Photo: REUTERS / Jon Nazca)A Syrian refugee girl bites a table as she and her family wait inside a Spanish Red Cross office before being transferred to a reception centre in Spain, upon their arrival from Melilla at Malaga port, southern Spain, April 4, 2014. About 30 Syrian refugees, including 15 minors, arrived in mainland Spain by ferry as a measure to alleviate the situation of saturation of the Spanish government-run temporary immigrants holding centre in Spain's north African enclave Melilla, according to local media. Spain has two enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, and migrants from all over Africa regularly try to reach them, mostly by climbing the triple fences that separate them from Morocco.

Migration is not a new occurrence but recently in Europe it has become difficult and risky says Doris Peschke the head of a European churches organization that assists migrants and refugees.

"In recent history however, crossing borders from outside the European Union has become rather difficult and risky, while inside the EU citizens and long-term residents have the right to move to another EU country.

"Thus we see both, progress and setbacks with regard to migration in Europe," said Peschke who is general secretary of Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe.

The 19th general assembly of the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe held from June 26 to 28 in Sigtuna, Sweden.

The assembly was held at the Sigtuna Foundation and was hosted by the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden and the Christian Council of Sweden, which both belong to the church commission.

World Council of Churches president in Europe, Rev. Anders Wejryd, said, "For fifty years CCME has served modern societies and old churches, which both have to face the needs of uprooted people in respect for their individuality and traditions.

"Churches are vital for integration and they are among the most efficient tools for integration.

"We, as church people, can affect the use of this vital and efficient tool. If we are inspired by Jesus, we do see 'the Other' and when we see 'the Other' we may see Jesus.

"In times of growing xenophobia the churches have an immense task of underscoring the rights of the individual, who has seen him or her forced to migrate. The churches can also, as no-one else, lift up the values of the new land."

(Photo: WCC)World Council of Churches president in Europe, Rev. Anders Wejryd.

 One the opening day participants discussed how the churches can influence European countries to take greater responsibility for what they said was a refugee crisis in the region.

"One important issue in the General Assembly will be how the churches can influence European countries to take greater responsibility for the refugee crises in our vicinity - not least the humanitarian disaster that the civil war in Syria has entailed," said Kristina Hellqvist, advisor on refugee and integration issues in the Church of Sweden.

The assembly elected a Dr. Victoria Kamondji from the French Protestant Federation unanimously CCME moderator.

CCME was founded in 1964 by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and today also has close cooperation with the Conference of European Churches (CEC).

The commission includes in its work:

• Europe's responsibility for the protection of refugees

• Human dignity for migrant workers

• Work to prevent human trafficking

• Uniting in diversity and strong ecumenism between domestic and migrant-led churches

• Churches' work on integration and inclusion

(Photo: CCME)Participants at the 2014 Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe General Assembly held June 26 to 28 in Sigtuna, Sweden.
Copyright © 2014 Ecumenical News