People with no nationality need protection, U.S. meeting hears

Twelve million people in the world not considered to have any nationality are in urgent need of more protection representatives from different global and U.S. churches meeting in Washington DC said,

At a meeting organized by the World Council of Churches and hosted by American Baptist Churches USA, participants called for governments to ensure the basic human right to citizenship, adequate access to health care, education and employment.

Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, director of the WCC's Commission of the Churches in International Affairs, said at the Feb. 27 to March 1 meeting, the commission started its focus on stateless people at a 2010 meeting in Albania. 2010.

"The state of being Stateless is a most miserable situation a person can face in his or her life," Chunakara said. "To be stateless is to be without nationality or citizenship."

The Washington DC meeting will contribute to a public statement on the rights of the Stateless people that will be discussed at an upcoming World Council of Churches Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea in early November.

At Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., more than 50 international participants gathered for the event, called "Towards an Ecumenical Advocacy on the Rights of Stateless People."

Rev. A. Roy Medley, general secretary of ABCUSA, led the opening worship service Wednesday and said that in this century there has been an exponential growth in human migration and statelessness.

The stems from political, ecological, military and religious conditions and globally more and more people are living without the benefits of nationality or citizenship.

"Our hope as American Baptists is that through this gathering of the body of Christ we might bring the resources of our faith and our commitment to compassion and justice to bear on the suffering of millions of stateless persons," Medley said.

American Baptist Churches' Rev. Aundreia Alexander delivered a presentation on "Women and Statelessness," citing her experience as U.S. coordinator for immigration and refugee resettlement with the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

She noted that stateless women and children have a higher likelihood of being victims of violence and being sexually exploited through human trafficking, domestic violence and unreported rape.

"Because they lack legal citizenship reporting crimes could lead to more victimization so they are often without protection of the law," said Alexander.

She said the faith community should serve as a liberating presence and sanctuary for stateless people.

Other Baptist entities involved in the consultation include the Baptist World Alliance, Calvary Burmese Church, Myanmar Baptist Convention, the Progressive National Baptist Convention Inc., and the American University Baptist Ministry.

Among other faith groups represented were Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Greek Orthodox, Episcopal, Church of the Brethren and United Methodist.

"With other faith communities, we will deal with the root causes" of Statelessness, as we address issues of compassion and justice, Medley said.

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