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Churches advocate upholding human dignity of migrants

Posted on: October 14, 2013 3:47 PM
Participants in a CWWM consultation on migration in New York
Photo Credit: Eric Tandoc
Related Categories: armn, refugees & migrants, WCC

Migrants are reduced to mere commodities, traded and exchanged in the global market, according to a declaration issued by churches calling for an end to this gross violation of human dignity.

The declaration was issued on the occasion of the Second United Nations High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (UN-HLD) in New York City, USA.

The declaration, produced on 2 October, was part of a 17-point advocacy paper developed by 100 representatives of some 60 churches, ecumenical groups and migrant organizations gathered for the 4th international consultation of Churches Witnessing With Migrants (CWWM4) in New York. The theme of the consultation was “The ‘Other’ Is My Neighbour”.

The consultation stressed that UN-HLD should increase the participation of migrants in their sessions, saying that “a true and meaningful dialogue includes migrants as subjects of their own destinies and puts primacy to their human rights and welfare.”

Participants strongly urged all UN member states to ratify the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the International Labour Organization Convention 189 concerning decent work for domestic workers. They also appealed to stop classifying migrants as threats to national security.

At the consultation, Dr Deenabandhu Manchala, programme executive for the Just and Inclusive Communities Programme of the World Council of Churches (WCC), encouraged churches to expose abuse of migrants by giving visibility to the reality of forced migration.

“‘Neighbour’ in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is not our next door friend, family member or work colleague, but the nameless and faceless victim, beaten and bruised, and left abandoned by the roadside,” said Manchala.

“Christian love for neighbour, if only demonstrated within circles of familiarity, ignoring those considered ‘others’ and ‘inferior’, betrays the essence of Christian calling,” he added.

Reflections on migration

Garry Martinez, chairperson of the organization Migrante International in the Philippines called forced migration an anomaly. “Ours is now an era of modern-day slavery where governments, in need of hard currencies, continue to subject migrants and their families to most cruel conditions, while greedily buffeting their domestic economies with the hard-earned money remitted by migrants,” he said.

“There can be no human rights if migration is by necessity and not by choice. Migrants are human beings first before they are workers. They are not mere statistics to buttress a country’s gross domestic product,” said Martinez.

Rev. Liberato Bautista from the Philippines described the issue of migration as a significant concern deeply embedded in biblical, theological and ethical understanding of churches.

“Our advocacy for justice, sustainability, human dignity and the human rights of migrants comes out of our witness with and among migrants and their organizations - a witness of God whose hospitality is profuse and radical and whose love is unbounded and unconditional,” he said.

Bautista serves as assistant general secretary for the UN and International Affairs for the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church.

The CWWM was initially conceived by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and Migrante International, later engaging the WCC, the Lutheran World Federation, Baptist World Alliance, All Africa Conference of Churches, Latin American Council of Churches, Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants and the Alliance International Migration Services. Among other partner organizations which support the CWWM are the Karibu Foundation in Norway, the United Church of Canada and the WCC’s Global Ecumenical Migration Network.

WCC publication The “Other” Is My Neighbour was also launched at the consultation. The publication is a theological statement produced at the end of the WCC’s year-long study process on migration.

CWWM4 Advocacy Paper: The Intersections of Migration, Human Rights and Development Justice

WCC's work on migration and social justice

WCC programme on Just and Inclusive Communities