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Churches a 'true witness' amid plight of refugees

Posted on: June 28, 2017 6:35 PM

[Conference of European Churches] “We see expressions of hope in those multiple prayers and actions of European citizens that have supported the common good. They are working to share Christian principles of solidarity, peace, generosity and the imperative to welcome the stranger. We have seen hope in the contribution of hundreds of thousands of people across Europe. Many people are giving their time to offer a welcome in Europe to newly arrived people who have been forced to flee their homes,” reads the message adopted by the 20th General Assembly of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) in Prague (Czech Republic) hosted by the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB). Revd Daniel Ženatý, synodal senior of the ECCB, opened the General Assembly with prophetic words about the churches’ role in being a true witness by welcoming refugees and migrants.

The message drew on the rich history of migration in Europe to find new hope for the current situation. It commended citizens and church members to support integration and encouraged efforts to make societies welcoming and safe for those forced to leave their homes. Signatories to the message also urged governments and politicians  to give specific attention to safe passage, swift family reunification, and respect for the fundamental rights of those in Europe who were not granted a permit but cannot return to their country of origin.

More than 70 participants from across Europe participated in a conference on “The role of churches for the integration of migrants” on the first day of the General Assembly. Delegates from 34 member churches and organisations from all over Europe received greetings from the general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, Fr Heikki Huttunen, from Diakonie of the ECCB, as well as from the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches.

In addition to presentations on CCME activities and a presentation summarising the statements and actions of churches across Europe over the last two years, Francesca Pierigh, a consultant working with CCME, updated the group on the progress of the joint CCME-WACC Europe project on refugees and communications rights in Europe. The year-long project, Refugees Reporting, has looked at the media portrayal of refugees and ways of improving representation through media monitoring and direct collaboration with refugee networks.