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UN hears of Anglicans’ refugee and migrant experience

Posted on: September 19, 2016 2:05 PM
Canon Andrew Khoo from the Province of South East Asia’s Diocese of West Malaysia, and the Rt Revd David Hamid, from the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe, are representing the Anglican Communion at today’s UN General Assembly summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Archbishop of Central Africa has told the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, that “hospitality, reconciliation and love are our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism.” The comment was made by Archbishop Albert Chama, chairman of the Anglican Alliance, in a letter ahead of today’s UN General Assembly summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. The letter, which was written at the request of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, sets out some of the experiences of Anglicans around the world who are working to support refugees.

“The global tragedy of the forced displacement of millions of people is now a crisis that calls us to work together in new and creative ways in response to such suffering and disruption,” Archbishop Chama said. “The trauma experienced by the world’s 60 million refuges speaks to our common humanity, and pleads with us to take action as we reach out to respond to their suffering.

“However, people are not only fleeing conflict and violence, but also moving around the world to escape from poverty or the effects of climate change. People search to find places where they can work and feed their families, to find better opportunities or freedom to live in peace and safety, whoever they are. All this demands a much more intentional and robust collective response in which the churches and other faith communities are more than ready to take their place.”

Archbishop Chama said that Anglicans in many of the 164 countries in which Churches of the Anglican Communion can be found, where working “together with other local religious communities . . . with their United Nations and civil society partners and with governments to provide sanctuary and protection to those fleeing conflict and poverty.

“In addition, as our church communities reach out in loving service to those who have lost everything and who often arrive profoundly traumatised, bearing both physical and psychological scars from their experiences, we know that these people, whom the world labels as refugees, asylum seekers or migrants are, like all the people of the earth, treasured human beings made in the image of God.

“They deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people on the move, but we know that each of them is not only another number in a huge statistic but also an individual who brings a unique story of displacement, a unique potential to flourish and a unique ability to contribute to the common good.”

Responding to the current crisis was “a humanitarian challenge for us all,” Archbishop Chama said. “We know that there are still governments around the world that are reluctant to accord such people any national legal protection or to recognise their status. This only serves to exacerbate their situation, placing them at the mercy of human traffickers, smugglers and others who would exploit their predicament for profit.

“The churches of the Anglican Communion are working to assist the dialogue with such governments and to advocate for stronger legal protection for these most vulnerable people. We aim to contribute where possible to a durable solution that is based on appreciation of the dignity of the individual and respect for human rights.

“As I reflect on the reality around the world that the Anglican Communion is consistently at the forefront of humanitarian response, conflict prevention, above all currently in the Great Lakes of Africa and in South Sudan, and in rebuilding communities and lives, I recall the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury at the beginning of 2016: ‘Standing by a mass grave that I had just consecrated for the bodies of clergy and lay leaders of Bor Cathedral, last January, and then hearing the Archbishop of the Sudan, whose home town it was, call for reconciliation, and to know that he is working with us on that now, was one of the most powerful moments of my life.’

“In today’s world hospitality, reconciliation and love are our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism.”

The Anglican Communion has observer status at the United Nations and is being represented at today’s high level summit by the suffragan Bishop in Europe, David Hamid, and the senior Malaysian human rights lawyer Canon Andrew Khoo. They will “bring to the Summit the experience and the witness of the churches responding to the crisis in Europe and in South East Asia,” Archbishop Chama said.