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Europe’s faith leaders discuss migration, integration and values

Posted on: November 30, 2016 11:59 AM
The Church of England’s Bishop in Europe, Robert Innes, with (left) European Parliament vice-president Antonio Tajani and (right) European Commission first vice president Frans Timmermans.
Photo Credit: Georges Boulougouris / European Union

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Church of England’s Bishop in Europe, Robert Innes, joined an inter-faith delegation at the European union’s (EU) annual “high-level meeting” of religious leaders from across Europe. The meeting was hosted by the European Commission – the EU’s politicised civil service – to discuss “Migration, integration and European values”. The commission’s first vice president, Frans Timmermans convened the meeting “for an open exchange of views between EU institutions and important parts of European society on EU policies.”

The European Commission said that the topics discussed by the faith leader with EU representatives included the challenges posed by populism, intolerance, and “the vital role of education and grassroots outreach in improving integration and social cohesion in Europe.” The leaders agreed to work closely with the Commission to ensure European values are embraced in the context of migration and integration.”

At the end of the meeting, Mr Timmermans said that “Religious leaders play a pivotal role to spur the integration and participation of all their members in Europe as full Europeans, no matter the place of their cradle, no matter their creed.

“Through these dialogues we identify those common fundamental values that bind us, instead of harping on the issues that divide us.”

The European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, commented: “Reaching out to all communities, including the different religious ones, is essential for creating and maintaining a cohesive and inclusive society for all.

“With the rise of nationalism, xenophobia and extremism, we must ensure that our society remains welcoming – especially to those fleeing from war and in need of international protection – while preserving its core values and principles.”

The European Union is a political movement encompassing 28 different nation states. Earlier this year, the UK voted in a referendum to leave the EU; but it remains a full member until a negotiated exit has been confirmed. The EU Treaties allow for two-years of exit negotiations once the legal mechanism for leaving has been triggered. The UK Prime Minister Theresa May, has indicated that she will trigger the mechanism early next year.

Yesterday’s meeting was the 12th in a series of “high level meetings and working level discussions” convened by the European Commission with faith groups since 2005. Bishop Innes was joined in the meeting by Christian leaders, including representatives from Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and leaders of other faiths, including Judaism, Islam and Hindusim.