Christian organisations call for a more compassionate European migration policy

1 October 2020

Helping Refugees at the Croatian-Hungarian border. Image: Illes Adamko/HIA-Hungary via ACT Alliance

“Within the Anglican Communion, people are called in the Five Marks of Mission ‘to respond to human need by loving service…to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation’. Across our world, millions of women, men, and children need to feel this faith in action within their lives, as they flee conflict and violence, and seek to escape from the devastating effects of poverty and climate. This demands a more intentional collective response in which the churches and other faith communities—including the Anglican Communion—are ready to take their place.”

So said the Most Rev. Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion in a powerful statement issued jointly by Christian organisations representing 1.8 billion people, calling for a more compassionate EU migration policy.

What is the background to the statement?
In 2015, over one million people crossed into Europe, making perilous journeys both across the Mediterranean Sea and by land. The conflict in Syria was the biggest driver of the migration, along with ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The surge in migration that year sparked a crisis in Europe. Within countries, migration became a highly politicised and polarising issue that fed right-wing nationalism; between member states of the European Union it caused bitter dispute as countries failed to agree on how responsibility for the migrants, who arrived mainly via Greece and Italy, should be shared. Since then, the numbers of migrants trying to enter Europe has greatly reduced, but migration is still a divisive issue that is shaping the politics of the region.

This is the context for the European Union’s latest plans for a pact between its 27 member states. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum is a proposal for “a fresh start on migration in Europe”.

To coincide with the launch of the new proposed pact and to help shape the conversations, a broad coalition of Christian churches in Europe has released a joint statement and on Monday 25th September presented it to Vangelis Demiris, the coordinator of the European Commission’s work on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

What does the statement say?
The joint statement calls out “longstanding shortcomings of EU migration and asylum policy, inconsistent with the EU’s own core values and with fundamental ethical or faith principles” and calls for a more compassionate approach that is consistent with the EU’s commitments to international compacts on migration and asylum and which provides “adequate support both for people on the move and for their host communities”.

Alongside the Anglican Communion, other signatories include the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Methodist Council, the Conference of European Churches and the ACT Alliance. Together, they affirm that, “As Christians, we believe that every human being is created in the image of God. All human, social and political interactions should be underpinned by this belief. No individual or group deserve to be labelled as ‘problems’, but instead merit a dignified treatment as people loved by God”.

They continue, “We reject the notion that a compassionate welcome to those newly arrived is to the detriment of those presently living in Europe. Policies should address the specific needs of new arrivals in Europe and encourage their potential to contribute, while at the same time addressing the expressed fears, legitimate concerns and needs of existing inhabitants. Rather than divisiveness and exclusion, we should strive to do this by promoting mutual respect and support”.

The full statement and list of signatories can be found here.

What is the Anglican Alliance’s response?
Revd Canon Rachel Carnegie, Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance, said, “This statement, signed by such a comprehensive range of Christian denominations and leaders, is a welcome and clear witness to the gospel imperative of welcoming the stranger and caring for the most vulnerable. Moreover, in those encounters we discover the gifts and potential in each person. In these turbulent times, discerning the face of Christ in the ‘other’ and affirming our common humanity are vital guiding principles as we respond personally and corporately to the many challenges the world is facing, including migration.

She continued, “Migration is increasing across the world, within countries as well as between them. It is driven by many factors, but conflict, poverty and climate change are key drivers. In every part of the Communion we see Anglicans responding to the needs of migrants in loving service and by working to transform unjust structures of society.”

Why is the Anglican Alliance concerned about this?
Addressing the rights of migrants, refugees and internally displaced people, and promoting safe migration, are key priorities in the Anglican Alliance’s work of responding to the most vulnerable. The Alliance has convened a number of regional consultations on safe migration and human trafficking, and has collaborated in global advocacy initiatives on migration and asylum. We are part of Anglican working groups on migration and work closely with the Anglican Communion’s UN team. You can read more here, here and here.