Perceiving Migration as a Common Challenge, not a Threat
Presentation of ecumenical Statement on Migration in Brussels
Yesterday (29 November 2022) the churches‘ Joint Statement on Migration (“Shaping migration in a humane manner”) was presented on the invitation of the Brussels Office of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD - Protestant Church in Germany), the Migration Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME). On this occasion, the discussion about the document took place with representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and from church and society, particularly in the light of the current European political debate about the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum.
Archbishop Dr Stefan Heße (Hamburg), chair of the Migration Commission and Special Representative for Refugee Issues of the German Bishops’ Conference, recalled the purpose of the Statement on Migration. It seeks to provide orientation for action by both the churches and political leaders, he said, precisely under difficult and contradictory conditions. Migration should be perceived not as a threat but as a joint challenge. When presenting the different issues in the statement, the archbishop particularly highlighted some guiding principles from social ethics: “Important starting points ... are two biblical insights: the conviction that God created all people with equal dignity and the command to love not only your neighbour but also the stranger. No border can legitimise the disregard for human dignity and the denial of protection in the face of serious danger. When we look at the desperate situation of refugees in the Mediterranean, on the border with Belarus or in the Balkans, this principle has a clear political significance.” The Catholic migration bishop also commented on the integration-policy dimension of the document: “Having equal dignity in the long run must include a realistic option of equal participation in the political community.” Therefore modern countries of immigration like Germany should actively strive for a culture of naturalisation. In view of current crises and conflicts, Archbishop Heße warned against dealing with unresolved global problems at the expense of refugees and migrants.
Two panel discussions explored, firstly, the question of the added value of the Common European Asylum System in view of the lack of solidarity among EU member states and, secondly, the contribution made by the churches and NGOs towards implementing a humane migration policy. OKR Katrin Hatzinger, director of the Brussels EKD office, recalled the ongoing difficulties at the EU level in achieving a common position on refugee issues. At the same time, she noted, the generous and non-bureaucratic reception of Ukrainian refugees had demonstrated that sustainable solutions were possible, if there was the political will. It was now time, politically speaking, to move “from acting in an emergency mode to a mechanism of balanced and sustainable solidarity and a fair distribution of responsibility”. In view of the present disagreement between Italy and France about the disembarking of people rescued at sea, Katrin Hatzinger called for the EU member states to finally recognise that the challenges arising from migration could only be lastingly met through determination, solidarity, respect for international law and human rights. Furthermore, she criticised the renewed attempts of some member states to regulate the activity of private rescue services; here it was necessary to ensure that their rescue operations were not hindered in practice. She also welcomed the financial support announced by the German federal government for United4Rescue, the church alliance for rescue at sea. “This is a great recognition of the dedication of sea rescuers but also an appeal to resume state rescue at sea,” Hatzinger said.
The other participants in the panels were MEPs Tineke Strik (The Greens/European Free Alliance) and Lena Düpont (European People’s Party), Franz Lamplmaier (directorate-general for Migration and Home Affairs) representing the European Commission, Rev. Dr Jack McDonald (Anglican Diocese in Europe) and Abriel Schieffelers (Eurodiaconia), as well as Dr Alexander Kalbarczyk (executive director of the Migration Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference) and Dr Torsten Moritz (CCME general secretary).
In summer 2018 the Migration Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference and the EKD Advisory Board on Migration and Integration – in coordination with the Council of Christian Churches in Germany (ACK) – formed an ecumenical working group to draft a new statement on migration by the churches. It was published on 22 October 2021. On 18 July 2022 an English version was presented with a new foreword by Archbishop Dr Stefan Heße and Bishop Dr Christian Stäblein (Berlin) (“Shaping Migration in a Humane Manner”). A bilingual (English/German) summary of the statement has been available since 22 November 2022.
You can download English-language statement by Archbishop Dr Stefan Heße below as a PDF. The Joint Statement “Shaping Migration in a Humane Manner” appeared in the series “Joint Texts” (No 27) and can be downloaded from https://www.ekd.de/en/immigration-and-human-dignity-1544.htm or ordered in the publication section. The summary of the Joint Statement (English/German) is also available there in PDF form.
Hanover, 30 November 2022
EKD Press Office