Statement by the EKD Council on the refugee situation

Jesus Christ says:
‚You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.‘ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:‚You shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Matthew 22:37-39).

Countless volunteers and staff are involved in receiving and welcoming refugees in Germany. The Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) extends its thanks to them and to all those who, for months now, have been contributing to giving our society a friendly human face.

At the same time, we notice that the challenge posed us by the refugees coming to Germany will not be met in the near future. We must face the fact that it will call for patience and perseverance and that many people are concerned about the future. It will be possible to cope with the challenge as long as there is support for stable state structures and the state's monopoly on the use of force. The necessary resources must also be provided.

The enormous efforts that have been made to welcome and receive refugees reflect a society deeply rooted in Christian tradition. Jesus' statement in the Sermon on the Mount, "Do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matt 7:12) reflects a principle of empathy that is recognized far beyond Christian tradition. Empathy must not be abandoned under the impact of a stressful situation. If we lose a sense of empathy, we will lose our humanity.

"The effect of righteousness will be peace" (Isaiah 32:17). The Council trusts in this promise and stands up for an open society, emphasizing the value of the German Basic Law and its principles of human dignity, freedom and law. Together with the other states in Europe and beyond, Germany must uphold and implement humanitarian international law and the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the status of refugees.

The EKD calls for a European solution. It contributes to this through its contacts with other churches in Europe. Humanity is a concept involving us all, and it can only thrive when we work together. We have to share the opportunities and burdens that come with receiving refugees.

The EKD opposes the idea of closing European borders. We would betray our own values if we adopted such a policy. Our horizon of responsibility does not end at our own borders.

Working towards solutions includes removing the causes of refugee movements, giving the promised support to neighbouring countries in crisis regions, improving conditions in refugee camps, and organizing orderly reception procedures.

Even if it proves possible, in the long term, to eliminate the causes of refugee flows and, in the short term, to give many refugees new prospects back in their own countries, many of those who come to Germany will remain.

That places us before the great challenge of integrating people from other cultures and religions, and with another understanding of society. This challenge is making many people feel insecure. It is crucial to maintain the rule of law and the values of the German constitution (Basic Law). Every citizen of our country must be able to feel secure everywhere.

Recognized humanitarian standards must prevail in the reception facilities for refugees. In particular, women and children need to be protected from any form of violence, including sexualized violence. The same applies to minorities. The EKD notes with concern the cases of threats to Christians living in refugee accommodation.

Integration means recognizing the law and the fundamental values of our country, but also recognizing our understanding of an open society, religious freedom and the equality of women and men. We condemn all attacks on refugees and on those who stand by them.

Integration will succeed, above all, through the speedy integration of refugees into education, and the employment and housing markets. Family reunification also promotes integration. People should talk about their concerns and anxieties, on the one hand, and law and values, on the other. It would be helpful for such discussions to take place in childcare centres, schools, on the job, but also in everyday places of encounter.

Integration policies must not produce losers - neither among the refugees nor among the local population. That is why sufficient resources must be found for everyone in the field of education, and on the housing and employment markets.

The situation in Germany and in Europe is undoubtedly serious. It would, however, be counter-productive to present it as worse than it really is. State institutions provide a high degree of stability. Equally high is the willingness in the population to confront the challenges and get personally involved. The Evangelical Church in Germany will do all in its power to ensure that this remains the case in future, too. With gratitude to all involved, it encourages everyone to make their contribution.

Hanover/Breklum, 22 January 2016