By NEV Agency – 21st March 2023
Rome (NEV), 21st March 2023 – From 15th 19th March, representatives of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), German institutions and churches, and the World Council of Churches (WCC) met for four days in Hamburg to exchange experiences and ideas on migration and to discuss the “theology of migration”. Hosted by the Missionsakademie, in various sessions and workshops, around 50 participants met with various organisations working with migrants in Hamburg.
“The relationship between African and European churches has a long history,” explained the meeting’s organisers. “If, in recent times, we feel like brothers and sisters in Christ and part of the ecumenical world, we also recognise slavery, racism and the colonial past. For the present and the future, we will focus on finding the same basis of the same gospel: it is more the things that unite us than those that divide us’.
“The debate and discussions held were characterised by honesty and respect,” said Fiona Kendall, CCME vice-moderator, who represented the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) at the forum. “Churches, who are in direct connect with the grassroots and with policy-makers, are uniquely placed to be advocates and agents of change. We can be much more effective if we share our knowledge and experience.”
“Migration has always been part of the human experience,” reads the conference conclusions, “and will continue to be so and is an integral part of biblical history. Churches and governments, within their respective means, have a responsibility for ensuring that people migrate with dignity and that, when migrants reach their host countries, they are received with compassion and empathy. […] Racism is a sin. All racist behaviour and responses to migration should never be condoned. We oppose the coerced redirection and transportation of asylum seekers, including those of African descent, to places in Africa. Migrants are part of humanity and the criminalisation of migration is against to the Gospel. We encourage churches all over the world to oppose policies that move towards this direction. Our task is to discourage irregular migration and fight human trafficking, practices that prevent many people from experiencing the love and goodness of God. We need to increase our focus on addressing the push and pull factors that cause people to migrate even in ways that put their lives at risk. These include poverty, conflicts and wars, the climate crisis and all its consequences, and inaccessibility of legal pathways. The legacies of enslavement of Africans, colonialism and colonial missions have significant implications for African migrants who move in search of better opportunities or flee from danger to Europe. We, representatives of churches in Africa and Europe, need to work together on and promote decolonisation of the economic system, theology and education, and on ending neo-colonialism. African churches and migrant communities in the diaspora need to address racism, intra-African discrimination, and divisions. Churches need to advocate for their governments to respect the protection of human rights when addressing migration issues”.