In the face of what sometimes looks like scaremongering by politicians and the media, a British and Irish inter-church study group has entered the heated debate on migration by devising a set of principles to enable churches to contribute to the discussion.
The principles, backed up by analysis and example, are also designed to help the churches and others to respond in positive and practical ways to the presence, gifts and needs of migrant communities.
'Migration Principles: Statement for churches working with migrants and engaging with migrant issues' is published by the official body Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, which, through its Churches' Commission for Racial Justice, convened the study group behind the book.
CTBI's member national churches come from the Anglican, Catholic, Free Church and Orthodox traditions.
Edited by Profesor Paul Weller of the University of Derby, 'Migration Principles' is firmly rooted in the long-standing Christian tradition of welcome, its publishers stress.
The publication looks at migration in the context not only of Christian theology but also of globalisation, racism, xenophobia, human trafficking and exploitation. It further considers the complex issues of family reunification, and the reciprocal benefits of migration, as well as high-profile security concerns.
'Migration Principles' concludes with recommendations about measures that churches should support, and suggested actions for them to take.
"This book comes at a crucially important time," says the Rev Bob Fyffe, general secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. He explains that "[t]he book is to be used by church leaders and local congregations because the big thinking and big picture around migration require sensitive local delivery."
The Rev Dr Nicholas Sagovsky, canon theologian at Westminster Abbey, chaired the ecumenical roundtable meetings out of which 'Migration Principles' developed. The study process brought together representatives involved in the area of migration and asylum from a very broad range of Christian traditions. It also drew on the first hand experience of migrants and the expertise of cutting-edge thinkers.
The Churches recognise that the diversity of their own membership is the result of a continual process of migration, and are committed to serve the needs of the whole community, says CTBI - which exists to help the Christian denominations and agencies work better together and discover thjeir common life in the Gospel.
Their direct experience of people movements makes the churches well placed to speak on these issues. In addition, many churches have made migration concerns a priority and are looking for effective practical responses to the phenomenon, as well as a better understanding of it.
Later this month academics and practitioners will discuss the issues at a conference convened by the British and Irish Association for Mission Studies (BIAMS).
The launch of 'Migration Principles' will take place on Tuesday 10 July 2007.
'Migration Principles', edited by Paul Weller (ISBN 978-0-85169-349-1, £5, plus £1 handling charge per order) is available from CTBI Publications (MPH), 4 John Wesley Road, Werrington, Peterborough, PE4 6ZP, or order on line at www.ctbi.org.uk, by phone 01733 325002, or fax 01733 384180.