Speaking against the backdrop of a sharp rise in anti-migrant rhetoric from some politicians, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, has said that the Bible is the "ultimate immigration handbook" and that Christians should stand with the oppressed.
Dr Kobia was speaking during a worship service opening the 'Churches against Racism' conference in Doorn, Netherlands, 14-17 June 2009.
The biblical texts, which are foundational for both Jews and Christians, describe a large number of voluntary and forced migrations and in many cases, the developing of responses which are about hospitality and concern for those who suffer, rather than hostility and rejection.
The WCC head also asked Christians to apply, in the current context in which they live today, Jesus' famous parable of the Good Samaritan (where someone from a despised racial and religious group is used to challenge the ethics of those who wrongly think themselves superior).
"It speaks to us in this week after virulently anti-immigrant parties made unprecedented gains in European elections", Kobia declared.
"This parable of Jesus calls us again to consider, 'Who is my neighbour' and how are we to live out that relationship? Christ calls us to be neighbours of immigrants, of oppressed minorities within our own nations, of all who are in need of a neighbour."
The service was held to give thanks for the WCC Programme to Combat Racism. Launched 40 years ago, the programme assisted the victims of racial discrimination in different parts of the world, most prominently in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Some 50 church leaders, activists and theologians are attending the international conference.
It is expected that theologically founded strategies and networks to advocate against racism within society and the church will arise from the conference. A message of commitment will be read during a closing worship service on 17 June in the presence of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
The conference was organized by the WCC in cooperation with the Council of Churches in the Netherlands, the association of migrant churches in the Netherlands (SKIN), the missionary and diaconal agency KerkinActie, the interchurch organization for development cooperation ICCO and the ecumenical advocacy group Oikos.