Participants including migration activists, leaders of migrant churches and representatives of ecumenical organisations from Africa, Europe and the Middle East have been seeking an ecumenical response to migration at a World Council of Churches (WCC) conference in Beirut, Lebanon.
They have been addressing cross-cutting issues of global migration, which are causing appalling situations for the displaced communities and posing numerous challenges to which churches must respond from an ethical view point.
“The Arab uprising has made the question ‘Who is my neighbour’, theme of this conference, even more significant,” said Seta Hadeshian, director of the Diakonia and Social Justice desk of the Middle East Council of Churches. “For churches this theological question has deep social, political and economic implications.”
“The answer to this question lies in positive dialogue. As Christians we are faced with similar challenges, created by the political turmoil and uncertainty in the Middle East, as are people of other faiths, despite of our different contexts,” she added.
Participants also stressed the topic “reframing the rhetoric of migration”. In a European setting, Dr Gerrit Noort, director of Netherlands Mission Council said, “churches need to accept and promote diversity, which is an outcome of the multi-cultural realities of our region. By engaging in debate we also need to address divisions between the churches in order to create more coherent communities.”
Sydia Nduna, WCC programme executive for Migration and Social Justice also emphasised the significance of churches supporting migrant communities.
“The mandate of finding an ecumenical response to the issues of migration has a special urgency and relevance to us as Christians today. In our meeting in Beirut, I hope that together we will be able to bridge the gaps based on different and unique political contexts of the regions,” she said.
The Global Ecumenical Network on Migration conference is organised by the WCC Just and Inclusive Communities programme, in collaboration with the Middle East Council of Churches, All Africa Conference of Churches and Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe.
The conference ends on 7 December 2011 at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, and is being followed from 8 to 9 December by a working group meeting to prepare a theological statement on migration to be shared at the upcoming 10th Assembly of the WCC, which will take place at Busan, Korea in 2013.
* Global Ecumenical Network on Migration: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/programmes/unity-mission-evangelism-and-spir...