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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 111, December 2009



Message of the World Council of Churches 





Programme Executive – Migration and Social Justice WCC

Delegate of the Secretary General WCC



Your Beatitudes, Your Graces, Rev. Fathers,

Respectable brothers and sisters in Christ, 

It is a great pleasure and honor to the WCC to participate at the VIth World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees to share with you some of our work and reflection in this perspective.

Migration is a fact of life. It is as much an instinct to survive as it is an inevitable consequence of globalization. We can neither turn our backs on it, nor control it. It has decisive consequences for the world as we know it and a massive impact on the church and the ecumenical movement both at the local, regional and global levels. Migration is as much a part of who we are as it is a part of the history that has shaped us. 

Welcoming the stranger is not optional for Christians. Nor is it conditional.

The last two years of implementing the project on Migration and Social Justice has brought to the forefront some of the contributions, benefits, impacts and challenges that migration brings to the Churches and the Ecumenical Movement; through dialogue, theological reflections, partnership and field visits to Regional Ecumenical Organizations and their member churches, it has become clear that migration already has a massive impact at the local, regional and global levels.

Beyond hospitality, however, the churches are a strong advocate and defender of the rights of people to move freely within their own nations and, when driven by poverty, insecurity and persecution, to leave their homes in search of their God given right to life with dignity.  The church has recognized their responsibility to ensure that the public is properly informed on the root causes of migration and the factors that force people to leave their homes. We must confront racism, discrimination and xenophobia wherever and whenever it manifests itself; in churches, in our communities and our nations.

The church is engaging governments and political institutions, as well as society at large, in recognizing the potential of diversity in society and ensuring that they facilitate participation of the migrants in community and social life.

The World Council of Churches, included inter-religious dialogue in addressing the issue of migration. Migration is a human problem with religious implications; examining how a particular role or responsibility must be played requires developing an inter-religious approach. Migration has a particular influence on the challenges of living together, requiring facilitation, protection, renewal and service so people can live together. The project worked on building a higher visibility of joint advocacy through the GEM, churches stood in solidarity with migrants and migrant churches, accompanying and including them in the decision-making that affects and governs their lives. The GEM members called upon the churches to not only recognize the need to collaborate with other faiths, but challenge them to deepen and strengthen inter-faith dialogue, theological reflection and cooperation on migration.

The World Council of Churches, upheld the value and dignity of every person including migrants. Migrants are human beings.  Migrants are not commodities, illegal aliens or mere victims. This is reflected in the advocacy theme developed by the GEM, in 2008 in Beirut, Lebanon. It reads “Migrants are holistic beings created in the image of God” and their rights are human rights. GEM members committed to speaking truth to power: meaning adhering to Christian principles and developing the prophetic voice. Accompanying migrants: means lifting migrant voices to penetrate and speak for themselves to leaders and members of the community The project in all its work emphasized the need to respect the human dignity of every migrant and give holistic consideration to their individual needs, strengths, and the spiritual, economic, social and cultural contributions they make to church and society.

Further more, the project has gained an understanding for the need and importance of the Ecumenical Movement to understand and define more carefully what pastoral care for and of migrants really is. We acknowledge that immigrants and refugees can no longer be considered as additions or appendages within the church and the ecumenical family, nor should they ever have been.  Rather, they are an integral part of the Church and an integral part of the ecumenical movements’ history.

The current financial crisis has severe consequences for migrants, especially migrant workers. China has already reported that twenty million migrant workers have lost their jobs. There are eight million Filipino workers overseas in 162 countries sending home an estimated 17 billion dollars in remittances. The Philippines is already bracing itself for the impact of large numbers of migrant workers returning home to no jobs and an economy that can barely support them. Governments are worried about the security and economic impact; churches are worried about the human cost.

Remittances are what have provided health, education, shelter and food to most households. Will churches empty again because the migrants have been forced to go back home? Will churches be required to become a place of refuge where returning migrants can seek shelter and protection? Will the church rise up to the challenge of providing physical, social, spiritual and emotional support to the community? The WCC is urging churches to take on a stronger prophetic voice and not just concentrate on diaconal support. The WCC facilitates consultation meetings between churches in the home and host country.

In 2005, the WCC central committee meeting before the Porto Alegre assembly addressed these realities through a public issue statement on “Practising Hospitality in an Era of New Forms of Migration”. The 2005 WCC central committee statement provides a solid basis from which to engage the consequences of migration on our churches, ecumenical movement and societies.

In order to respond to all these challenegs globally, the WCC established the Global Ecumenical Network on Migration that brings together churches and partners from all over the world to address the issue of migration, raise the concerns of each region and plan together the common response of the churches.

With the new immerging realities in the Gulf region, where thousands of migrant churches have been established, the WCC formed an Ecumenical Platform on Migration in the Gulf whose aims are: 1. bringing the migrant churches together for a common and a coordinated approach of diaconal work for migrants, 2. Establish an inter-church dialogue that would lead then to a church-government dialogue and interfaith cooperation with the local communities and authorities, 3. Assess the situation of the migrant workers in the Gulf 4. Link the migrant churches with the churches back home.

The project published in 2008 the booklet on Mapping Migration in Europe which serves as a resource document for all the churches in Europe in having the exact information on the number of migrants, their origin, and their integration status within the host community.

A similar study is being prepared currently for Africa.

The WCC is very much concerned with the migration and displacements caused by Climate change in the Pacific region; especially that the nearby countries policies tend to profit from the situation by giving access to migrants that can work as cheap labor and denying it to others. The only refuge and hope for migrants in this case is still the church.

As for the situation of refugees in Iraq, The WCC is in contact with the EU Parliament through the Council of European Churches and was able to influence the decision of Resettlement of Iraqi refugees in Europe. The WCC also conveyed a meeting to all church leaders from Iraq in order to share their own view of the situation and it was agreed that the solution is not by emptying Iraq of its native Christians and encouraging the western countries to host refugees, but in forming the Council of Churches in Iraq that will bring together all denominations and will work for Peace building and establishing a secure and developed environment in the Country.

The challenges are great; our responsibility as Churches and Faith based organizations to respond to these challenges are even greater. We continue praying and asking for God’s Grace to transform the World, as we walk together through the journey of life and hope on the paths of our Lord Jesus Christ.