Ecumenical News International

Military bishop Sigurd Rink: rising refugee numbers off the coast of Cyprus

April 21, 2015

Berlin (epd). According to Sigurd Rink, Protestant military bishop, there is also a rising risk of refugee tragedies off the coast of Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean. Besides the route from Libya to Lampedusa, other routes over the Mediterranean are becoming increasingly important, Rink reported in Berlin. For example, more and more refugees have set out to reach Europe from Turkey or Lebanon via Cyprus in the last few months.

So far there had been no fatal shipwrecks such as last weekend off the coast of Libya, when an estimated over 900 people were drowned, the military bishop told the Protestant news agency epd. If refugee boats were to be in distress off the coast of Cyprus, soldiers from the German armed forces would probably be among those hastening to rescue them, he said.
At the end of last week, Rink visited German soldiers and military chaplains engaged in the United Nations mission UNIFIL in Cyprus and off the coast of Lebanon. Around 12,000 soldiers are currently on mission with a UN mandate, 150 from the German armed forces. UNIFIL was founded in 2006 by the United Nations. The aim of the exercise is to stop arms smuggling via the maritime route off the coast of Lebanon.

Rink reported that German navy soldiers are also engaged in training Lebanese soldiers, who are to set up a functioning radar system to protect the coast of Lebanon. A further goal of UNIFIL is to protect the buffer zone between Israel and Lebanon. International soldiers see to it that there are no skirmishes in the region. However, German soldiers are not involved in this operation, Rink added.

Although UNIFIL may comprise up to 15,000 soldiers, Rink deplored that its mission received so little public attention. And yet its purpose is largely uncontroversial. "Its main aim is prevention." In his view, this corresponds to the Protestant peace ethic.



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