Ecumenical News International

Churches in Europe should work together more in the refugee question

April 11, 2016

Thessaloniki/Idomeni (epd). Doris Peschke, general secretary of the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), argues for stronger cooperation between churches in the refugee question. It is about showing solidarity, supporting smaller communities and encouraging them to continue, she said after a trip to the Evangelical Church in Greece. The churches in Europe could learn from one another.

The Greek Evangelical Church only has 5000 members, and she expressly praised its commitment in assisting refugees, along with the many volunteers, in an economically difficult situation. "If we had that in other countries we wouldn't have any problems," she said. It was also right that the churches in Greece were now working towards longer-term planning. That had not happened for many years because people thought that the refugees wanted to move on to other countries.
Standing up for human rights

In Europe there is, above all, an "administrative crisis", Peschke criticised. Burdens should be shared and not pushed onto to others through closing borders. The churches should hold talks with politicians at the European and the national level, she stated. The churches generally informed the European institutions "fairly self-confidently" what they were doing. Without the churches the situation would be worse.

It was again a matter of standing up for human rights in Europe, Peschke said, with an eye to camps like Idomeni, where about 13,000 people were living under miserable conditions. "We expect of refugees seeking asylum that they accept our values but we do not respect them ourselves", Peschke criticised. Furthermore, those with responsibility at the local level should also talk to the refugees in practical matters. "You can't say from the start that they are not allowed to have any wishes," she emphasised.

In this context she criticised steps like replacing cash by food packets for asylum seekers. That would force them into dependency, Peschke declared. For integration to succeed refugees needed to learn how to manage by themselves from the start.

The Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) is a church advocacy organisation on questions of migration policy and refugee protection at the European level, based in Brussels. Its members are Anglican, Orthodox and many Protestant churches.



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