Today 35 bishops and church leaders from 20 countries gathered in Munich, Germany to discuss the refugee situation and the role of the churches in Europe. They represented churches in the most affected regions and from most of the church families in Europe. There were also representatives from ecumenical organizations and from church-based humanitarian and refugee organizations.
At the one-day consultation, the church leaders talked about how Christians in the different churches in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and the people in the receiving countries can appropriately deal with the challenges facing the refugees.
This is what some of the key participants had to say:
Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria said: “The churches’ public theology must encourage those in politics who call for a common effort to give refuge to those fleeing from war and terror.
“They must criticize governments which refuse to contribute their share in this common effort.”
Bedford-Strohm explained, “The refugee crisis can only be dealt with internationally. The Church with her local rootedness and her universal horizon through the one Lord Jesus Christ is a crucial agent in global civil society. Her witness in the world is deeply needed.”
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches said, “Taking responsibility for human beings in desperate need must be done without discrimination or any criteria other than their needs. In these times we need clear leadership based on human dignity.”
Tveit noted, “Chancellor Angela Merkel has demonstrated a clear and responsible leadership and created a place for people on the run.”
Metropolitan Rev. Dr Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate), vice moderator of the WCC Central Committee, referred to the Syrian Refugees situation in Turkey growing daily and gradually becoming more critical and tragic.
“We have lost the means as well the values of human dignity as beings created in His image. We need, radical and urgent solutions. European societies have to understand that there is a need for solidarity and more respect.”
Gennadios added, “Helping and assisting is not only a Christian obligation but rather God's call to all of us.”
In his introduction Tveit said, “There are many who are hungry and thirsty in our world, and many who hunger for a life with righteousness, where their lives are respected, their homes are safe, their children can go to school, and they can meet their basic needs for food, water, health services.
“Many of those who have this thirst and hunger had to leave war-ridden Syria and other conflict-zones, bereft of any comfort zone, in a real life crisis.”
Rev. Karin van den Broeke, moderator of the General Synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands and a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, said after the meeting, “It was great to have this consultation. We are enriched by different views on the role of the churches in the refugee crisis.”
Van den Broeke added: “What puzzles me the most is how we deal with the stories of Christians doubly disadvantaged and at the same time our strong wish not to feed islamophobic thoughts in European society.
“We need cooperation with all people of good will, especially with all those Muslims that are longing for peaceful coexistence.”
Dr Audeh Quawas in charge of Ecumenical Relations for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said: “It was a new experience attending the Church Leaders consultation.
“Participants’ interventions explored the entire issue of the crisis especially when everybody had the opportunity to express freely their points of view,” said Quawas.
“Still,” he said, “there are several issues to discuss further, particularly the need to strengthen the interreligious dialogue. We have to deal with the issue from the human point of view and fulfilling our Christian witness is the most important action that we can take.”
The Church Consultation in Munich was arranged by the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Tveit, and the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria and Dr Bedford-Strohm, who is also chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).