More than sixty representatives of churches, ecumenical organisations, experts in European affairs and volunteers working with and for refugees gathered in Lunteren, the Netherlands from 14-16 June, 2016 to call for the improved response to the global refugee crisis.
Themes addressed included, the opportunity and challenge of churches and their engagement with refugees and migrants, trafficking and smuggling of migrants and refugees, fear in society and the role of faith based organizations, as well as policy and legal aspects. The presentations on churches working for refugee protection with the examples of several European churches created a clearer picture what are the needs and gaps in addressing those issues above.
The solidarity visit to the church near Amsterdam where refugees or asylum seekers are temporary placed for the time when their applications are in the process provided a possibility to first-hand experience of refugees and asylum seekers. We shared a food together prepared by Eritrean refugees and listened to their personal stories about the dangerous journeys they made in search for a safe place for them and their families.
We attended a commemoration service at the Keizersgracht-Kerk in Amsterdam for persons who have lost their lives at the borders of Europe and lighted candles in memory of lost migrants’ lives.
Finally, join public appeal was produced to the churches and ecumenical organizations in Europe working for refugees to increase their advocacy efforts. It included calls to develop safe and legal passages, to create safe spaces to meet and talk with refugees to overcome fears out of stereotypes about each other. It also highlights the importance of interfaith cooperation and joint efforts to tackle fear.
Yulia Bajelidze: “As the representative of youth ecumenical organization I made sure that youth voices are heard in ongoing discussions within the churches and ecumenical organisations. I believe young people have a power of positive influence in this work and should be treated as an equal partner.”
In addition, the consultation provided a room for exchanging with the representatives of various organizations in the field to identify opportunities for a possible cooperation on advocacy projects and campaigns. Finally, we reached a verbal agreement and expressed our commitments to remind to both ourselves and refugees in the times of fear or despair the words of God: “Have no fear, for I am with you”.
Yulia Bajelidze is WSCF Advocacy and Solidarity Committee member