The meeting focused on the issue of migration, as this is the European Churches' Year of Migration. This is of particular interest to our diocese, as we are largely a community of migrants ourselves 4 key presentations were given by the panelists above, from left to right: Doris Peschke, General Secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME); Theodora Tzakri, Greek Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs; Alp Ay, Director for Public Affairs of the Turkish Government; and Johan Ketelers, General Secretary of the ICMC (International Catholic Migration Commission).
The CEC brings together 120 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches of all European Countries. It was founded in 1959. Its offices are in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.
Istanbul, 11 March 2010
Christians: migrants by vocation
The annual meeting of the Joint Committee of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) has just taken place (7-11 March 2010) in Istanbul, 2010 European Capital of Culture, at the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch His All Holiness Bartholomew I.
This year the members of the Joint Committee decided to examine the phenomenon of migration from a variety of perspectives: cultural, social, economic, etc., in the year in which CCEE is organising its VIII Congress on Migration (Malaga, Spain, 27 April-1 May), part of the framework for the 2010 CEC-CCME Year of European Churches responding to migration: a project aimed at promoting the visibility of the Churches’ commitment to migrants and to a policy of integration through work for and with migrants themselves, refugees and ethnic minorities at European and national levels.
In the course of the meeting, the participants were able to verify how the churches, at different levels, and the ecumenical organisations are attending to the phenomenon of migration and to see what they are doing at national, European and international levels to welcome and facilitate a migrant’s participation in the social life of the host country. Four experts joined in the work: Doris Peschke, General Secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME); Johan Ketelers, General Secretary of the ICMC (International Catholic Migration Commission); a representative each from the Turkish and Greek Governments, respectively, Alp Ay, Director for Public Affairs – General Secretariat for European Union Affairs, and the Deputy Minister from the Greek Republic’s Ministry for Internal Affairs, Ms Theodora Tzakri.
The phenomenon of migration is not something new in Europe. It is a phenomenon of our time, even if it is not new in the history of humanity. Each period of history has been marked by more or less substantial migratory movement. If anything, the numbers, the areas of migration and the places of immigration have changed. Today, one person in six is on the move in the world! Therefore it seems obvious that in Europe, too, alongside the mobility of goods, capital and services, there is also human mobility for which our countries do not seem to be completely prepared.
The causes of migration are complex and manifold and for this reason it is necessary to understand the real reasons behind it, from the purely and typically economic reasons to “forced” migrations for environmental, social and political reasons.
It is the institute of the family which suffers the most from some unjust norms which regulate the phenomenon of migration. Often, the family nucleus is forced to be broken up due to the unsuccessful possibility of family reunion. In this case, the first victims of such policies are the children who grow up in a social context deprived of the joint affection and education of a father and a mother because they are entrusted to grandparents, if not in fact distant relations or neighbours. This causes serious forms of depression among members of a family and, in some cases, suicides have been recorded. Europe has perhaps still not yet clearly grasped the devastating significance of this phenomenon for its future. Instead, it must be clear that our societies cannot do without the family and family unity not just for the good of the person but for the whole of society.
The perspectives with which Churches and State look at the migratory phenomenon are different. Christians are “migrants by vocation” in that they understand themselves as people on a journey. Justice and charity are the guiding lights for all Christian behaviour. The human dignity of all people, including irregular immigrants and asylum seekers, must be recognised everywhere. Even with recognizing the responsibility of states to their citizens in the protection of the cultural heritage of their nations, lawfulness and justice on the one hand, with the proper and absolute recognition of the human dignity of all people, and mercy towards the most in need on the other hand, ought to form an organic whole.
Migration is a pressing call for change at structural and cultural levels, as well as a change in mind-set. It lays down challenges to which it is necessary to respond, such as: guaranteeing the rights of the human person in the face of the diversity of status to which certain sometimes internationally recognised rights correspond. Of the Churches, furthermore, is asked that they welcome and promote the integral good, including the spiritual good, of all people, as an assurance of total integration.
In addition, during the meeting policies and projects furthered by the Turkish and Greek Governments were presented, in particular in connection with asylum seekers and refugees.
The service of the CEC “Church and Society” Commission (CSC) and of COMECE
The participants were up-dated about current issues at the European institutions and on the activities of the CSC and COMECE. The Churches in Europe support and follow carefully the new configuration of the European Union which has come about with the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty, and in the light of the opportunities offered by Article 17.
However, there are some currents of thought spreading throughout Europe which harm the dignity of the person and which concern the Churches because of the anthropological model which is somewhat far from the culture of life and the natural model of the family. There are serious questions about the ostensible values which up to now some EU representatives, through European legislation, have tried to spread in individual nations, especially in matters of education, the role of religion, life and the traditional family and the very identity of the person. In particular, the plan for the law on non-discrimination can have serious repercussions on the life and activities of church bodies. Participants were also informed of parliamentary initiatives about the Protection of a work-free Sunday; the European Commission Consultation on the revision of the Directive on family reunion, in particular on the right of citizens from Third World countries legally resident in the EU to be reunited with members of their own family; and again on the Proposal on the Directive on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. Such a proposal concerns reducing recourse to tests carried out on animals (for example in the area of pharmaceutics) as well as promoting alternative available methods. One of these alternatives consists in the use of human embryo stem cells.
Dialogue with Islam
CCEE and CEC recognise the importance of the joint work undertaken in the past in the area of relations with Muslims in Europe and therefore intend to pursue this dialogue at local and continental levels, with bilateral meetings between a Church and a Muslim association or group, or through plans and initiatives promoted jointly between CEC and CCEE.
Meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew
On the afternoon of Tuesday 9 March, the participants were received in private audience by the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I, who invited the churches to continue their common commitment and collaboration to promote a common Christian witness in Europe and so that they might make their specific contribution in the face of the numerous challenges placed before them.
The 2011 meeting of the CCEE-CEC Joint Committee will take place in Belgrade (Serbia) from 17-20 February, at the invitation of His Grace Mgr Stanislav Hocevar, a member of the Joint Committee.
His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Ecumenical Patriarchate and CEC President;
Rt. Rev. Bishop David Hamid, Church of England
Dr. Joanna J. Matuszewska; Reformed Evangelical Church in Poland
His Eminence Metropolitan Michael of Austria, Ecumenical Patriarchate
Rev. Rauno Pietarinen, Orthodox Church of Finland
Pastor Claire Sixt-Gateuille, Reformed Church of France
Prof. Dr. Viorel Ionitá, General Secretary ad interim
Ms Doris Peschke, General Secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe
His Eminence Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, CCEE President;
His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, Archbishop of Bordeaux, CCEE Vice-President;
His Eminence Cardinal Josip Bozanic, Archbishop of Zagreb, CCEE Vice-President;
His Grace Mgr Stanislav Hocevar, Metropolitan Archbishop of Belgrade;
His Lordship Mgr Vincenzo Paglia, Bishop of Terni - Narni – Amelia;
His Lordship Mgr Virgil Bercea, Bishop of Oradea;
Fr Piotr Mazurkiewicz, ComECE General Secretary;
Fr Duarte da Cunha, CCEE General Secretary;
Thierry Bonaventura, Media Officer
For further information please contact: CEC General Secretariat
phone: +41 22 791 6226
Thierry Bonaventura CCEE Media Officer Tel. +41 71 227 6040, cel. +41 78 851 6040