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Thursday, 13 October 2016

Diocese in Europe, accompanied by our Anglican Communion and Ecumenical partners, consult on refugee issues in Europe

The Revd Dr Rachel Carnegie of the Anglican Alliance leads discussions on the Church's engagement
Representatives from our Diocese in  Europe, together with representatives from the congregations of the Episcopal Church in Europe came together for a 24 hour consultation in Cologne, Germany this week, to consider the matter of refugees and migrants in Europe. The consultation was sponsored by the Anglican Alliance, USPG, and the Weidenfeld Foundation,  We were joined by representatives from the Church in Wales, the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East’s Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, and the Diocese of Canterbury. Ecumenical partners included the Roman Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio, the Jesuit Refugee Service, the Lutheran World Federation, the Swiss Evangelical Alliance, the UNHCR, and the Church Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME).

There was a rich sharing of experiences and a realisation that there is a wealth of good practice, models, partnerships, and wisdom among our Christian communities on the continent of Europe, Morocco and Turkey. The challenges are great - even global, but the Church is able to provide a flexible, local, human response. A summary of the many ways and potential ways for engagement will be produced by the Anglican Alliance for our use. There was fruitful discussion around four varieties of ways of engagement as Christians:

  • Hands - practical help and skills
  • Hearts - spiritual gifts, prayer, wisdom
  • Heads - legal, linguistic, communications, project management skills and expertise
  • Human - networking, relationship building, providing space for discussion, linking to local NGOs and governmetn services. 

Gavin Drake from the Anglican Communion Office Communications department reported on the event for the Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS, He summarised a reflection I gave at the end of the event: 

Bishop Hamid said "that Europe was suffering from “an epidemic of amnesia” in which the Church had a role to be the “bearer of memory . . . to remind the community of who we are, where we have been, and where we have come from.”

He said: “The collapse of our moral leadership in the EU states, in the face of the current movements of peoples that we experienced in the past couple of years, is incredible in light of what this very continent has experienced during and in the aftermath of World Wars. . .

“We know, living in Europe, that there is growing conservatism, nationalism and in some places a right-wing ascendency. It is all feeding and growing fear and xenophobia. In all of this the church’s role is to make sure the truth is told.”

He challenged churches to “gently to correct the narrative” and to challenge in preaching and teaching, “the growing toxic narrative around the world.”

But it wasn’t all bad news. He said that the diocese was in a unique position to develop the practice of “migrants helping migrants.”

He said: “I know there is some dispute about the use of that term, but we as Anglicans in Europe are largely – not exclusively, but largely – a migrant church. We are a diaspora. We are not in our homeland, most of us. We are not in the land of our birth.

“So we should have a natural set of gifts to be able to share with other Christians in these lands – charisms that go with being a migrant church.”

He recognised that the consultation was addressing the needs of people who “are not voluntary migrants” but said that the experience of church members who “had to find in the land they moved to” local knowledge, local values, language skills, networks of support, and ways that families could flourish were “gifts that we know and can share . . . migrant to migrant.”

He asked: “Can it be that God has planted us here as Anglicans on this western fringe of the Eurasian continent to, at this day, take up this particular missionary challenge?”  

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