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Monday, 27 March 2017

Christians, Muslims, diplomats and scholars consult on cooperation in the refugee crisis

As we know Europe is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Religious organisations including the churches play many key roles in the midst of this crisis such as advocacy for responsible government policies on behalf of refugees and in helping to improve migrants' integration in receiving countries. In Europe several collaborative projects among religious bodies, governments and NGOs have been already put in place.

One of the most creative was established in Italy through the cooperation between the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Roman Catholic Comunità di Sant’Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches and Tavola Valdese of the Waldensian Evangelical Church. The programme takes advantage of the provision of humanitarian visas to bring over a two-year period approximately 1000 refugees from Lebanon (Syrian refugees), Morocco (migrants from Sub-Saharan African countries fleeing from situations of risk caused by conflicts, terrorism, political instability, poverty, famine, drought) and Ethiopia. The shorthand term for the programme is "humanitarian corridors". It is a safe and legal alternative to provide safe entry for the most vulnerable refugees including single women with children, victims of human trafficking, elderly people and disabled or sick people, and facilitates their integration in Italy.

I was invited on 13th and 14th of March to participate in a policy dialogue promoted by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to assess the benefits and challenges of innovative programmes such as the humanitarian corridors and to see how such programs might be extended and duplicated in other countries. The round-table was attended by over 30 religious representatives, diplomats, policymakers and scholars.

Several of the participants also were invited to record short video clips about the role of religious groups in addressing the refugee crisis. I append two of them below, one given by me, and the other by a distinguished interfaith colleague, Imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini, Chairman of the Council for Muslims in non Islamic Countries and President of COREIS (Italian Islamic Religious Community).

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