(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches in Europe have declared their commitment to increase efforts to welcome refugees “in our midst.”
In a resolution at the end of the LWF European Church Leadership Consultation (ECLC) in Trondheim, Norway, representatives of the 40 LWF churches in the region urged the European governments and European Union to establish a program like the Mare Nostrum initiative “to search and rescue the refugees in the whole Mediterranean Sea.”
The Lutheran church leaders also called for the creation of “safe passage corridors for refugees especially from countries like Syria and Iraq.” A system for a more just distribution of refugees within Europe should also be developed, they said. They called upon other churches in the region to support “these urgent requests to their governments.”
They recalled LWF’s connection with displaced people since the organization’s very founding in 1947. Many of the churches in Europe integrated refugees from the Second World War. “It is for us as churches crucial and natural from our theology and from our understanding of church that migrants and refugees are our brothers and sisters and that we have to support them in all possible ways,” the ECLC resolution stated.
They noted that the number of refugees and internally displaced persons across the world was “now at the highest level since World War II, with more than 50 million people forcibly displaced.”
Some of those fleeing are risking their lives as they try to reach Europe, the church leaders said. This year alone, more than 36,000 migrants and refugees crossed the Mediterranean Sea by boat into Southern Europe according to the United Nations refugee agency. However 1,600 lost their lives while making this journey.
Discussions preceding the resolution included a presentation by LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge on the 500th Reformation anniversary and LWF’s Twelfth Assembly in 2017. Elaborating on the issue of refugees and migrants coming to Europe, he said the “churches’ moral voice was more important than ever in helping European societies to face the region’s biggest refugee and migration challenge since world War II.”
Church of Norway and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway jointly hosted this year’s gathering, 11-14 May. The 80 participants—heads of churches and synods, ecumenical officers, theological educators, and women and youth coordinators—discussed LWF churches’ witness in Europe under the theme “Liberated by God’s Grace.”