Europe’s Lutheran leaders call for dignified refugee policy

“Fences and walls are no way to shape a good life together for people," say Europe's LWF Vice-Presidents,  Bishops Tamás Fabiny, Helga Haugland Byfuglien and Frank Otfried July, following a solidarity visit with the Hungarian Lutheran church in Budapest. Photo: ELCH
“Fences and walls are no way to shape a good life together for people," say Europe's LWF Vice-Presidents, Bishops Tamás Fabiny, Helga Haugland Byfuglien and Frank Otfried July, following a solidarity visit with the Hungarian Lutheran church in Budapest. Photo: ELCH

“Fences and walls are no way to shape a good life together for people”

BUDAPEST, Hungary/GENEVA, 4 October 2015 (LWI) - Lutheran World Federation Vice-Presidents in Europe have called for agreement on a dignified refugee policy in the region.

“We expect all European states to receive refugees and find ways of meeting this common challenge,” Presiding Bishops Helga Haugland Byfuglien (Nordic region) and Dr Frank Otfried July (Central Western Europe), and Bishop Dr Tamás Fabiny (Central Eastern Europe) said in Budapest, following a solidarity visit with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary (ELCH).

In a joint statement in Budapest following the 2-3 October visit to Bishop Fabiny, the three Lutheran leaders called the refugee question “a great challenge confronting us at the present time and probably for years to come.”

LWF’s European region has 40 member churches bringing together nearly 40 million Lutherans. Haugland Byfuglien is the Presiding Bishop of Church of Norway, July is Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg Germany, and Fabiny is Bishop of the ELCH Northern Diocese.

The vice-presidents noted that the “many different experiences with open borders in the whole of Europe call us today, 25 years after the end of the division of Germany and Europe, to take responsibility for dealing with these profound upheavals. Fences and walls are no way to shape a good life together for people.” In this context, Bishop July recalled Germany’s gratitude to Hungary, which in 1989 opened the borders and thereby made an important contribution to “tearing down the Iron Curtain.”

July described the visit to Hungary as “a symbolic occasion to thank the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary and Bishop Fabiny, and to support him and his church for their efforts to enable refugees to be received appropriately in Hungary, too.”

Together the bishops reminded the countries of origin and the global community of their responsibilities towards the people who are seeking refuge in Europe. “We appeal to the countries from which the refugees come to take up peace negotiations and create safe conditions. We remind the governments and rulers of these countries of their responsibility before God and humankind to finally do their utmost so that no one needs to leave their home. We call upon the global community to take its responsibility in this respect.”

In addition to the Hungarian church, other European LWF member churches are reaching out to thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty mainly in the Middle East and Africa. Lutheran churches in other LWF regions are also providing support and expressing their solidarity.

At their May 2015 European Church Leadership Consultation in Trondheim, Norway, the LWF churches in the region declared their commitment to increase efforts to welcome refugees “in our midst".

Through its Council, and in General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge’s statements and letters to the member churches, the LWF continues to remind churches in Europe of the need to advocate with their governments for approaches that affirm the Christian duty to “welcome the stranger” in the respective communities.

LWF’s assists around 2 million refugees and internally displaced people globally, including Syrians who have fled to Jordan.

 

Read the full statement here.

 

(Article adapted from a press release by Oliver Hoesch, spokesperson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg, with additional information by LWF Communications.)

 

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