Posted on September 5, 2006

‘Take Risks On Immigration And Asylum’ Churches Told, August 31, 2006

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has urged Christians to take risks when it comes to care for immigrants and asylum seekers.

In a volatile global context, the massive migration of people around the world has a deep impact on societies and churches, and poses fundamental questions for ecumenical relationships and responsibility, he said in his report to the organization’s main governing body.

His call comes at a time when churches in the UK are increasingly challenging Government policy in this area, and a Catholic priest risked jail to defend the rights of one asylum seeker.

Migration “is one of the main features of the changing global context, with decisive consequences for the ecumenical movement locally and globally,” Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia noted in his opening address to the WCC’s central committee, meeting in Geneva 30 August-6 September 2006.

The UN estimates that over 175 million people are on the move worldwide, and the trend is growing as economic globalization, civil conflicts and transport links transform traditional societies.

In the face of such complex change, churches in all places are called to live out the biblical ideal of hospitality towards the stranger and accepting change, Kobia said.

“In today’s world, welcoming strangers is a justice issue, and often a political statement,” Kobia underlined. “Practising true hospitality involves recognizing our own vulnerability and being open to transformation.”

“Standing with migrants is politically unpopular in most regions of the world. The risks are very real, yet so is our calling,” he said.

In his report, Kobia also outlined proposals for a new ecumenical initiative in response to the Middle East conflicts, which he termed “the greatest of challenges” to the international community. Kobia’s proposal centres on the establishment of a new Palestine/Israel Ecumenical Forum to strengthen the coordination of strategy, resources and actions of churches and related organizations in the region. The Middle East is expected to be a central focus of the committee’s discussions.

The WCC central committee gathers 150 church representatives from all regions and church traditions, and has the oversight of the Council’s policy and programmes.

The full text of Kobia’s report is available on the WCC website