Churches and faith communities have an important role to play in helping the success of movements of people in Europe, but they need governments to help them in this by supporting religious freedom, according to a report on European churches’ responses to migration.
“They can become a resource for bridging between different cultures and communities. But if they shun this responsibility … they may exacerbate negative experiences of alienation, frustration and marginalization,” states the report, presented in Geneva on June 16.
The study was commissioned by the World Council of Churches (WCC), and undertaken by the Brussels-based Churches’ Commission on Migrants in Europe and the Nova Research Centre in Gloucester, England.
“In many countries you will hear that all migrants come from Africa, and that most migrants will be Muslim,” CCME general secretary Doris Peshke noted at the presentation of the report. However, the study notes, the percentage of immigrants from outside Europe entering EU countries in 2004 was 37 per cent. The other 63 per cent of immigrants came from other European countries.
Of the estimated 24 million migrants that were in the EU at the end of 2003, about 48.5 per cent belonged to Christian churches, 30.9 percent were Muslims, and 20.5 per cent belonged to other religions.
The report uses the United Nations’ definition of a migrant as someone who stays outside the usual country of residence for at least one year.