Faith groups have key role in migration success, says report

By on June 16, 2008

Geneva (ENI) – 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, Mapping Migration, Mapping Churches’ Responses, presented in Geneva on June 16. The report says that in order to enable faith communities to play such a role, national governments need to guarantee appropriate legislation with regard to migration and asylum issues, and on religious freedom.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,” the CCME’s 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 percent belonged to Christian churches, 30.9 percent were Muslims, and about 20.5 percent belonged to other religions.The report uses the United Nations’ definition of a migrant as someone who stays outside their usual country of residence for at least one year.”The debate in Church and society is often little informed by facts,” said the report’s co-author, Alessia Passarelli. She noted that in 2006 there had been 192,000 applications for asylum in the European Union compared to 670,000 in 1992.The report points out that the number of people seeking asylum has more than halved since 2001, although this masks variations between EU nations. In France there was a drop of more than 16,000 asylum applications from 2005 to 2006, but in Sweden an increase of 6,000.”We are facing a problem related to the perception of migration,” Ms. Passarelli said.The study is based on information from 47 European countries, including the 27 members of the European Union. It urges churches to lobby decision-making processes to promote a migration policy that respects human rights and non-discrimination.”Churches will also have to lobby and to monitor religious freedom; not only freedom for their own communities but also for the freedom of other creeds and faith communities,” the report states. “A balance must be found between the religious freedom of religious communities and the basic values and freedoms of all the residents and communities which the state must protect,” it adds.The study notes that migration and integration policies require a diversity of approaches which assist societies to adapt rather than putting the burden of the success or failure of integration, “solely on the shoulders of third country nationals.”

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