The Evangelical and Catholic Churches in the German city of Cologne have called on EU authorities to resume refugee rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

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Evangelical and Catholic deans Bernhard Seiger and Monsignor Robert Kleine made the call in a joint statement December 17 ahead of International Migrants Day December 18.

In addition to the plea, Seiger and Kleine hung large banners in memory of drowned migrants and refugees on two of Cologne’s landmark churches, those of St. Agnes and the Lutherkirche.

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In the name of the Cologne Evangelical and Catholic Churches, Seiger and Kleine expressed their support for civil and Church organisations committed to the “huge task” of the sea rescue of refugees.

They also pushed politicians to establish safe humanitarian corridors and dignified protection policies for migrants to Germany, and to combat any hint in society of agitation or fear towards new arrivals.

“It is important to counter prevailing fears, prejudices, but above all racist and nationalist tendencies and dangers”, Seiger and Kleine expressed.

Being a Christian means standing up for human dignity and freedom, the two pastors continued.

“For us in the city of Cologne, this means being attentive and sensitive to the needs of the people who come to us”, Seiger and Kleine stressed.

The Christian mandate to love one’s neighbour is tested by the refugee tragedy in the Mediterranean, the two Church leaders warned, adding that the figure of the tens of thousands who have drowned in the sea trying to reach Europe leaves them “dumbfounded”.

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Kleine also denounced the contrast between Western luxury and the harsh conditions in many refugee camps.

That was in much the same vein as Pope Francis would later do December 19 unveiling a “crucified” life jacket hung in the Vatican, when he denounced detention centres in Libya as “places of torture and ignoble slavery”.

Catholic dean Kleine also criticised the tendency to criminalise and devalue the life of new arrivals from across the Mediterranean, and the prejudice that assumes refugees are more likely to commit crimes in their host countries.

That bigotry “is intolerable”, Kleine denounced.

“As churches, we have to do everything we can to counter such racist and nationalistic tendencies”.

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