The German Churches have christened their ship for refugee rescue in the Mediterranean, justifying their actions by saying that “when people drown, we have to help”.
– “Sea-Watch 4” christened in Kiel
Two and a half months after the first call for donations, the Evangelical Churches’ “lifeboat” was christened February 20 in Kiel by Aminata Toure, Greens’ deputy speaker of Schleswig-Holstein’s state parliament, as Domradio reports.
The vessel, formerly known as the “Poseidon”, was given the name “Sea Watch 4”, in honour of the NGO dedicated to search and rescue in the Mediterranean that will operate the boat on behalf of the Churches.
– Evangelical Church head: a necessary initiative given the inaction of Europe
Blessing the former research vessel – acquired in early February by the Evangelical Churches-backed “United 4 Rescue” alliance – Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich-Bedford Strohm, recalled that “the ship has to be on the move because the countries of Europe do not intend and are unable to save people in the Mediterranean”.
For his part, Sea-Watch chairman Johannes Bayer said “we are incredibly happy to be able to improve coverage in the Mediterranean with this ship”, which Bayer added will patrol waters north of Libya and will be able to accommodate up to 300 people.
The Sea-Watch 4 is due to leave for Spain in a few days, where it will be inspected and serviced and fitted out with sleeping, medical and kitchen facilities.
Bayer said he expected the total cost for the refurbishment to be around 500,000 euros, on top of the 1.5 million euros for which the United 4 Rescue alliance purchased the vessel from the state government of Schleswig-Holstein.
The first rescue mission could then take place as early as April, Bayer said.
– “A lot to do with the Christian faith”
Speaking on Bavarian radio after the new vessel’s christening, Bedford-Strohm celebrated the fact that the ship may be able to sail by Easter.
“Perhaps that’s a good symbol, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ… and then travel the Mediterranean”, the Lutheran bishop proclaimed.
“It is an unusual action”, Bedford-Strohm added about the Churches’ decision to float the refugee rescue vessel.
“But I do believe that it also has a lot to do with the Christian faith”, he observed, pointing to the double commandment of loving God and loving one’s neighbour.
“And when people are in mortal danger, when people drown, then we have to help, that’s actually a basic intention that almost all people have”, Bedford-Strohm said, calling also for a new refugee distribution mechanism among the European governments that three cardinals also appealed for this week.
– Catholic benefactors too
Among the benefactors of the German Churches’ United 4 Rescue alliance is Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, who made available 50,000 euros from his Munich-Freising diocesan funds for the initiative, even though the Catholic Church is not a formal member of the alliance.
The Swiss Bishops also made a donation of 10,000 francs to United 4 Rescue, “with great concern”, they said, at the thousands of lives put in danger and lost altogether in the Mediterranean Sea.
In addition to the 400 Protestant and civil organisations and initiatives behind the refugee rescue alliance, Catholic associations such as the Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ) in Bavaria have also donated money to the project.