German Churches have criticised EU migration and refugee policy, calling it, in its extremes, “incompatible with human dignity”.

– “The EU surrounds itself with new walls and fences and sets up camps on its external borders”

On Monday in Bonn, the chairmen of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the German Orthodox Bishops’ Conference released a statement for the 45th Intercultural Week, to be held from September 27 to October 4 with the theme “Live together, grow together”.

In their message, Catholic bishop Georg Bätzing, Lutheran bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm and Orthodox bishop Metropolitan Augustinos recalled that the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 “for its contribution to the promotion of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”.

“Today, however, [the EU] surrounds itself with new walls and fences and sets up camps on its external borders. The conditions there are incompatible with respect for human dignity”, the German Christian leaders decried.

To restore decency to EU migration and refugee policy, the Church leaders encouraged politicians and the rest of society to pattern themselves after Christ, who “sought the way to the despised, to the poorest of the poor, to those on the margins of society, to the sick, the persecuted, to those whom no one wants to see any more, those who are removed from public life”.

All are invited to follow Christ’s example, the bishops stated, even if it is not easy “to go to these places and look closely” and even if “it challenges us to let people’s suffering, misery and shame reach us”.

– Willingness to change for the sake of coexistence

In their message, Bishops Bätzing, Bedford-Strohm and Augustinos also had a word on the importance of multicultural and interreligious coexistence, which they said involves a commitment “to bring different interests into dialogue on the common basis of democratic values and to negotiate again and again how we want to live”.

“This requires a willingness to tolerate diversity so that participation can be constructed”, the bishops insisted.

Even if Christianity has historically been the dominant worldview in Germany, in a multicultural society “we ourselves have to become different and new and we shouldn’t just expect this from others”, the Christian leaders underlined.

They stressed that “if God entrusts and instructs us to do so, then He also gives us the strength to do it”.

– The importance of sending “a strong signal of community” in the time of the coronavirus

With those encouraging words, the German bishops energised the organisers of Intercultural Week activities, even if they acknowledged that the scale of the Week – with some 5,000 events in more than 500 locations in past years – might be affected this year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nonetheless, if nothing else the virus crisis has shown how vital solidarity in society is, the Church leaders insisted.

“We would like to encourage a creative search for possibilities and formats in which our motto ‘Live together, grow together’ can be implemented”, Bätzing, Bedford-Strohm and Augustinos urged, adding that with such inventiveness and resourcefulness, the Intercultural Week could “send a strong signal of community, especially in difficult times”.

More stories on Novena on migration policy in Europe:

German priest says “modern slavery” to blame for COVID-19 outbreaks in slaughterhouses

Church, civil society actors denounce EU states using COVID-19 as “pretext” to suspend migration rights

EU Bishops cry: “The pandemic is no excuse to let human beings drown in the Mediterranean”

“Human dignity is not in quarantine”: EU Bishops urge states to “generosity” in migration crisis

German Church groups urge government not to suspend migration admissions during COVID-19

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.