Novi Sad, Serbia, 2018. Photo: CEC/Albin Hillert
Press Release No: 18/28
28 August 2018
The 2018 Novi Sad General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches recommended to CEC Member Churches six areas for concern: economic and climate justice, security, arms and nonviolence, refugees and migration, human rights, populism, and the family.
Economic and Climate Justice
Today, it is the poorest who suffer the most to adapt to climate change and ecological devastation. It is unjust that those who have contributed the least to climate change suffer the most. Jesus teaches that we must care for the least of these, and so we must confront profound economic and climate injustice through advocacy and action. Churches are called to use the international Sustainable Development Goals in their efforts in ecological and economic justice, support grassroots efforts, work for intergenerational justice, and continue advocacy efforts at the European level.
Security, Arms, and Non-Violence
Recent developments at European and global levels risks the European Union’s role as an instrument of peacebuilding and reconciliation. Arms development, production, and export is a major contributor to the outbreak and continuation of armed conflict and war, and forced migration. Churches are called to strengthen their voices against the militarisation of the EU, advance a Christian perspective on security, advocated against any further development of nuclear weapons, and explore the theological dimensions of security, arms, and non-violence.
Refugees and Migration
The mass movement and displacement of people touches all CEC Member Churches and peoples in Europe today. Economic conditions, climate change, youth unemployment, and so on, prompt many people to leave their homes in search of better lives elsewhere. Churches are called to advocate for safe and legal access to Europe, as well as fair and just asylum procedures, and humane return policies. Churches are also encouraged to speak out against the criminalization of solidarity with undocumented migrants and support humanitarian initiatives for search and rescue at sea.
Building a Europe for all is an important task for European churches. Diversity and plurality in Europe is a richness, and churches and religious communities are an important part of this. Existing European frameworks favour extended freedom of religion or belief, and the 2001 Charta Oecumenica encourages dialogue between minority and majority churches. Churches are called to support each other in working for freedom of religion or belief, including access to holy places and places of worship, and in strengthening universality of human rights, such as civil political, social, economic and cultural rights.
The situation in Kosovo* is particularly complex. The significant factors include control of arms trade, EU’s support to protection of cultural heritage, engagement of UN forces in preventing conflict and opening of a political dialogue between the Albanian authorities in Kosovo and the representatives of persecuted Serbian Orthodox minority.
European Churches are supporting the Serbian Orthodox Church and other religious communities in Kosovo, northern part of Cyprus (area not under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus) and elsewhere in their fight for full implementation of fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion or belief.
Today, populist parties are on the rise, and take advantage of democratic processes to gain power and recognition. Decline in living standards and rising unemployment rates, especially among young people, undoubtable goes in favour of strengthening extreme nationalism and increasing populism. Exclusionary politics shrinks public discourse—a serious problem for European societies. Churches are called to be a uniting force in their local communities, build bridges with other partners with common values and commitments, and continually work for greater youth engagement.
A Christian family should be a shelter where one learns to love, to support, to care about the other, to offer hospitality and be attentive to sufferings. This path for justice and love can begin in the home and expand outward, reaching entire communities. Growing circles of nurture draw on the gifts and love of others and draw them into what we call family. We must not underestimate the importance of this understanding of family for the fate of our societies. It is, therefore, unacceptable that this right is undermined or violated for so many, especially asylum seekers, refugees, and minors who arrive to Europe unaccompanied. Member Churches are called to start a dialogue on the condition and attitudes toward family life, including gender justice, and how this impacts life in Europe today.
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