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Forum: migrant Christian communities transforming traditional churches

October 21, 2011

Geneva

An increase in world migration has spurred the growth of new dynamic Christian communities in many countries, but the trend also poses many challenges for older churches, said religious leaders.

In several European cities for example, “traditional mainline churches are struggling with their future, whereas migrant churches are flourishing and growing to the extent that their problem is how to find proper places for worship,” noted the Rev. Hielke Wolters, associated general secretary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC).

Wolters spoke as members of diverse migrant Christian communities attended a forum late last month hosted by the WCC entitled, “Migration and Ecclesiastical Landscapes: An Ecumenical Response to Migration.”

Wolters said the work of the council includes diaconal assistance, especially for refugees in situations of conflict or natural disasters, and theological reflections on the situation of migrants and refugees and the responsibility of churches. He posed the question of whether churches can become “witnessing examples of just and inclusive communities in this world.”

The Rev. Filibus Musa, director for mission and development at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), said that in Europe, like elsewhere, the challenges of migration relate to multicultural issues, questions of identity, human rights and dignity and integration of migrants into both faith communities and wider society.

For the churches, he emphasized, there is the question of hospitality, learning and enrichment between the migrant churches and the host communities, which would positively change the outlook of the Christian church. “Of great importance is the church’s mission and diaconal response to this challenge,” he said.

How churches open up to immigrants in any context, to hear their voices, in order for the Gospel to be communicated and lived out in ways that are credible and transforming in the life of all people and communities, is critical, Musa said.

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