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Faith leaders promote protection of displaced people

July 29, 2013

GENEVA

Along with other faith-based groups, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has helped develop a declaration, launched by the United Nations Refugee Agency, which aims to strengthen protection for the world’s refugees as well as internally displaced and stateless people, who account for more than 40 million people in the world.

“A core value of my faith is to welcome the stranger, the refugee, the internally displaced, the other. I shall treat him or her as I would like to be treated. I will challenge others, even leaders in my faith community, to do the same,” reads the declaration.

Based on common values of welcome found in all religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, the declaration is titled Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmation for Faith Leaders. It was launched here on June 12.

The declaration was recommended last year in a Geneva meeting called by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The meeting engaged faith leaders, faith-based humanitarian organizations and government representatives in addressing the theme “Faith and Protection.”

Organizations that developed the declaration along with the WCC include the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Jesuit Refugee Service, the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies, the University of Vienna Faculty of Roman Catholic Theology, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Evangelical Alliance and World Vision International.

Sydia Nduna, WCC program executive for migration and social justice, said, “The WCC has always been committed to the cause of the refugees, uprooted people and migrant workers, playing an important role in shaping some of the key U.N. declarations in the past decades.”

She added that “sacredness of all human life and the sanctity of creation” are central to Christian beliefs. This affirmation, she said, calls faith leaders to create inclusive communities that welcome people regardless of their age, abilities, ethnicity, gender, class, caste, nationality or race.

“Our Christian faith compels us to ensure that human life, physical security and personal safety are upheld in the law and institutions,” said Nduna.

The WCC’s Migration and Social Justice project of the Just and Inclusive Communities program will release a theological statement titled The Other is my Neighbor: Developing an Ecumenical Response to Migration. This statement is to be released at the 4th International Consultation of Churches with Migrants in New York in October, an event organized in conjunction with the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development.

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