The history of Methodism in continental Europe is strongly linked to the great transatlantic migration several generations ago. In our history, we count people fleeing from poverty and conflicts, people with wounds on soul and body after fighting as ethnic and religious minorities. We count people who know what it means to cross cultural boundaries and who have the knowledge of integration and fellow citizenship, both as the newcomer and as the one who can welcome another human being.
Once again, migration is a challenge for the European nations. The recent migration is a result of war in Syria and its neighbouring countries and conflicts in other areas of Africa and Asia. Several of the areas from where people flee are areas where European nations are militarily involved. Poverty and bad living conditions in the homeland are other reasons why people flee from life-threatening situations.
Most refugees and migrants are refugees and migrants in their own country or in neighbouring countries (Internally Displaced Persons). Only a small portion of the total number of refugees and migrants are so desperate that they cross several boarders and find their ways to European countries. However, the numbers are large enough to challenge the European people. We have seen how governments and politicians in most European countries are more focused on limiting the number of refugees or even on finding the best way to return the newcomers, instead of focusing on a way to help as many as possible. The European countries and the upcoming extreme political voices have been passionate advocates for strong protection of our own welfare and fortune by building high boundaries against newcomers. Furthermore, they disrespect laws about human rights and residency and build up inhuman systems of not taking care of the newcomers.
The United Methodist Churches in Northern, Baltic and Eurasian countries do not agree with the hostile policy against refugees and migrants who come to your countries. We find this policy non compatible with the judgment of Christ Jesus of the Nations when he says: “I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me.” And all recent political decisions of self-protection and explanations of not doing what we have resources to do echo the question of bad excuses: “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” In our appeal against the hostile attitude of both politicians and groups of people in our countries we lift up the judgement of Christ Jesus when he ends his appeal to us: “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
Instead of focusing the challenges for the European countries on coping with the numbers of newcomers in our countries and the challenge of integration, we will focus on the positive opportunities to build up multi-cultural societies, citizen- and fellowship within our countries. We should do as the Bible constantly empowers us to do and open our doors to strangers: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Especially our attention is to people of culture, ethnicity and religion different from us.
The Central Conference of the United Methodist Church in Northern and Baltic Europe and in Eurasia, gathered in Fredrikstad, Norway, October 19-23, 2016, have discussed and shared information about the current situation of migration in Europe. We are concerned about the human crises for the thousands of people fleeing from their homes and roots. It is like the punishment of Cain, who was driven from his home in fear: “I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.”
The Central Conference appeal to our churches in the European Countries:
- to speak against the hostile policy with regard to refugees and migration in our countries, to be an advocate for the refugees and migrants in our countries and help them to integrate and participate in the social life,
- to empower the local churches to open the doors for newcomers in the neighbourhood of the church and establish a kind of activities that make the Methodist church a local meeeting place for newcomers and newcomers and native people,
- to empower our children and youth work to invite newcomers in the neighbourhood of the church to participate in activities free of charge, to commit the local Methodist churches to have at least one annual worship service dealing with the migration theme,
- to help the local Methodist churches to see that the situation of migration probably will be a permanent order of the world caused by the many conflicts and terror actions in the world, and caused by the breakdown of the balance of nature in the shadow of increasing climate changes.
- to help the local Methodist churches to see the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic congregation as a fortune and possibility and not as a burden or limitation.
Approved by the Central Conference 2016