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‘Migrant crisis challenges Christian unity’, says bishop

Article published on Vatican Radio

The migrant crisis has undermined harmony within churches in Europe, a Catholic bishop has told a high-level EU summit.

Auxiliary Bishop of Malines-Bruxelles Jean Kockerols told the meeting of European Commissioners and religious leaders that a common solution the refugee crisis “is a question that touches directly upon the values and the future of Europe”.

Bishop Kockerols, also the Vice-President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), said: “This crisis has undermined unity in Europe, and, admittedly, also within the churches in Europe. The migration crisis is challenging Christian communities to position themselves, as citizens and also as believers.“It is our duty to recall that every refugee has the right to receive a fair and human treatment.”

The event was hosted by the European Commission and involved 15 representatives from the major religions of the continent. Issues discussed included the challenges posed by populism and intolerance, as well as the vital role of education in improving social cohesion.

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “With the rise of nationalism, xenophobia and extremism, we must ensure that our society remains welcoming – especially to those fleeing from war and in need of international protection – while preserving its core values and principles.”

Speaking from the experience of Nordic countries, COMECE Vice-President Mgr Czeslaw Kozon regarded family reunification in the context of migration as a key issue “as everybody has a right to found a family and all members of such a family the right to live together”. The Bishop of Copenhagen also insisted that respect for freedom of religion is important when dealing with the integration of refugees and migrants into societies.

The 12th annual meeting of its kind place took place within a framework of an ongoing dialogue by the European Union with churches, religious, philosophical and non-confessional organisations.

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