D009 Christian Principles for Responding to Human Migration

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church recognize that human migration has always been part of the human condition, and that human migration will continue in future, and will likely increase due to the effects of climate change on human habitat, remembering the call in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to welcome the stranger: “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19) and “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me; …. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 35, 40); and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention set forth these principles to guide our church’s response to human migration in the future:

  1. We recognize the complexity of developing just immigration policies in any country, and we acknowledge the legitimate need to protect borders and address security threats to sovereign nations;
  2. We commit the church to learning and engaging migration issues as part of the Jesus Movement, uplifting the voices and leadership of migrants themselves in this process;
  3. We will endeavor to learn and address root causes of migration and develop just solutions with Anglican/Episcopal, ecumenical, and interfaith partners;
  4. We acknowledge the connection between U.S. policies, and the policies of other powerful and wealthy states, and the root causes of migration, including climate change, armed conflict, and disruption of local economies through global trade policies;
  5. We insist that the United States of America and other powerful, wealthy nations, and all nations to the best of their ability, contribute to resettlement and establishing and maintaining safe and orderly humanitarian protection for refugees, internally displaced persons, and other migrants seeking long-term solutions and safety, demanding that our governments uphold their international legal obligations and maintain a focus on ensuring humanitarian protections for refugees and protections for the rights and dignity of all migrants, including the basic principle of keeping families together;
  6. We insist that all our governments strive to create conditions both at home and abroad where people are not forced to migrate due to economic conditions, persecution, and violence; but that when people are forced to migrate, our governments address these root causes holistically, without racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice;
  7. We insist that our governments not return migrants and refugees to unsafe conditions in their home countries or other countries;
  8. We recognize the links between migrants in vulnerable transit situations and human trafficking and other dangers, and will seek to establish and maintain robust, safe, and orderly routes for refugees to be resettled, contributing our own treasure and time to this project;
  9. We recognize that displacement due to climate change is likely to increase, and that while climate change refugees may not meet the currently recognized definition of refugee status, we insist that that our governments and the international community must commit to development of long-term protection solutions for persons displaced by climate change; and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention recognize the process underway at the United Nations to establish a Global Compact on Refugees,[i] and a Global Compact on Migration, processes that have included participation of the TEC Representative to the UN and recommendations from the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI);[ii] and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention urge the Presiding Bishop to ensure continued representation of him and The Episcopal Church in United Nations and other multinational consultations with faith communities on refugee and migrant issues, alongside the Anglican Communion Office, Lutheran World Service, and other partners in responding to the global refugee crisis, and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention encourage all congregations and dioceses to learn about the intricacies of migration and become engaged in aiding migrants to the best of their ability.

Explanation

Our news sources continue to fill us with stories of people being forced to migrate from war, civil strife, discrimination, climate change – to seek refuge simply to survive. Others feel forced to migrate due to little or no economic opportunity to provide basic needs for their families – to seek a better life. With the exception of natural disasters, all of these are a result of policy – political, economic, social/cultural – laws written and social attitudes. This is a humanitarian and human rights crisis that shows no signs of letting up; indeed, too often of increasing – again, due to policy.
Countries continue to be overwhelmed by the number of refugees washing up on their shores and traversing their borders. They are struggling to cope with the refugees, which increases the reaction to them. In the past year alone, immigration and reception of refugees and migrants has become more difficult in many receiving countries, in the USA and in many European countries. The challenges of resettlement and integration, real or perceived, have raised a sentiment against migrants and for national “purity,” leading to harsher policy toward migrants. Following the 2016 UN New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the international community are working on a Global Compact for refugees and a Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, to be adopted later this year.
As Christians, we are called to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, care for the poor. We are concerned with ensuring policies that benefit the common good, including that of migrants in our midst. Policies in one country, coupled with globalization and effects of development and climate change raise economic, political, and cultural concerns far beyond the borders of that country. These are concerns of all faith organizations and inter-faith relations.
Those who work with refugees and migrants, are increasingly aware of the importance of faith-sensitivity, respecting the faith of refugees and migrants and providing spiritual support and understanding in their traumatic situations. International organizations, including the UNHCR, and NGOs recognize the very real role faith-based organizations play at local and national levels in providing planning and delivery of protection and more broadly in areas of conflict prevention, reconciliation, and peacebuilding. They are all the more effective when working in concert with other FBOs and more secular organizations, whether locally or having their voice heard in international fora, including the United Nations and related organizations.
As we seek to respect the dignity of all human kind, The Episcopal Church is called to not only welcome the stranger, but to grapple with the implications of our own actions and policies, the actions and policies of our governments on the well-being of all our peoples, to challenge them where necessary, to support them where we can, and to be engaged in the work, as parishes and dioceses, through the work of Episcopal Migration Ministries, collaborating with other faith-based organizations, NGOs and international agencies wherever we can at all levels, be it toward establishing global policy or direct assistance in a given location.

[i] See the UNHCR website for information on the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the global compact on refugees and the global compact on migration: http://www.unhcr.org/towards-a-global-compact-on-refugees.html

[ii] The Board of JLI includes representatives from ERD and the Anglican Website. See their website: https://jliflc.com/ Their recommendations can be found at: http://www.unhcr.org/afr/events/conferences/5afc2dcd7/joint-recommendations-role-local-faith-communities-refugee-response.html