It is now well-known that the world is witnessing unprecedented levels of people on the move. Some are economic migrants, others refugees and asylum seekers, more still are internally displaced people – forced from their homes but remaining within their home country.
According to the most recent data, 2017 saw
As Anglicans, we are called in our Marks of Mission to “respond to human need by loving service” and to “transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation.”
Meeting the immediate needs of those who have been displaced, and doing what we can to build better structures to help all people flourish, is at the heart of our mission. Here’s what the Archbishop of Central Africa, Albert Chama said about this in the context of the refugee and migration crisis:
“The global tragedy of the forced displacement of millions of people is now a crisis that calls us to work together in new and creative ways in response to such suffering and disruption. The trauma experienced by the world’s 60 million refugees speaks to our common humanity, and pleads with us to take action as we reach out to respond to their suffering. However, people are not only fleeing conflict and violence, but also moving around the world to escape from poverty or the effects of climate change. People search to find places where they can work and feed their families, to find better opportunities or freedom to live in peace and safety, whoever they are. All this demands a much more intentional and robust collective response in which the churches and other faith communities are more than ready to take their place.”
Working in partnership is the best way to achieve sustainable and positive change. One way we demonstrate this partnership is through our commitment to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) Welcoming the Stranger initiative, which includes a set of affirmations signed by global religious leaders. The affirmations aim to inspire leaders of all faiths to ‘Welcome the Stranger’ with dignity, respect and loving support and are a resource and a practical tool to foster support for refugees and other displaced people in their communities. The affirmations were signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2013.
More recently, the Anglican Communion Office at the UN has actively supported the Share the Journey campaign, which was launched by Pope Francis in 2017 to encourage a “culture of encounter” between host communities, refugees and migrants – breaking down walls of fear and suspicion, in favour of building relationships and partnerships. In June 2018, the Anglican Communion Office joined a coalition of faith-based organisations to sponsor an event at the Human Rights Council promoting the campaign and calling on governments to uphold the dignity and rights of all migrants and refugees.
We also highlight and support the work of Anglican provinces, dioceses and agencies on the ground. Churches and other faith communities are on the front line of many displacement situations – whether in identifying early warning signs of potential displacement, meeting the physical and spiritual needs of displaced populations, or dealing with their own displacement, within countries and across borders. We share information about this work with governments, UN agencies and other partners, to help make this work more collaborative and successful.
The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was unanimously adopted in September 2016. The document committed all 193 UN Member States to sharing the responsibility in protecting the rights of refugees and migrants around the world, at the same time as working together to ease the pressure on countries hosting refugees, seek durable solutions to the causes of population movements and displacement, and put in place processes and structures to help support refugees and migrants more effectively and predictably.
Anglicans were represented as the Declaration was developed and agreed - Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama, wrote an open letter to the then UN Secretary General, calling on countries to make strong commitments to support refugees and migrants, and not forget the common humanity that we all share:
“As our church communities reach out in loving service to those who have lost everything and who often arrive profoundly traumatized, bearing both physical and psychological scars from their experiences, we know that these people, whom the world labels as refugees, asylum seekers or migrants are, like all the people of the earth, treasured human beings made in the image of God. They deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people on the move, but we know that each of them is not only another number in a huge statistic but also an individual who brings a unique story of displacement, a unique potential to flourish and a unique ability to contribute to the common good.”
Present at the signing of the New York Declaration were the Church of England’s Suffragan Bishop in Europe, David Hamid; and the Province of South East Asia’s Lay Canon Andrew Khoo, from the Diocese of West Malaysia, who is a senior human rights lawyer and co-chair of the Human Rights Committee of the Malaysian Bar Council.
Since 2016, UN Member States, UN agencies and other stakeholders – including civil society and faith-based organisations – have been involved in negotiating two ‘Global Compacts’: the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) will set out “practical measures that can be taken by a wide range of stakeholders to enhance international cooperation in response to large movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations, and to ensure a more equitable and predictable sharing of the burden and responsibility for providing protection to refugees."
The Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) is an attempt to bring states together for the first time to agree a global governance system for migration, and in doing so “address the challenges associated with today’s migration, and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.”
Both of these documents are due to be finalised in July 2018, and will be agreed by member states at two meetings – the GCR in New York at the UN General Assembly in September and the GCM in Marrakesh, Morocco, at the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in December.
You can learn more about the two compacts and how the Anglican Communion Office at the UN has been involved by reading some of our latest resources:
Once the Global Compacts are signed by member states later this year, the hard work of implementation begins. Whilst much of what is in the Compacts is already been done - with the documents acting as way to make this work more structured – implementation will require significant support and resourcing for the aims of the Compacts to be achieved. ACOUN will be working directly with key provinces and dioceses to ensure that they are aware of the implications of the Compacts, developing resources, training and workshops to support the amazing work already taking place around the Communion to meet the needs of refugees, migrants, the internally displaced and asylum seekers.
If you are interested in learning more about what the Global Compacts mean for your province, diocese, agency or church, you can get in touch with ACOUN. Contact details are on the home page.