Churches should support the marginalised

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest agrees  a statement on the financial and economic crisis calling for churches to remain on the side of the marginalised.

Delegates from the 115 Member Churches of CEC observed that the global financial crisis has left thousands of people in despair and that the gaps between rich and poor are widening in the majority of European societies.

The Churches in Europe have already sought to address issues of economic globalization by encouraging their members to consider their personal consumption of water, energy and scarce resources as well as seeking fair and just production conditions and prices for commodities.

In particular, concerns have been raised about forced labour and human trafficking.  The Assembly encouraged churches with specialised programmes of social assistance, such as education and health services.

Churches were recognised as advocates for the well-being of all humanity, especially when relating to national governments and decision-makers, and have developed policies of inclusion as well as credible alternatives on issues of wealth, poverty and ecology.

The CEC Assembly issued a call to its member churches to remain at the side of the marginalised in society and to jointly move towards credible and durable alternatives.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest has agreed a statement on youth unemployment.

There has been a “radical increase” in the number of young people in despair, resulting in a rise in suicide among young people.

The CEC Assembly agreed that youth unemployment risked creating a lost generation.

The public issues statement draws particular attention to the reality that youth unemployment is disproportionately higher among black and minority ethnic communities.

The statement encouraged all churches to offer opportunities to young people seeking employment, including offering hope.  The statement concluded with the words: “investing in the young generation we ensure long term growth in the future.  Churches should identify their role in overcoming the increasing youth poverty and promote social justice and solidarity.”

The Conference of European Churches calls for action against prejudice, discrimination and neglect with regard to Roma, Sinti and Travellers’ communities.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest agreed the call in a public issues statement on the Roma in Europe.

Noting that the 13th Assembly of CEC (meeting in Lyon in 2009) adopted a statement which expressed dismay and deep concern about the situation facing the Roma, Sinti and Travellers’ communities and the social exclusion of the largest ethnic minority in Europe, delegates at the 2013 Assembly acknowledged some of the good work which had been undertaken over the past four years by churches and the European Union.

They reiterated the call to churches to work for integration and against prejudice, discrimination and neglect.

The CEC Assembly also called on national governments to improve access to education, housing, employment and services for members of the Roma, Sinti, and Travellers’ communities.

CEC calls for dignity for undocumented migrants and a commemoration for lives lost by people struggling to reach Europe.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest agreed a statement on asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in a public issues statement.  Delegates affirmed the conviction that the dignity of every person has to be ensured, regardless of their immigration status.

The CEC Assembly underlined concerns about the EU Common European Asylum System which has led to a disproportionate distribution of refugees and asylum seekers.  During the debate, a representative from the Church of Greece underlined the importance of offering hospitality to all people, but expressed a plea for a fairer sharing of these responsibilities due to the severe financial difficulties that Greek society is facing at this time.

The tragedy of a high number of persons losing their lives trying to reach safety in Europe was deplored by the Assembly.  Delegates agreed to call on churches in Europe to commemorate people who had died in their attempt to reach Europe.  They also issued a call to national governments to increase sea rescue services for migrant boats.

The Assembly in addition offered its support to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands for its ‘collective complaint’ to the European Committee of Social Rights of the Council of Europe regarding the treatment of undocumented migrants in the Netherlands.

European Churches offer solidarity for all working for peace and human rights in the Mediterranean and Middle East Regions.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest has adopted a statement on the situation in the European neighbourhood, affecting church and societal life in the Middle East and North Africa.

Delegates agreed a public issues statement which expressed solidarity with brothers and sisters, Christians and Muslims, living in those countries involved in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.

The CEC Assembly appreciated the efforts for democracy and stability, as well as for building a society in which human rights are respected.

The Assembly called on member churches to build and strengthen bilateral partnerships with religious communities in the wider Mediterranean region, and to continue to pray for peace, stability and prosperity for all people.

The CEC Assembly expressed sincere and anxious concern about the situation in Syria.

In particular, it appealed to those who had kidnapped His Eminence Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo of the Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch and His Eminence Metropolitan Boulos Yazigi of Aleppo and Alexandretta of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch to immediately release them.

The statement said that “keeping them far from their people is a sin against humanity.”  The Assembly agreed to send a letter to His Beatitude Patriarch John X and to His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I, whose respective Metropolitans from Aleppo have been kidnapped.

A message of solidarity to the Churches in Syria was also agreed.

During the meeting of the Assembly (3-8 July), the situation in Egypt has become violent and chaotic.  The public issues statement expressed sympathy and solidarity with the citizens of Egypt.  The Assembly appealed for all to refrain from violence.  CEC member churches were invited to support efforts for peaceful reconciliation, and particularly to pray for the Coptic Church and for their efforts for Christian-Muslim co-operation.

The situation for migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe via the western Mediterranean was also highlighted in Assembly’s statement.  Many get stranded in Morocco, living in destitution.  Churches are among the few actors providing practical support.  The CEC Assembly calls on member churches to keep these people in their prayers, and to support all those involved in this important and difficult ministry.

European Churches Assembly expresses concern about electronic surveillance

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches meeting in Budapest has criticised surveillance which impinges human rights.  In a statement on public issues, the CEC Assembly acknowledged the new possibilities for spiritual freedom brought about by electronic media.  It noted that there was a tendency in several countries to limit freedom of expression through means of surveillance.

The long-standing concern of CEC for the protection of human rights was underlined, with strong concern expressed by delegates to safeguard freedom of expression, an obligatory prerequisite for religious freedom.

Churches express common desire to protect cultural heritage of Europe; calls to end violation of rights in Cyprus

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches adopted a public issues statement expressing that the religious and cultural heritage of Europe as being of paramount importance to European identity.  Delegates approved the statement which called for the protection of important religious sites.

Particular recognition was given to the positive steps taken by the Turkish authorities regarding religious freedom issues, especially for the Ecumenical Patriarchate (a member Church of CEC).

On-going concern was expressed about the violation of religious rights and the desecration of religious sites in the Turkish occupied areas of northern Cyprus, including issues around freedom to access sites, restoration of property and freedom of worship.

The Conference of European Churches calls for a fair trial for a leader of the Orthodox Church in FYROM, and his immediate release pending his trial, in accordance with the rule of law.

The 14th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches expressed its concern about the arrest and detention of Archbishop Jovan and noted that it is believed that his detention is a result of him exercising his fundamental right to religious freedom.

Delegates at the CEC Assembly affirmed the call by the World Council of Churches for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Religious Freedom and Belief, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights to urgently investigate this case, in particular whether the detention conditions are in line with standards set out by the Council of Europe.

The Government of FYROM and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski were urged to release Archbishop Jovan immediately, and to ensure that any trial is in accordance with the rule of law as FYROM is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The member churches of CEC were requested to join in prayer and solidarity with Archbishop Jovan by sending letters of protest to the appropriate authorities.

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