Migration, Integration, and European Values: High–level meeting with religious leaders at European Commission
Today senior Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and Mormon leaders gathered for the 12th annual high–level meeting at the European Commission. Held at the invitation of European Commission First Vice–President Frans Timmermans, this gathering focused on “Migration, Integration, and European Values: Putting values into action.”
Participants discussed a range of concerns relating to the global crises resulting in widespread migration to Europe, including the emergence of increasingly divisive public discourse about refugees, hospitality as an expression of faith, and how to best help newcomers make a positive contribution in society. Several speakers discussed the historical religious makeup of Europe, including the longstanding presence of Islam on the continent. The work of the 24 October CEC–COMECE–CCME dialogue seminar with the European Commission fed into preparations for this high–level meeting.
On the topic of this gathering Timmermans noted with appreciation the “intensive debate on the challenges we face in trying to make a success of the integrations of newcomers to European society.” He noted that “migration will be an element of our present and our future” and encouraged the religious leaders in their work in sharing values, respecting differences and fostering mutual understanding without looking for assimilation.
Ján Figeľ, European Commission special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union highlighted the importance of the Middle East as a meeting place for three major world religions, “If there is peace we feel it, if there is genocide or war we all feel it.”
At a press conference following the event, representatives from the churches in Europe urged all to avoid the simplification of complex situations and to cultivate a welcoming culture for refugees following examples from Christian scripture and tradition. In light of the coming of Christmas and celebration of the Word made Flesh, they stressed that it is impossible to worship God without love of neighbour.
High–level meetings and working level discussions are held regularly between the European Commission and churches and religious associations and communities as well as philosophical and non–confessional organisations. Since 2009 the dialogue with churches, religions, philosophical and non–confessional organisations is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.
- His Excellency Metropolitan ATHENAGORAS of Belgium, Exarch of the Netherlands and Luxemburg
- His Excellency Heinrich BEDFORD–STROHM, Bishop of Bavaria and Chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD)
- Imam Hassen CHALGHOUMI, Imam of Drancy (France) and former President of the Conference of Imams of France
- His Excellency Arie FOLGER, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Vienna
- His Excellency Albert GUIGUI, Chief Rabbi of Brussels and Permanent Representative to the EU Conference of European Rabbis
- Imam Benjamin IDRIZ, Director of the Islamic Community in Penzberg
- H.E. The Right Reverend Bishop Robert INNES, Anglican Bishop in Europe
- Her Excellency Antje JACKELÉN, Archbishop of the Church of Sweden
- Elder Patrick KEARON, President of the Europe Area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints
- His Excellency Jean KOCKEROLS, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Malines–Brussels and First Vice–President of COMECE
- His Excellency Bishop Czeslaw KOZON, President of the Nordic Bishops’ Conference
- Imam Yahya PALLAVICINI, President of the “Comunità religiosa Islamica” in Italy
- His Excellency POLYCARPUS, Metropolitan and Patriarchal Vicar of the Netherlands, Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
- His Beatitude RASTISLAV, Archbishop of Prešov and Primate of the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church
- Ms Lakshmi VYAS, President of the Hindu Forum of Europe
The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 114 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 national council of churches and organisations in partnership. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Brussels and Strasbourg.