Protection of uprooted people is integral to religions
The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary welcomed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Dialogue on Protection Challenges with the theme of “Faith and Protection”, which was held December 12-13 at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
The event was part of the UNHCR’s efforts to bring faith-based organisations (FBOs) together to highlight the role of local and international religious communities in protecting uprooted people such as refugees, stateless people and internally displaced people (IDPs).
Representatives of a wide range of religious traditions and different faiths were present. Among the Christian participants were a number of WCC member churches and ecumenical partners, along with non-governmental and international organisations.
The WCC general secretary, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, contributed to the dialogue by expressing his appreciation to the UNHCR for the initiative saying it would prove mutually beneficial to all involved. He added that those participating in the dialogue needed it as a springboard to mobilise more efforts for the benefit and dignity of uprooted people.
To ignore religion when addressing the reality and challenges of uprooted people would mean to miss the effectiveness of and need for mobilising all existing resources for a holistic response, Tveit said.
“Churches can inspire states so that they see the potential of sharing responses with FBOs and pursue these dialogues at a national level,” said Tveit.
“Hospitality and protection is central to the Christian values,” he said. “Jesus has taught us not to define limits to the definition of who is my neighbour, but to ask how we prove ourselves to be a neighbour of those who need us, and to protect the rights of human beings, both men and women, as they are created in the image of God.”
“From the earliest recorded history, Christians welcomed strangers. Europe is dotted with monasteries and churches which offered hospitality to strangers. Christians in all parts of the world are in the forefront of helping uprooted people”, Tveit said.
“Church-based organisations have also developed a high level of professionalism in this field, such as the members of the ACT Alliance. We share these values with the UNHCR, and look forward to further partnership,” he added.
The discussions explored how religious communities can better engage with humanitarian agencies to improve the protection of forcibly displaced people.
“There are two areas where FBOs and the UNHCR can particularly collaborate: IDPs and stateless people, particularly those who have not crossed any international border. And when a crisis breaks out these groups turn to FBOs who are already present within the borders of the state,” Tveit noted.