By Vatican News
Tensions on the border between Greece and Turkey are growing as thousands of mainly Syrian refugees attempt to cross into Europe.
On 9 March, the Catholic and Lutheran Bishops of Scandinavia issued a joint statement urging Europe’s leaders to act responsibly towards refugees fleeing from violence and conflict.
Europe’s legal and moral obligation
Seeking asylum is a human right, say the Bishops. They insist that European member States have both a legal and moral obligation to assist people escaping oppression and persecution.
The Bishops represent the Catholic and Lutheran Churches in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The Lutheran World Federation website describes their joint statement as “unprecedented”. “We will never succeed in keeping our own countries safe and secure”, reads the message, “if we fail to help solve the situations of conflict and oppression, climate crisis and poverty that force people to flee”.
Taking joint responsibility
While acknowledging that “borders cannot simply be opened” and that unchecked immigration is not a solution, the Bishops insist that “we are jointly responsible for ensuring that life can be lived in those countries currently beset by war and poverty”.
The statement also decries a “breakdown of belief in the future, a loss of universal values and human dignity, and short-sighted politics on all sides”.
During this season of Lent, they write, “our physical and mental boundaries are being tested by the spread of the new coronavirus and the developing refugee situation on the external borders of Europe”. According to the Bishops, common to both challenges is the need for personal and shared responsibility “irrespective of political positions”.
Burdens should be shared and shouldered jointly, the Bishops conclude. Because, “if we fail, we lose our humanity”.