By Francesca Merlo
In a joint statement released by the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC), the two bodies express their shock in receiving reports from Afghanistan "manifesting [the] suffering and helplessness of the Afghan population, undeniably demonstrating their distress and existential fears".
The need to evacuate
Signed by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, President of COMECE, and Reverend Christian Krieger, President of CEC, the statement expresses "particular concern" for those who still require evacuation, as well as for members of vulnerable groups, who remain at great risk of losing opportunities and facing potential mistreatment. At the same time, continues the statement, the two bodies express their thanks and "immense gratitude" to all who have been engaged in the evacuation and humanitarian efforts despite precarious security conditions. "We wish to express our deep solidarity with the suffering people of Afghanistan, in particular with women, girls, children, and people with disabilities, among other vulnerable persons".
A call for peace
COMECE and CEC write that they are appealing to "all parties to ceaselessly work for peace through dialogue and respect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights of all". They go on to extend their appeal to the international community to protect persons who are targets of oppression and whose lives are at risk, "such as civil society actors, human rights defenders, journalists, artists and members of ethnic and sexual minorities, as well as Christians and other religious communities". The two presidents then add their call for increased protection of all evacuating personnel and those involved in humanitarian organisations, and urge the European Union to increase humanitarian assistance in the country.
Solidarity in welcoming Afghans
The statement goes on to note that there may be a considerable influx of Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries and beyond. "In this crisis, we urge the European Union and its Members States to lead common and coordinated solidarity efforts carried out by the international community to assist Afghans escaping violence and terror", reads the statement. It is time, the two Presidents write, "to show humanity in the middle of the cruelty faced by Afghans, to prove that EU values are not an empty rhetoric but are practical guiding principles that lead to actions based on ethical standards, beyond mere political or economic considerations". Afghan refugees must not be confused with economic migrants, they added.
Decisions regarding stay
The decisions related to the migrants' stay "should be made with discernment by the European Union and its Member States, implementing the core foundational values of the EU, upholding their commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Convention", urged the statement.
A prayer for our Afghan brothers and sisters
Bringing the statement to a close, Cardinal Hollerich and Reverend Krieger stressed, "Our churches wish to invite all faithful to pray to our Lord, who Himself endured abandonment and suffering, for our Afghan sisters and brothers, so that their country may find stability and peace in accordance with the respect for the human dignity of all. While condemning terrorism in all its forms and expressions, we remember in our prayers the victims of the recent terror attacks and their families".