9/4/2015 3:00:00 PM
CHICAGO (ELCA) – The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is calling on the 3.8 million-member denomination to remain in "prayerful solidarity" as refugees and migrants from the Middle East in record numbers are fleeing war and poverty and seeking refuge in Europe.
As conflicts continue, especially in Syria and Iraq, individuals and families seeking safety and basic necessities are on the rise, according to Lutheran Disaster Response.
"At this time when we are witnessing the horrendous consequences of a refugee crisis in the Middle East that has overflowed into Europe, I call upon members of our congregations to be in prayerful solidarity," said ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton.
"Remembering that our Lord was once a refugee, we are called to welcome the stranger and recognize that protection, hospitality and respect for the stranger are deeply rooted in all major faith traditions. I urge our members to pray for and with these sisters and brothers in peril, and I call us to extend our hands in assistance. We pray also alongside our companion churches, other Lutheran World Federation member churches and ecumenical partners as they continue their compassionate response to those in need and pledge to continue our material support," said Eaton. "The words of St. Matthew call us: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me."
Through Lutheran Disaster Response, ELCA members are working to meet the basic humanitarian needs of refugees, upholding the rights of those fleeing war and crises.
Working with companion churches, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary and the Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession in Serbia, and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), ELCA members are working to provide food, diapers, blankets, water, health kits, hygiene kits and psychosocial services to assist people who have fled their homes. The LWF is a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States.
"One of our major challenges today is the increasing migration of people due to wars, civil strife and other forms of violence, as well as the lack of opportunities to sustain life," said the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director, ELCA Global Mission.
"The ELCA has been responding to this crisis by supporting programs for refugees, internally displaced people and migrants in Syria, Jordan, Serbia, the Northern Triangle in Central America, and along the U.S. border with Mexico. While this is important work that should and will continue, as well as most likely expand, we call on the governments in these regions to assume their moral and legal responsibilities to protect refugees as signatories to the Convention on Refugees and its related protocol, as well as other international human rights treaties," said Malpica Padilla.
In a Sept. 4 letter to LWF member churches in Europe, the communion's General Secretary Martin Junge wrote: "Each day's news bring new stories of the desperate – and all too often deadly – plight of refugees coming to Europe. Shocking images convey to us that the current stalemate among European countries to jointly address the rights of refugees translates in human lives being lost every day, including children. The inability of the international community of States to work together to effectively address the root causes that force people to flee – the four years of conflict in Syria being among the most dramatic examples – expresses itself in the current inability of the international community, both in Europe and globally, to work together to address the predictable consequences of their failure to these root causes."
"While the world focuses attention on the refugees and asylum seekers on route into and through Europe, we must redouble our support of the refugee camps in Jordan and advocate for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and Africa," said the Rev. Cindy Halmarson, who serves as the ELCA area program director for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
"When people feel safe in their homes or in their temporary homes at the Zaatari camp in Jordan and elsewhere, then the need to flee for a better life will diminish. Until then, we walk with our companions as they welcome the stranger in their midst," said Halmarson.
Information about Lutheran Disaster Response is available at www.ELCA.org/disaster.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
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773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@elca.org
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