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WCC head says migration is ‘human side’ of globalisation


Global migration poses new challenges for churches worldwide, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches has told Christians in Wales at the start of a trip to Britain and Ireland.

The phenomenon is the "human side" of globalisation – especially for churches, the Rev. Samuel Kobia said in remarks to staff of Cytun (Churches Together in Wales) and its Commission for Racial Equality on 25 April in Cardiff, the capital of Wales.

"Welcoming the stranger is not optional for Christians. Nor is it conditional," Kobia stated. "Christ didn’t call for Christians to welcome those strangers whose papers are in order or who speak our language." The WCC general secretary urged churches to increase their capacity to practise hospitality in an era of "new forms of migration".

Cytun is related to Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, which is hosting the WCC visit from 24 April to 4 May.

Kobia said that churches grapple with the same choice as societies after they receive migrants: assimilation or integration.

"It is easier for a church to welcome migrants as long as they adapt to the traditions and policies established by the host church. This is assimilation," he stated. "Integration, on the other hand, implies a willingness to accept the contributions of migrants to change the church and to create something new. This is more difficult for many to accept."

Citing examples from Europe, the Pacific and the US, he said churches which seek to open themselves to people of different ethnic origins and cultural backgrounds often find the process to be more difficult than anticipated.

"In the process of mutual encounter and growing together, old wounds of history, racism and cultural differences must be addressed … Migrants bring with them different theological traditions, different liturgies and different music that can enrich churches – but may also divide them. [For example] Christian migrants from the South are sometimes more socially conservative and evangelical than the mainline churches in the North."

The WCC general secretary said churches have a responsibility to inform public opinion about the realities faced by migrants in their countries of origin: threats to life, poverty, environmental damage, lack of social services and health care.

To read the full text of Rev Kobia’s lecture go to: www.oikoumene.org/index.php?id=3486

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