Commemorating lives lost on the passage to Europe

The Have No Fear conference is running in Lantern, Netherlands this week. Organised by WCC, CEC and CCME, the agenda includes a commemoration service that will be held in Keizersgracht Kerk in Amsterdam on Wednesday evening at 17:30.

2016 June CEC CCME letterOver a thousand people lost their lives during May crossing water to seek refuge in Europe. So far this year, upwards of two and a half thousand refugees have died making crossings.

The General Secretaries of the Conference of European Churches (Fr Heikki Huttunen) and Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (Doris Peschke) invite churches to commemorate persons who lost their lives on their way to seek safety.

In their letter, CEC and CCME say that the tragically high figures “underline the despair migrants and refugees are facing: they have little or no other choice than using smugglers, the routes become more risky and more expensive”.

Currently the Central Mediterranean route is seeing larger movements with persons rescued being taken to Italian ports. The recent shipwreck close to Crete indicates longer routes.

The statistics of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and of the European Asylum Support Office for 2015 and 2016 show that a majority of persons arriving come from conflict regions and thus are likely to be in need of international protection. The Middle Eastern countries, particularly Lebanon and Jordan, and Turkey, still host the largest number of Syrian refugees. More support has been pledged by the international community. Yet, the appeals by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to resettle at least 10% of the refugees from this region, and to start additional humanitarian admission programmes have not yielded the necessary response. The support for other refugee hosting countries, eg, in Eastern Africa, has also not reached necessary levels …

While Greece and Italy have improved their reception capacity, unfortunately the focus of most EU Member States remains to reduce the number of refugees coming to Europe, rather than assisting the few EU Member States which had to cope with an increase.

Churches in Europe have responded to the ongoing loss of life in the Mediterranean by offering practical solidarity, but also by advocating for safe and legal ways for refugees and migrants to enter Europe. To this effect, CCME together with partners launched the “Safe Passage” project.

The Assembly of the Conference of European Churches held in Budapest in July 2013 renewed the call on churches to “to commemorate those who have died on their journey to find a dignified life in Europe through an annual day of prayer.”

In the past years, many churches and parishes across Europe have taken up this call and held commemoration services around 20 June, International Refugee Day. This year we wish to recommend holding services of commemoration on 19 June, the Sunday before the International Refugee Day 20 June. In some countries, other dates during the course of the year may be appropriate.

We would like to reiterate the call of the CEC Assembly and thus appeal to churches across Europe to commemorate the persons who have lost their lives on their way to Europe.

CCME Commemoration Intercession lives lost at Europe bordersWorship material together with prayers for intercession have been made available (based on work done by the German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum, with support from the Evangelical Church in Berlin, Brandenburg and Silesian Oberlausitz and the Evangelical Church in Germany).

Let us jointly remember the documented as well as the undocumented persons who have died at European borders, let us share our sorrow in prayer.