The board of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) recently launched a Welcome Manifesto [view in translation] that says ‘no’ to xenophobia and describes every form of racism as a theological heresy. FCEI President Luca Maria Negro spoke about what had triggered the development and launch of the principles.
“For months we have heard violent and rancorous words about immigrants. And in the middle of summer these words were followed by xenophobic acts of racism targeting black Italian people, asylum seekers and Roma communities as well.
“As evangelical Christians we believe that the tolerance threshold for this language and of this attitude has been largely overcome and for this reason we have decided to launch a clear and strong message that we do not support such behaviour.”
Rhetoric in Italy – led by politicians – is taking an increasingly hard, unwelcoming and uncharitable attitude. The government has been backing up this sentiment with actions.
“Although it is now unpopular, we affirm that we the Protestants stand for the reception of migrants and refugees, the protection of the lives of those who flee from wars and persecutions through the Mediterranean Sea as well as social integration. We do so with a simple but widespread instrument such as a manifesto that we hope can be placed on the door of every protestant church.”
The manifesto document quotes Matthew 24v40 – “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” and explains that “every form of racism is a theological heresy”.
The manifesto rejects the false conflict between welcoming immigrants and the needs of the Italian people – point out that Italy is a rich country and in “high demographic decline” – and points out the benefit of safe and legal humanitarian corridors.
FCEI oppose the Italian and European policies of closing borders while at the same time reducing and often shunning the supposed guarantees of international protection for asylum seekers.
“To all – but even more so to those with institutional responsibilities – we ask that all adopt language that respects the dignity of migrants and that all counteract xenophobic and racist attitudes with [more welcoming] gestures and actions.”
Characterising the arrivals in Italy as “diminishing and perfectly sustainable”, the FCEI Welcoming Manifesto denounces those who campaign politicly against migrants and asylum seekers and who exacerbate and whip up overly dramatic public debate.
The document also appeals to European sister churches to push their governments to promote policies for sharing migratory flows in a framework of solidarity and shared responsibility, recalling the love of God, which is stronger than the selfishness of individuals and nations.