Refugees have a right to protection, affirms joint statement from WCC, ACT, LWF

Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs
Posted Jan 31, 2017

[World Council of Churches press release] Expressing concern regarding recently announced US measures related to refugee admissions and entry into the US by seven Muslim-majority countries, the World Council of Churches (WCC), ACT Alliance (ACT), and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) affirmed that faith calls all Christians to love and welcome the stranger, the refugee, the internally displaced person – “the other.”

In a statement released on 31 January, WCC, ACT and LWF shared and affirmed the concerns expressed by many Christian leaders in the US and around the world about the US Presidential Executive Order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” The order suspends the entire US refugee admissions program for 120 days, indefinitely bans Syrian refugees, and suspends entry to the US by all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“These measures have been introduced in the name of protecting the nation from terrorists entering the US. However, we support the view that in practice this order serves to further harm those who are the very victims of terrorism, genocide, religious and gender-based persecution, and civil war,” reads the statement.

Participants in a WCC delegation to Iraq on 20-25 January met many victims of terrorism in Iraq, including Christians, Yazidis, Muslims and members of many other religious communities, all of whom must now feel doubly victimized by these measures, continues the statement.

“We affirm and insist that, as prescribed under international humanitarian and human rights law, all those in confirmed need of refuge and international protection have a right to receive it, regardless of their religious or ethnic identity.”

To give preference to Christians in this context does not necessarily protect the Christian community in Iraq, but may risk further jeopardizing the inter-communal reconciliation on which their future in their ancient homeland depends, continues the statement. “As one of the most significant destination countries for refugee resettlement worldwide, we urge the United States to uphold its long tradition of welcoming refugees and offering them international protection, in accordance with its commitments and obligations under international law.”

The world is currently experiencing the largest forced displacement crisis since World War II, and 86% of the world’s refugees are being hosted in developing countries. “For the USA to more than halve its annual intake of refugees would not only severely affect people in urgent need of refuge, but also encourage other developed countries to participate in a further erosion of international protection for refugees.”