Statement on the Fires at the Moria Refugee Camp, Lesbos, Greece

Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe
Posted Sep 11, 2020

To the Clergy and People of the Convocation:

On the evening of Tuesday, September 8, a fire tore through the desperately overcrowded Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. Thirteen thousand people have been living there in recent months, under the most unimaginably inhumane conditions; the camp has capacity for only 3,000 people. Since then, additional fires have destroyed much of what little remained intact in the camp.

By God’s grace, it appears that no one perished in the fires. However, thousands of the most vulnerable people—including some four hundred unaccompanied minors—have been left without even shelter from the elements.

Some reports have indicated that the fire may have been set by a handful of the camp’s residents, angry that the deepening squalor of their conditions had been compounded by an enforced quarantine, the result of more than thirty individuals in the camp testing positive for the coronavirus. While regrettable, it is entirely understandable that this was an act of absolute—and justified±desperation. A spark may be lit, but the conditions must be in place for it to become a fire. The conditions of this fire have been put in place by the consistent and systematic failure of European governments to accord even the most basic protections to these most vulnerable people.

We are a church that proclaims as Lord one who was once a refugee. Our church arose in a nation built by refugees and immigrants. Many of us who are part of the Episcopal Church in Europe are immigrants ourselves. We cannot fail to see in the plight of these neglected people a fundamental failure of human compassion.

We applaud the governments of several German Länder—including Bavaria, Bremen, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Lower Saxony, and Thuringia—that have indicated a willingness to accept some of the now-homeless refugees from the Moria camp. We welcome the news that Chancellor Merkel and President Macron have committed to offering welcome to Moria’s unaccompanied minors. We call upon the national governments of the EU nations to respond now with similar generosity in making possible the resettlement of these long-suffering people within their borders.

We align ourselves with the statements of our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Evangelical Church of Germany, the German Roman Catholic Church, the Dutch Council of Churches, the Church of Sweden, the Finnish Orthodox Church, and the Dutch Protestant Church in Action in calling for immediate action to resettle the Moria refugees in safe, sufficient accommodation in the nations of Europe.

As a Convocation we have made an intentional commitment to focus on the needs of, and the gifts inherent in, those among us who find themselves refugees and migrants. As leaders of the Convocation, we commend to our people and communities the work of refugee agencies working desperately to provide an immediate response to the profound needs of these most vulnerable of God’s children, particularly Eurorelief and Lighthouse Relief.

And we commit ourselves and our communities to act compassionately, generously, and hospitably to the refugees in our midst.

The Right Reverend Mark D. W. Edington, Bishop in Charge

The Reverend Christopher Easthill, President of the Council of Advice and the Members of the Council of Advice