Church leaders have been working on creating and continuing a response to refugees that is founded on equality and human dignity. What is most troubling about the current response to refugees?
Dr Moritz: We indeed observe a response to Ukrainian refugees, which is different from the treatment of many of the refugees who are not Ukrainian. There are some challenges in welcoming of Ukrainian refugees, but overall we have seen policymakers and ordinary citizens open doors and hearts. This is wonderful and we very much hope it will last.
However, as we speak, refugees from countries like Afghanistan, Syria or Somalia are stuck in unbearable circumstances at the borders of the European Union – be it at the Polish Belorussian border or kept on Greek islands – against their will and against the wishes of the local population. In addition, there are worrying reports about groups of people of non-European origin or supposedly non-Christian background being discriminated against when they wanted to escape from Ukraine, where they were living. Both things are extremely troubling.
Can you address how anti-racism is at the heart of response to refugees?
Dr Moritz: It necessarily is. Our Christian faith is extremely clear about the hospitality to the “stranger” or the alien – so exactly towards the person who seems to be different from us. International law also is very clear on the equal treatment irrespective of ethnical background, colour of skin, religion or belief. In that context, any discriminatory treatment must be addressed as an integral part of refugee protection. I would in this context also like to underline that the argument of “defending Christian Europe against people and religions coming from outside” is a false and political statement, not a Christian statement. I would go as far as describing it as heresy from a Christian point of view.
How important is it that churches in Europe, and for that matter across the globe, have a unified voice on this issue?
Dr Moritz: For Europe, I think that it is important to underline the common positions and beliefs on that. After all, we are in a common European context and many countries share the same policies. More importantly, our central biblical roots are the same. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that due to geography, history and other factors, different churches have different nuances and experiences. This makes it necessary to agree on common points and to build bridges on the ones where we differ.
On a global level, the common roots are the same, but the context even more different. Here it is first of all important to explain our positions and activities and to identify common ground to churches from other regions. I know from many talks with brothers and sisters in other regions that a European approach to a culture of hospitality and welcome can be difficult for churches in other regions: often they mainly see the loss of the people escaping their regions – in some cases leading to big problems for the countries of origin, families and not least the churches in that region. I still believe we have common convictions and are working in the same spirit, but the focus will often be different and a mutual understanding the first point.