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A child friendly space, WCC pilgrim team hosted by the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh, focusing on the issues of stateless people, refugees, religious intolerance, gender violence, extra-judicial killings, arsenic water contamination and poverty, Rohingya camp, in Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 2019, Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

A child friendly space, WCC pilgrim team visit hosted by the National Council of Churches in Bangladesh, focusing on the issues of stateless people, refugees, religious intolerance, gender violence, extra-judicial killings, arsenic water contamination and poverty, Rohingya camp, in Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, 2019, Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

Marcella Rouweler, protection officer with the UN Refugee Agency Statelessness Section, reflected: “From the start of the pandemic, stateless persons have experienced the implications in profound ways due to their lack of nationality.”

Amal de Chickera, co-founder and co-director of the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, touched upon the tension between a public health imperative to protect all—yet the existence of racist policies built on excluding some. “We also see this in the context of mixed messaging between different government entities,” he said.

Gordon Simango, director of the Liaison Office of the All Africa Conference of Churches, said that stateless people are especially vulnerable to receiving misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. “Lots of misinformation is circulating on a daily basis on social media,” he said, expressing concerns about how these messages impact access to vaccines.

Dr Ronald Lalthanmawia, a coordinator with the Christian Conference of Asia, said that, while many parts of South Asia have been distributing vaccines, many Asian countries elsewhere haven’t started vaccinating.“The problem that we are facing in Asia, even where the vaccinations have started, is the sheer magnitude of the people that need to be vaccinated,” he said, expressing concerns that stateless people will become even more invisible among these high numbers.

Mira Neaimeh, regional executive with the World Student Christian Federation, Middle East, said that inequity in vaccine distribution was evident in that the richest countries have distributed far more vaccines. “As an example, the UAE stands out,” she said. “It has almost 10 million and one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world—and more than 2 million residents and citizens have been vaccinated in the UAE.”

Rev. Dr Cornelia Füllkrug-Weitzel, commissioner of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, moderated the discussion. “Vaccines seem to be the only chance to get the virus under control and to prevent the situation that this might become an endless story,” she said.