By Susanne Lende
The worsening refugee situation, which now counts round 65 million people among those fleeing their homes worldwide, calls for the church to be more outspoken, says Trondheim pastor Marianne H. Brekken.
During the plenary session of the World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting Thursday morning in Trondheim, several speakers took the opportunity to raise awareness of the situation of the refugees in their home countries.
“Being at the Central Committee meeting, listening to the stories from people around the world is deeply touching,” said Rev. Marianne H. Brekken.
Brekken is the delegate from the Church of Norway to the WCC Central Committee.
The Church of Norway has taken an active stance in the Norwegian public discourse over the last year on the issue. In the public debate, the church has urged Norwegian politicians as well as the public to keep in mind that their words and rhetoric define not only how we think of one another, but also how we treat each other.
The Church of Norway has on numerous occasions urged that Norway, as one of the world’s richest countries, accept more refugees. Its stance has provoked ample criticism from both the Norwegian government and other stakeholders.
Brekken, however, wants a more outspoken church.
“I think we have to hold our government responsible by demanding that they speak the truth about people. Most refugees are not opportunists but people seeking peace for themselves and their families,” Brekken says.
She sees the refugee situation as one of the most important issues on the global scene today.
“We need to bring all of these stories out in the public, because I think the only way we can learn to meet refugees in a good way, is to experience that they are no different from us,” she says. “To learn their stories and to make sure that our congregations interact with newly arrived refugees is a way to make sure that we as a church see the people themselves and not just the label ,so to speak. A refugee is a brother or sister, not just a person who has been forced to leave his or her home. This sounds like a cliché, but I think we always have to be reminded of this fact,” Brekken says.
Brekken also thinks that the Church of Norway has a lot to learn from the WCC.
“I think the Church of Norway has a lot to learn from the World Council of Churches. We have to allow ourselves more time to dwell on the difficult issues. By that I mean that sometimes the process is as important as the outcome, and on difficult issues, we should take the time to reflect on each other’s stances,” Brekken says.