The rescue ship Sea-Watch 4, purchased by a crowdfund led by the Evangelical Church in Germany, is ready to start operating in the Mediterranean Sea to help migrants attempting to reach Europe from North Africa.
Sea-Watch 4 is to set sail from the Spanish Burriana in the next days, less than one year after a petition was published by the 12th Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany asking the church council to continue to campaign for sea rescue, communal reception, safe escape routes, fair asylum procedures and legal migration opportunities.
“We ask for God’s blessing on the crew of Sea-Watch 4 and on their important mission. May each of us, too, become a vessel of hope and instruments of peace for our neighbours,” said Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
With work to convert the old research vessel into a sea rescue ship almost complete and the crew currently undergoing training and drills, they will soon set out on their first mission. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown in Spain, it was delayed almost four months.
Since the end of all state-sponsored rescue operations, only private ships have been sailing in the Mediterranean to rescue people who have fled from distress at sea. It is estimated that around 400 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in 2020. Such reality hurts many Christians.
“One does not let any single human drown, end of discussion,” said Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairperson of the Evangelical Church in Germany, during the ceremony that launched the mission last February, in the city of Kiel.
The fundraising efforts that enable Sea-Watch 4 to be ready to operate started last December, with a campaign of the alliance called "United4Rescue" named #WirschickeneinSchiff (“We send a ship”).
The coalition initiated by the Evangelical Church in Germany presently gathers more than 500 supporting organizations, ranging from congregations and student groups to diaconal agencies as well as secular partners.
In January 2020, the alliance succeeded in auctioning the former research ship "Poseidon" at a cost of 1.3 million euros, including 1.1 million euros donated by United4Rescue.
Evangelical Church in Germany advocates for boat rescue of refugees (WCC press release of 16 September 2019)
EKD press release (in German)