From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC Develops Statement on "Uprooted" People
04 May 1996 20:41:34
95344 WCC Develops Statement on "Uprooted" People
by John Newbury
World Council of Churches Press and Information Office
and Jerry L. Van Marter
GENEVA--With several members citing their personal experience as refugees,
the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, during its Sept.
14-22 meeting here, has moved closer to enacting a statement on "uprooted
The statement, titled "A Moment to Choose: Risking to Be with Uprooted
People," calls on churches worldwide "to rediscover their identity, their
integrity and their vocation as the church of the stranger."
Eunice Santana, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) clergywoman
and one of eight presidents of the WCC, recalled her own feelings of
uprootedness when her family moved from Puerto Rico to New York. "I'm
grateful to God that I've been able to go back to my own country and put
down some roots," she said. "Now the time has come to opt for solidarity
with uprooted people."
Three advisers who are helping the Central Committee prepare the
statement opened discussion on the subject during the Sept. 15 plenary.
Beth Ferris, a Quaker from Bethlehem, Pa., talked about her role in
persuading her Quaker Meeting to serve as a sanctuary church for a
Guatemalan family in 1985. She said the importance of such actions lies
"not just in what we are doing for others, but the transformation we go
through as the people of God."
Bishop Tilewa Johnson of Gambia said he was inspired to lead his
churches in developing ministries with uprooted people after attending a
1991 seminar on refugee issues sponsored by the All Africa Conference of
Churches. "I was inspired," he said, "by the unpleasant fact that for
those of us in Africa ... each one of us is a potential refugee."
Aline Papazian of Lebanon, who heads refugee work for the Middle East
Council of Churches, recalled stories of her family's displacement
following the Armenian genocide of 1915. When she began working with
refugees, she said, "I felt as though I'd always been with them."
Central Committee member Leonid Kishkovsky of the Orthodox Church in
America, who fled from Poland to Germany to the United States during World
War II, expressed similar sentiments. "I spent my eighth birthday on the
high seas coming to America," he recalled. "When I see uprooted people I
The draft statement cites restrictive government policies and "public
hostility against foreigners" in every region as the underlying causes of
uprootedness. War, human rights violations, religious and ethnic
persecution, economic collapse, environmental devastation and other factors
have led to the displacement of millions, the statement says.
It calls upon Christians to take action on behalf of uprooted peoples,
including the support of life and human dignity, working for justice and
peace and creating a community with the uprooted. "We affirm that the
churches' place is on the side of the uprooted," the statement declares.
Erasmo Farfan Figueroa of the Pentecostal Mission Church in Chile
suggested a strengthening of the statement's support of indigenous peoples.
"This problem is very pertinent in Latin America and the Caribbean, where
people are compelled to migrate from the country to the city where they
live in wretched conditions," he said.
Wali Fejo of the Uniting Church of Australia agreed. "We, too, have
uprooted people, the indigenous people, "she said. "Our children have been
taken away from their families at a very young age. Many of them have no
story, many have no song, many of them have lost their language, many have
no family, no home, no land."
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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