From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC Develops Statement on "Uprooted" People

Date 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 
see family." 
     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   Web page: 


Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home