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Southern Europe Partnership Network forming to stand in solidarity with European partners

Group will focus on the political, social, economic and environmental causes of forced migration

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

A food pantry operated by ASP-Madrid (Acción Socia Protestante), one of the partners the group will meet with. (Photo provided by ASP)

LOUISVILLE — The newly formed Southern Europe Partnership Network (SEPN) will begin to solidify partnership agreements this summer when a group of its members travels to Europe for face-to-face meetings with partners July 13-26.

The trip will take place in two parts. The initial part of the journey begins in Madrid on July 14 and ends in Rome on July 20. Part two begins with taking an intercity train to Sicily from Rome and meeting with partners in various places on the island, finishing in Palermo on July 25, and departing the next day.

The SEPN is described as a combination of persons who are well-versed in mission and outreach. Some have previously served as World Mission staff. Some have a long history in activism, such as solidarity and sanctuary movements. Some have previously been involved in mission programs in the southern Europe region.

According to Luciano Kovacs, coordinator for World Mission’s Office of the Middle East and Europe, the new mission network has grown out of awareness and solidarity with partners in the region about the political, social, economic, environmental, ecological and militarism roots and structures which contribute to all forms of migration.

This partnership trip is a network-sponsored trip and not an official trip sponsored by World Mission or the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Kovacs will lead the trip as the official representative of World Mission. The itinerary is focused on meeting with partners, listening, learning and being in solidarity with them, and then reflecting with partners and the network on what our continuing relationships will look like.

One of the locations operated by Mediterranean Hope, another organization the group will meet with during its partnership journey in July. (Photo provided by Mediterranean Hope)

The July trip is one part of the two-phase process of exploring “borderlands” in southern Europe and at U.S. border areas. There will be a journey in September or October in which southern Europe partners visit sites at U.S. borders accompanied by PC(USA) staff and church members.

 Organizers ask that potential participants watch certain videos and read stories such as this one.

One of the features of this pilgrimage will be working in teams across cultures and regions for Bible study and theological reflection. This will include daily reflections on experiences, personal journaling and group discussions, including at various partner sites.

Because the deadline is approaching quickly, individuals will be responsible for making payments directly for portions of the trip. Organizers are attempting to cover as many expenses as possible into a registration fee. Flight and train tickets will be the responsibility of each participant, and most can be made online. Information will be available about specific flights and train times. It is possible that prices may increase as the summer progresses.

Because taxis may be needed to transfer from train or bus stations or from housing to terminals for trains, buses or flights, it is suggested that each traveler carry a supply of Euros, but ATMs will also be available throughout the itinerary.

The group will be limited to 8-10 participants for this initial planning trip. A larger trip will be planned for 2023.

All participants must be fully vaccinated and meet all EU and Spain and Italy requirements for vaccination and documentation for travel to and within the two countries. Each traveler must provide to the trip leader verification of health and travel insurance for the entire time of their traveling including provisions for Covid situations. Each traveler will be given assistance in locating required testing for return to the U.S. based on what the requirements are in July. Appointments and payment for that testing will be the responsibility of the individual traveler, as well as the return documentation required by individual airlines. requires.

Katherine Cunningham, who serves as the new network’s communications coordinator, has been planning and will lead the trip. Those interested in participating should contact Kovacs at

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