‘People on the Move’ consultation brings church partners in the Middle East and Europe together
March 5, 2024
Several Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers and other employees moderated workshops and leading discussion groups at the recent People on the Move partner conference in Rome.
The conference, hosted by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy, included PC(USA) and Global Ministries United Church of Christ partners in Europe and the Middle East. It offered partners a chance to contextualize and share their work on internally displaced, migrant and refugee justice issues. The consultation and listening session intended to center the voices of migrants themselves.
According to Luciano Kovacs, PC(USA)’s area coordinator of the Middle East and Europe, who opened the conference with remarks, the conference had the following objectives:
- Make space for marginalized people’s voices who are on the move, allowing them to speak for themselves.
- Commit to a mutual partnership in solidarity where partners learn, advocate and grow together.
- Develop contextual action steps by hearing from impacted people and those gathered in the global ecumenical community.
“Church leaders gathered at this consultation will explore root causes centered on racism, poverty, militarism and ecojustice,” said Kovacs. “We’ll also explore how these factors impact, influence, and interact with forced migration and people on the move by looking at case studies and what organizations are doing to welcome people on the move and building vibrant communities for displaced persons.”
In addition to Kovacs, a number of PC(USA) mission co-workers and employees moderated workshops and listening sessions or participated in plenaries and panel sessions. They included Alethia White, co-regional liaison for Northern and Central Europe; the Rev. Dr. Elmarie Parker, regional liaison to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; Amanda Craft, manager for immigration advocacy for the Office of the General Assembly; Susan Krehbiel, associate for migration accompaniment in Presbyterian Disaster Assistance; Doug Dicks, regional liaison to Israel, Jordan and Palestine, Ellen Smith, regional liaison for Central and Eastern Europe; and Emma Johnston, mission specialist for the Middle East and Europe with the World Mission ministry.
The conference focused on different topics each day, including the root causes for migration and talking about experiences of leaving one’s country. White noted that the opening remarks on the second day of the event were not about statistics, but rather a chance to get to know people.
“This morning, we were each introduced by our names, professions and personal interests. I wish to challenge myself and others to remember that behind every single number in the refugee system is an individual personality with likes, dislikes, hobbies, dreams and their own world of experience,” said White. “Collectively we must not ignore these individuals. Collectively we must dismantle the walls of fear and misunderstanding that stand in the way of learning the name of a ‘refugee’ or ‘migrant.’ And collectively we as a church must advocate for better policies and treatment for all.”
The following day’s presenters emphasized the challenges faced by people arriving in a new country. Partners explained how they welcome people into their midst and advocate for receiving migrants with dignity.
The next day, the conference focused on advocacy work and tools in Europe and the United States as well as in international contexts. At the conference’s conclusion, participants worked on proposals to discern how to continue to work collectively and fully engage in advocacy at various levels.
“We hope that this important event will generate new ideas on how to engage constituents and national staff on making true the General Assembly mandate to be an accompanying and sanctuary church,” said Kovacs.
Scott O’Neill, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: ‘People on the Move’ Partner Conference held in Rome
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Jill Chancellor, Reference Archivist, Presbyterian Historical Society, Office of the General Assembly
Cathy Chang and Juan Carrasco Lopez Mission co-workers, Philippines, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
Lord, you alone are the great Teacher. We seek only to be loyal and faithful followers. Teach us to follow you more faithfully and loyally. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.