A joint dialogue seminar organised by the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE); Council of European Churches (CEC) and DG Justice and Consumers, European Commission, took place on Monday 24 October on the theme of “Migration: Mapping and addressing fear”.
Speakers at the event included Ms Tiina Astola, Director General of DG Justice and Consumers; Father Heikki Huttunen, General Secretary of CEC; and Brother Oliver Poquillon OP, General Secretary of COMECE. Discussions were held on the topics of ‘Mapping the sources of fear in society’, ‘Role of religious actors in addressing fear’ and ‘Challenges for children in migration – fear and facts’.
Following the seminar, COMECE said that participants had identified two widely experienced types of fear: “The first is the fear of rejection, violence, and exclusion many migrants and refugees face both on their way to Europe and following their arrival. The other is the fear known by many in Europe who feel their values and way of life is under threat by the arrival of these migrants and refugees.”
COMECE highlighted discussions on the experience of children in migration, saying, “Up to 100,000 unaccompanied children reached the EU in 2015. Children often suffer disproportionally and experience disruption in their education. This hinders their social inclusion and that of their whole family. Participants urged all to see children not only as the future of our societies, but an integral part of our present reality.”
Solutions put forward at the seminar included the promotion of education, dialogue and media education. COMECE said that “through these processes, both migrants and Europeans can come to know their shared vulnerabilities and move from fear towards compassion and solidarity”. Discussions from this week’s seminar will be brought forward at the annual EU religious leaders’ summit, which will take place on 29 November.
COMECE is made up of bishops delegated by the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the 28 Member States of the European Union. Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, is the COMECE representative from the Irish Bishops’ Conference. For more information on COMECE visit www.comece.eu.