CNEWA Canada

Conference Underlines Christian Call to Welcome Migrants

The responsibility of Christians to welcome migrants and to address “the new forms of poverty and fragility” migrants experience and in which they “are called to see the suffering Christ,” was the focus of a daylong conference in Montreal, Canada, in late March.

Theologians, ecumenists, clergy and pastoral workers from Canada, France and Italy gathered on 24 March to discuss the theme, “Immigration and Social Integration: Practices for Welcoming, Human Solidarity and Living Together.” CNEWA’s national director in Canada, Dr. Adriana Bara, an ecumenist and theologian, participated in the conference.

Held in French, the conference was organized by Université Laval, in collaboration with CNEWA Canada, the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, Montreal Diocesan Theological College at McGill University and a Montreal institute dedicated to the study and research of interculturality, migration and mission.

“The Bible speaks of the necessary responsibility and the intrinsically religious character of welcoming the stranger and the destitute. Christian morality extolls an unconditional welcome of strangers,” the conference problem statement reads.

However, contemporary migration issues are “a major challenge” for churches and host societies, requiring churches to engage in interreligious dialogue and to have pastoral responses that are “open to these new realities,” the statement acknowledges.

These challenges “require churches and believers to rethink their way of being, of acting, of celebrating and of organizing,” the statement continues, citing the conference objective of initiating theological reflections to assist with these challenges.

Dr. Bara led a panel on the theme, “Ethical and Theological Issues in the Context of Migration.” She also delivered a presentation that gave witness to the commitment of Catholic Near East Welfare Association to its work with migrants titled, “Solidarity, Welcome and the Integration of Vulnerable Peoples.”

“For nearly 100 years CNEWA has walked side by side with those in need. We have prayed with them when they were attacked, comforted them when they grieved, fed them when they hungered, bandaged them when they bled, sheltered them when they had no place to call home,” she said.

“We have been there, always, through the arms of the living body of Christ, the church, as they live for others, counseling the despondent, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, teaching the eager and forming the next generation of leaders.”

CNEWA’s involvement in the conference was the result of a presentation she gave before the Canadian House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in Ottawa on 14 February on the role of CNEWA in the humanitarian crisis that resulted from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria earlier that month.

Laura Ieraci is assistant editor of ONE.

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