In a joint appearance on the Greek island of Lesbos, the leaders of three major Christian churches urged European countries to accept refugees fleeing war and poverty in their native countries.
Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Pope Francis and Greek Orthodox Archbishop Ieronimos attended a ceremony at the Moria refugee camp near the port of Mytilene on April 16, where they spoke to the refugees and issued a combined statement to European leaders, according to Christian Today. Lesbos is the major entry point to Europe for migrants fleeing the Middle East and Africa through Turkey, and as a result has been the location of controversy over European refugee policies.
The stream of refugees, many attempting to reach Germany, came to a peak when more than a million people entered the continent through what the European Commission calls “irregular migration,” according to TIME. On March 20, the European Union and Turkey came to an agreement that Greece would deport back to Turkey any refugees that enter Greece by sea. In return, Turkey would receive billions of dollars in aid funding. The agreement was designed to take stress off of a system that was unprepared to deal with the growing influx of migrants, as well as a European population that has begun to fear terrorist attacks from extremists posing as refugees.
The Christian leaders, however, said that they wanted to “promote concern” for the treatment of migrants, and urged the leaders of European nations to open their borders to refugees once again.
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"The tragedy of forced migration and displacement affects millions, and is fundamentally a crisis of humanity, calling for a response of solidarity, compassion, generosity and an immediate practical commitment of resources," the three leaders stated, according to Christian Today. "From Lesbos, we appeal to the international community to respond with courage. We call upon all political leaders to employ every means to ensure that individuals and communities ... enjoy the fundamental right to live in peace and security."
Sources: Christian Today, TIME / Photo Credit: Andrea Bonetti/Greek Prime Minister’s Office via AP