The World Council of Churches has called for the international community to combat "xenophobic and racist discourses that seek to exclude, stigmatise and criminalise migrants and refugees" and urged churches to promote inclusiveness of migrants and refugees.

In a statement issued from its week-long meeting in Uppsala, Sweden, the WCC's executive committee said in several weathier countries, migration had become a "subject of great political contention in recent years" despite the fact the majority of the world's 258 million migrants - including some 25.4 million refugees - are largely hosted in the "global south".

Uppsala Cathedral

Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden, where the WCC executive committee has been meeting. PICTURE: Niclas Lundin/Unsplash.

"Political figures and parties in several countries of the Global North have garnered support by playing upon people’s fears about the impact of migrants and refugees on their societies, economies and cultural identities," the statement said, before adding: "During these very days, we are witnessing threats of deployment of military forces to prevent the entry into the United States of America of people fleeing from violence and poverty in Central America."

As well as calling on the international community to combat "xenophobic and racist discourses" aimed at excluding, stigmatising and criminalising migrants and refugees, the statement asked the international community to ensure there are "safe, regular and accessible pathways and opportunities for human mobility in compliance with international human rights law", for the inclusion and integration of migrants and refugees in host countries, for responsibility for refugees to be shared equitably and for action to end the drivers of forced displacement.

The WCC executive committee, which condemned the practice of separating families and detaining children, also called on all members of the international community to adopt the global compacts on refugees including the 2016 New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants and two further compacts - one specifically on refugees and another on migration more broadly - which are to be presented to the US General Assembly in December.

While noting that many churches in migration reception countries have made "great efforts to offer welcome and support to refugees and migrants, and to counter the atmosphere of fear, exclusion, racism and xenophobia that is increasingly prevalent in many of the wealthier destination countries", the WCC called for churches which are receiving communities to move from "welcome and hospitality to inclusion" and promoted greater social cohesion, not only of migrants and refugees, but also of "other diverse minority communities and vulnerable groups", in a bid to "create a climate of openness and spirit of solidarity more broadly in society".

The statement described migration as "an inherent feature of the human condition". "It belongs to the whole history of humanity – past, present and future – and the entire Biblical narrative," it said.

The WCC affirmed an earlier declaration issued from the joint WCC-Roman Catholic Church conference on 'Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration' that “to refuse to receive and help those in need is contrary to the example and calling of Jesus Christ".  

"God identifies with migrants and refugees through the life of Christ and calls us to care for people on the move in vulnerable situations, fleeing conflict, violence, persecution, famine and economic hardship."