Date of Meeting: 22 January 2018

Meeting Organizer: ACT Alliance, United Methodist Church, General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, World Council of Churches

ISJC Staff Present: Dr Laurelle Smith, Jacob Hevenor

Reporter: Dr Laurelle Smith, Jacob Hevenor

Which SDG does this topic cover? 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 16

Type of meeting: Fourth Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Opening Remarks

Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations

  • Over 66 million people are refugees or displaced
  • FBOs are first on the scene providing support
  • Thousands of migrants continue to die in transit – across the Mediterranean, through Central America, around Southeast Asia, and beyond. These are serious crimes against humanity and those responsible must be held accountable.
  • What we’re seeing now is a “crisis of solidarity”, mainly through the growth of xenophobia and intolerance in destination countries
  • Almost 90% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries
    • Just 8 developing countries host more than 50%
  • It’s important to tell the positive aspects of migration, to push for more accommodating policies and promote social and economic inclusion. We need to speak out against intolerance and strengthen international systems and pay more attention to the factors that lead to migration and displacement.
  • Additionally, early action can stop human rights abuses before they escalate.
  • The SDGs provide a powerful framework to help us resolve disputes peacefully
  • What ae the benefits to migration, how do we make it safe and orderly?
  • “Refugees and migrants are not others. They are us.”

Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches

  • It is important to address this issue as ‘what does it really mean to be human?’ ad ‘how do we treat fellow humans?’
  •  Migration is an integral part of biblical history – Jesus himself was a refugee
    • So the concept should not be new or strange, but it can certainly still be challenging.
    • It becomes a question of how we treat each other as fellow humans.
  • Establishing “safe corridors” that provide transit with dignity and care could cut down on the irregular migration of refugees to Europe
  • Churches in Italy has tried to develop a safe corridor to bring people into Europe safely and with care. How can we organise things together to protect the dignity of others?
  • This is not an American issue or a European issue, it is an issue for the whole world.
  • We have to see the human capacity from many perspectives, those who can see it have a big heart

Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Board

  • From the dawn of creation human beings have migrated across the world seeking safety, economic benefit and betterment
  • Migration brings joy and promise, but it also brings horror and terror from forced migration and discriminatory policies
  • The terror of forced migration means these people can’t contribute to the society or economy easily
  • The bible is full of references to sojourners- those who traverse many lands
  • Fear and anxiety are not responses of people of faith See: Resolution #3281 of the United Methodist Church, Welcoming the Migrant to the US
  • Scepticism about migration is often framed around national security and economic well-being, but our focus should be on hope, human dignity and worth
  • The time is now for us to find ways forward – we must affirm dignity and value for all peoples and become a moral compass.

Mr. Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, General Secretary, ACT Alliance

  • We must focus on the justice issues: marginalisation and exclusion that emerge once migrants arrive
  • This moment in time is potentially big: we have the opportunity to create a compact on refugees. The New York Declaration was a good first step to lay out commitments, but now we can take it a step further.
  • However, if FBOs see migrants as victims, then we undermine their power and their rights.
    • Let’s try to come up with good proposals and commitments from the faith-based communities.

Mr. Adama Dieng, Under-Secretary-General and UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

  • You cannot claim to be a believer, and also believe that some people are of a second category.
  • We need unity and courage
  • The SDGs are about addressing the root causes, not just the outcomes. It’s about prevention.


Session One: Contextualizing and Framing: a Moderated Conversation

Exploration of the importance of the topic and provides the foundations of our conversation; this is a complex issue irreducible to just one topic.


Moderator: Dr. Azza Karam, Senior Adviser on Culture, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Inter-Agency Task Force for Engagement with Faith-based Organizations

  • Why does displacement happen? What are the root causes of migration?
  • A moral, social and ethical compass does not only require FBOs but also governments and agencies.
  • The religious grammar is one of the most common and understood grammars in the world most people understand it and have grown up with it and even if in the end they end up shunning it.

Participants: Dr Ganoune Diop, Director of Public Affairs, General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Mr. Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, General Secretary, ACT Alliance


  • The root causes of migration are multiple. It can be caused by a life lived in fear and insecurity, with no justice or development and no equality or dignity.
  • Migration is actually a radical response to conflict, poverty, catastrophe or unmet expectations.
  • We need to foster life and dignity
  • The UN is the best forum in the world for tackling these kinds of issues
    • And faith-based groups are important because refugees look to places of worship as safe houses, where people come to heal
    • Cooperation is needed now more than ever, which is why we must take advantage of this kind of environment
  • Managing migration is one of the most important issues of our time and it requires a mobilisation of FBOs, UN agencies and governments.

Bueno de Faria:

  • Migration is not a problem. Most migration is regular, fitting into a few motivations. But it has still caused political crises:
  1. Solidarity. 84% of migration is staying within the Global South. If they can host that many, what right do developed countries have to say that they don’t have the resources to take on migrants?
  2. Multilateralism. Working together should actually result in common commitments, not just words.
  3. Normative frameworks – as opposed to descriptive frameworks. What are we hoping for?
  4. Equality. Countries rely on inequality to further their own interests (such as cheap migrant labour and the exploitation of women).


Migration can be crisis-driven, but can also be driven by vocation. Look at Abraham and Moses – we can understand migration as liberation from bondage.

Bueno de Faria:

  • Migration is not a problem to be fixed.
  • FBOs have a historical structure in humanitarian work that governments may not have. When the government, for whatever reason, cannot reach out, FBOs must be there to fill in the gaps. They are also needed within government circles (via advocacy) to promote the agenda.
  • How do we engage with our communities and our governments and our congregations?
  • We need a commitment to provide support to every person in the world
  • Governments are coming together with churches and FBOs and excluding people. They say it is for safety but we need to engage in policy making and provide support.
  • FBOs have a bigger capacity on the ground than governments. Governments don’t have the structures FBOs have.
  • Let’s also hear more from the people themselves. Ask your ancestors, or reach out to someone outside your normal circle.
  • We need to advocate, starting on our own communities. We need to start discussing within our own organisations and decide who we are an organisation
  • What can we do? Start discussing. Listen to the people. Why did they move? Why did our grandparents move?
  • There is a crisis of values and a culture of exclusion. We need to reframe the issues.


Yes, it is not a one-way relationship. We learn from migrants – to do justice, to learn about mercy and grow together. The learning goes both ways, so that we can essentially seek justice together.


We’ve highlighted the good stuff, but we’re still humans. Immigration may serve to teach us about solidarity and about humanity in general. But it is still causing anxiety in Western countries, economic hardship in the global South, and a prime pipeline for traffickers and extremists. No?

Bueno de Faria:

As FBOs, we are reluctant to talk about the reasons/principles for our actions. We cannot just follow the actions of governments, because the focus should be squarely on the liberation of people in a prophetic way.

We as FBOs sometime accept processes we shouldn’t. Many related to inequality, suffering, violation of human rights and discrimination – we don’t talk about it. We just follow governmental pushing. We need to go back to our traditions. What does God say to how we should treat people? We are not being as prophetic as we should be. We can’t just say NY declaration or the compacts are the best way to do it. We need to look and see what our religion says in order to do our jobs.


“The best of faith will overcome the worst of religion”. All religions are guilty of discrimination or of not seeking justice. Nevertheless, faith can easily help you overcome those barriers to do good and do justice.

Religious cooperation is needed more than ever. We need to be at the table and bring our perspectives as FBOs with what the UN is doing for the healing of humanity. What can we learn from migrants? To live justly, walk humbly.

The migrant opens us an opportunity to seek justice. It’s about how we treat others, compassion, care about people. FBOs are grass root organisations that can offer a variety of services and are critical to the migration issue.

No religion is immune to acts of violence. We need to be true to a vision of one humanity. We need to do good, show justice, love and kindness to others. If religious people live according to their faith then we will start to see transformation. We need a treaty of dignity, to treat everyone as sacred beings.

There is a need not only to build bridges with migrants but also with other FBOs.


Session Two: Moral and Ethical Dimensions of Forced Migration

Objective: What moral and ethical dimensions should be considered crucial in relation to forced migration and displacement? How should gender, concerns for security, race, ethnicity, anecdotal evidence, and dignity be considered in this context?


Ms. Sana Mustafa, Founding Member, The Network for Refugee Voices

  • Herself a Syrian refugee, Mustafa founded a refugee-led coalition to get more refugee participation in policymaking, after being concerned that she was often the only refugee in the room during refugee policymaking debates.
  • One of the most concerning omissions of policymaking discussions is the importance of family unification, in whatever form possible
  • The final settlement decision is not a policy discussion, but rather a matter of choice. The refugees are the only ones who can choose
  • There are 3m refugees in Turkey, 1.5m in Lebanon, 700k in Jordan. We talk about a refugee crisis in Europe, but the real crisis is in the Middle East.
  • A frequent narrative is that refugees are a burden on the economy. At the same time, work permits are nearly impossible to obtain. Even travel permits are hard to acquire
  • There has been a lot of criticism of the upcoming Compact negotiations; mainly that it may undermine existing conventions.
    • It is probably best to seize the opportunity. This is something that the international community has mostly agreed to pursue, so we should make the most of it, rather than trying to break it down or delegitimise it.
  • Integration is a 2-way process. There is effort to teach refugees the host country culture, but there is not enough educating locals about an incoming culture, to prepare to live in harmony with each other. Refugees have recently fled a situation of life-altering trauma, so locals should be assisted in how to ask questions, not ask questions and provide support.
  • Telling stories is not enough. Our (refugees) expertise also needs to be taken into consideration when drafting policies. There are policies that only allow bringing a spouse or children but you may not have any immediate family left, only an aunt. But currently you cannot bring them even though it’s your only family member. We need to think better about the definition of family, it affects integration. We (refugees) need to not just be present we need to be included. The international community makes statements such as ‘refugees want to go home’ but some may not. It needs to be a choice. The crisis is not in Europe it’s in the Middle East. As a refuge in the Middle East you can’t travel within the country you flee to. You have to seek permission. We also talk about how refugees are a burden to the economy but they are not given work permits to be able to make a contribution.

Dr. Lester Edwin Ruiz, Advisor, Churches Witnessing with Migrants, and senior Director of Accreditation and Institutional Evaluation, Association of Theological Schools.

  • People should not be kept in limbo as trivial policy debates drag on. He reminds us that migration policy concerns the livelihood of real human beings. Forced migration is about real human beings but it requires sustainable solutions.
  • Forced migration is always accompanied by estrangement and alienation
  • Hospitality: we do not have to embrace them, but we treat them as ourselves.
    • A truly welcoming hospitality requires political will for fairness and generosity
    • Hospitality is difficultly unequal: the host has the power. To make it a relationship of reciprocity is important
  • We do have choices how we treat the strangest in our midst. We can welcome them and offer hospitality, not necessarily embracing them but treating them like human beings, like ourselves. Welcoming, listening, empowering, and defending.
  • Migration challenges the very structure of the state system, so regardless of its perception, we have to grapple with the problems it presents.
  • Migrants should not be excluded from any level of discussion that affects their lives.
  • We need to ask the right questions not only have the right answers

Ms. Elizabeta Kitanović, Executive Secretary for Human Rights, Conference of European Churches

  • See: Article 8 in the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning private and family life
  • Even in European countries, the laws around migrants are restrictive
  • Bringing people back together, in personal relationship, can quickly break down some of the misleading stereotypes. Ex: bringing together Serbian Croats and Croatian Serbs in fellowship
    • However, human greed/selfishness continues to keep others out. The selfishness creates a thought such as “they are a threat to my potential dominance”
  • Many people are profiting from the refugee crisis, making it difficult to get full cooperation. How can we discourage this behaviour?
  • Christian theology has developed the concept of “human dignity” much more thoroughly than international law has.
  • Childhood has a huge impact on how people see others. Of the memories that stick with a child, having inherent “enemies” is one of them. The “us vs. them” narrative is difficult to shake – except for through a face-to-face meeting with the supposed enemy.
  • It is also important to bring companies/businesses to the negotiating table, especially the ones who had profited from wartime trade.


Session Three: Rule of Law and Political Perspectives

Objective: What makes for a global compact on migration that is undergirded by human rights, based on peoples' needs, and governed by the rule of law? Based on available public documents serving as inputs to the drafting of the Global Compact on Migration, including the UN Secretary General's Report: Making Migration Work, the Civil Society's Now and How: Ten Acts for the Global Compact, and the Talking and Doing Points of Churches Witnessing With Migrants-what remains problematic, missing, or weak?


Moderator: Rev Dr Liberato Bautista, Assistant General Secretary for UN and International Affairs and Main UN representative, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church

  • In Western countries, the migrant debate has become a struggle with national security pitted against human security.
  • The criminalisation of migrants and their advocates is increasing
  • The compact must be more inclusive than the previous Convention

Mr. Martin Mauthe-Käter, Counsellor, Migration and Sustainable Development, European Union Delegation to the United Nations

  • In Germany in 2015, churches and congregations jumped to the front lines to accommodate all the incoming migrants
  • We have seen successful cooperation between government and churches, as evidenced by PaRD (International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development)
  • Migration is not a problem, but rather a reality of the past, present and future
  • Migration can be an opportunity for growth and flourishing, only once it is safe, orderly and regular
    • Any unsafe, disorderly or irregular migration is not a great opportunity.
  • There is a need for a balanced and realistic expectation of outcomes
    • What is holding us back from full achievement? Bad governance, corruption, rule of law, complicated bureaucracy, failures to return
  • A main goal should be to overcome the North-South divide. Obviously we have different goals and interests, but let’s try to identify the commonalities.
  • It is important to distinguish refugees from migrants. The regulations, standards and conventions are all different, and state governments have the final say on these things
    • FBOs can still put the pressure on the governments, however. The faith-based community simply needs to organise and unite
  • We need to look at the whole cycle of migration, the drivers, make it a choice not a necessity.
  • When we talk about the law of migration it also includes when people are not allowed to stay in a country they have moved to but have to return home. We need to look at the obligation of states to take back people.

H.E. Dr. Agshin Mehdiyev, Permanent Observer of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the United Nations in New York

  • OIC countries have been at the centre of all kinds of major movements of people in recent years
  • The global compact should take a rights-based approach, that along with pushing for sustainable development will over all respect the rights of migrants
  • Geographical proximity should not be the sole determinant for who should receive refugees.
    • We should also consider available infrastructure, human rights records, civil society, governance, etc
    • Cooperation between locals and migrants will be necessary, and migrant participation at all levels of policymaking
  • Taking on migrants and refugees is certainly a risk, but absolutely worth the small risk because of the dynamic potential that they bring. While migrants have risks and challenges they also pose opportunities and have a wide range of untapped ideas and initiatives.
  • We need policies which manage and highlight the benefits of migration.
  • We must denounce xenophobic speech and action, by developing platforms for intercultural dialogue

One country can easily be an origin, transit or destination. We need a global compact that is practical and enforceable and will alieve the condition of every migrant and refugee.

Ms. Eni Lestari Andayani Adi, Chairperson, International Migrants Alliance

  • Migrants must be at the forefront of any decision making. The conversations are about them so they need to be included and contribute to the discussion at all levels.
  • Migrants are people who are law abiding, who have been forced to live their life by surviving, to make a living not just for themselves but for their families. They need adequate housing, food and safety.

The Global Compacts should be enforceable.  All countries should have clear responsibilities. The challenge remains how we can get countries to agree and live out the compact.

H.E. Dr. Afe Adogame, Senior Lecturer in World Christianity and Religious Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary

  • The discipline of international affairs has tended to neglect the role of religion
  • Religious migration is not well understood or researched. Usually occurs for two reasons:
    • 1. Persecution or 2. Missionary/spread the faith
  • Capital controls and mitigating corruption are important to bringing back the necessary funds for developing governments.
    • Then the funds can be allocated to rule of law, civil society and economic development
  • Three levels of the migration system, and the problem lies at the top (macro):
  1. Macrostructure: interstate relations, Multinational Corporations (MNCs), world economy, international law, migration-related domestic law
  2. Microstructure: the movement of refugees themselves
  3. Mesostructure: the “inbetweeners” such as FBOs, NGOs, lawyers, smugglers and traffickers
  • The politicization of migration and the criminalization of immigrants have had a negative effect on the perception of migration as a whole

To what extent are FBOs part of the problem? Religion can bring about peace, but it can also bring about trouble.

Mr. Vinicius Carvalho Pinheiro, Director, International Labor Organization New York Office, Special Representative to the United Nations

  • Commitments should enhance the conventions that already exist, such as Convention on Migrant workers, that lays out the freedom of association
    • It is difficult to associate/unionise without documentation or formal employment.
    • Any form of employment can be a protective sanctuary and necessary for survival, making it difficult to negotiate from that position
  • Fair recruitment: eliminate recruitment fees
  • Concrete measures to assess job-matching mechanisms, and bring people into formal employment
  • Migrant workers are exposed to specific risks – need to protect them and their families
  • We now need to convert nice words of the compact into action.
  • Religious bodies provide sanctuary which we should applaud.
  • The SDGs are not a ceiling to reach but a floor to rise from.


Session Four: Development, Humanitarian and Human Rights Perspectives

Objective: Examine best practice responses to migration, from both a humanitarian and human rights perspective. Issues include criminalization, securitization, gender-based violence, trafficking, “management of migration.”


Dr. Jonathan Duffy, President, Adventist Development Relief Agency International

  • FBO is a subset of NGO, but unique
    • 85 per cent of the world’s population associate with a faith, making FBOs the strongest part of civil society decision-making.
    • Through a close connection with local people, in both origin and destination countries
  • Fleeing people go to what they are comfortable with in times of trauma and stress – frequently their place of worship. In emergency situations places of worship become places of refuge.
  • FBOs have close connections with local actors that help them interact in a different way
  • Church-based organisations are great at service-delivery, but not so much in policy influence
    • They can therefore bring the expertise of local connections to any policy considerations
    • How do we work together and transition from service delivery into policy making and give a voice to the people we work with.
  • Local faith based actors are often doing things in parallel and not working together
  • Some FBOs aren’t meeting the standards. But why don’t we invest in them rather than parachuting past them and trying do it ourselves (as NGOs) and waste resources.
  • We need a steam of good scientific research so we can back up what we are talking about.

Mr. Christian Wolff, Program Manager for Migration and Displacement, ACT Alliance

  • South Asia and Gulf countries: almost all labour migration, but not through regular channels
    • We need to work to educate labour migrants so that extreme poverty does not lead to rash labour decisions, that then lead to trouble
  • Central America: almost a complete lack of regular channels of migration. Opening up legal pathways can cut down on irregular migration
  • Many women work in domestic work, which is often not covered by labour laws in Western countries. What can we do to open the labour market across all skills not just doctors, lawyers and accountants?
  • Some people don’t fit neatly into the migration compact or the refugee compact and therefore they fall through the cracks.
  • We need to learn how to do justice.

Mr. Jason Cone, Executive Director, Médicins sin Frontières USA

  • There are no such thing as deserving refugees and underserving refugees.
  • The world’s richest countries have actually taken in very few refugees.
    • Bordering countries, such as Turkey, Chad or Bangladesh, are the ones that are shouldering the load
  • The EU must create safe and legal channels as alternatives to the dangerous illegal journeys
  • Humanitarian groups respond, but in turn enable smugglers and more risky migration trips

Ms. Verena Knaus, Senior Policy Advisor, UNICEF

  • The protection of children is not any one organisations responsibility. It is very easy to agree on children and make nice statements in the compact but we need action- remove barriers that create so many of the tragedies.
  • There are also all of the deaths that we don’t see or hear about
  • 6 priority areas at UNICEF:
  1. Protect children’s lives, and stopping violence and abuse. Must invest in national Child Protective Services/systems
  2. End the detention of children when they immigrate
  3. Education – too many lost generations. It should not take a war to make us look at the plight of children
  4. Access to health services. Besides the basics, psychosocial care and trauma care.
  5. Keeping families together
  6. Xenophobia, especially online, which is often void of reality

Dr. PL de Silva, Director, Institute of Strategic Studies and Democracy, Malta

  • Human trafficking is a hugely profitable industry, including organ trafficking across the central Mediterranean

Slave markets are spreading from Libya across the northern Sahel to Algeria, Mali and Senegal


What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

  • Across faiths and around the world, the mandate for dealing with refugees and migrants is clear: welcoming and caring for the stranger as your own. The religious community can be the leading voice in mitigating the crisis, but organisation and cooperation will be key.
  • While lacking the legislative power to shape immigration policy directly, The Salvation Army can be influential in operationalising a response. The world may be facing a “crisis of solidarity”, but The Salvation Army can fill the gap of coming alongside a migrant or refugee and helping them adapt and reach full potential.
  • It will be important to monitor the progress of upcoming negotiations on the UN’s Global Compact for Migration, which may establish new norms and suggestions for improving safe, orderly and regular channels for migration.
  • Many people look to churches when they are fleeing a traumatic or violent situation. The Salvation Army must be prepared to welcome those people and provide for them in their time of need.


Web links for more information

Watch back The Salvation Army Global Interactive Summit on Refugees and Displaced People







Tags: United Nations, SDG10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG1: No Poverty, SDG4: Quality Education, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG5: Gender Equality