LWF President Younan: Apply Justice by Accepting “the Other”
(LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan joined global religious leaders in signing the historic “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders” that pledge support for refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons, and to work against xenophobia.
The signing took place on 21 November at the 9th Assembly of Religions for Peace held in Vienna, Austria, and attended by more than 600 delegates representing Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths. A representative from each religion read a part of the document before signing it.
The affirmations developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) following an LWF-led initiative, were launched in June this year, and endorsed by the LWF Council at its meeting the same month.
Younan said the signing of “Welcoming the Stranger” less than a year after its initiation was an emotional event, which illustrated what can happen when religious leaders and politicians work for the good of humanity.
“We are troubled to see that some extremists are excluding the other (the stranger) on the basis of religious identities,” the LWF president said.
“We are troubled to see that some governments legislate against immigrants at the time our world is becoming a small village. Also to find immigrants coming from Africa and the Middle East running away from their troubled regions to face sometimes death,” he added.
The LWF president said that despite the significance of the signing of “Welcoming the Stranger,” the ongoing plight of refugees and asylum seekers shows that there is a long way to go to change policies and behavior toward the stranger.
“This is the reason I continue to call religious leaders in Europe and all over the world to take this document as a guidance and challenge governments and communities that continue to exclude and seclude the stranger,” Younan said.
“Welcoming the Stranger” underscores that welcoming strangers, refugees, the internally displaced and “the other” is a core value of faith. It pledges that faith leaders, faith-based organizations and communities of conscience will welcome strangers with compassion, mercy, love and hospitality.
“I will remember and remind members of my community that we are all considered ‘strangers’ somewhere, that we should treat the stranger to our community as we would like to be treated, and challenge intolerance,” the document states.
The document underscores that people flee their home countries because of persecution, violence or exploitation, natural disasters or to provide better lives for their families.
“I will welcome the stranger,” it concludes.
At the Religions for Peace Assembly, Secretary General Dr William Vendley sought the affirmations’ endorsement by acclamation. The religious leaders formally endorsed the document and received a copy.
Religions for Peace is a multi-religious coalition that advances common action for peace among the world’s religious communities.
The ‘Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders’” are the culmination of a UNHCR Dialogue on Faith and Protection convened in December 2012 by UNHCR chief Mr António Guterres, which concluded with a recommendation for a code of conduct for faith leaders, which had been originally recommended by the LWF president.
To read the Download “Welcoming the Stranger” in English, French, German or Spanish, visit the LWF Website.
To see video of Bishop Munib Younan at the conference, you can visit YouTube.
To see photos from the event, you can visit the ELCJHL’s photo gallery.