African churches advocate justice, rights intervention for migrants

CHURCHES in Action for Peace and Development (CAPAD), at a special consultation on migration, especially as it affects the African continent, has developed strategies for tackling issues of justice, advocacy and peace, It is in the effort to engage matters relating to migration, in the face of recent global concern on the increasing devastating consequences of irregular migration.

The conference, which took place between January 25 and January 27, featured discussions, workshops, seminars and presentations on various issues relating to migration and was held at the National Power Training Institute Hostel, Surulere, Lagos State.

The gathering featured representatives from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), African Methodist Council, Methodist Church Nigeria, Nigerian Baptist Convention, among other stakeholders, who focused on global economic and social realities, especially migration and associated issues.

In his address on the occasion, the Archbishop of Ibadan Diocese, Methodist Church Nigeria, Chairman, CCN, South-West zone and Executive Secretary of CAPAD, Archbishop Kehinde Stephen, noted that CAPAD was prominent in facilitating negotiations for stakeholders to look into the challenges of the Ogoni people long ago. He stated that it had facilitated a lot of other intervention initiatives, working with the World Council of Churches, among other significant stakeholders, in the global community at ensuring development for Africa, and in particular, Nigeria.

He noted that the consultation became necessary, following major decisions by various countries on migrants. He highlighted the recent visit of the African Christian community to Malta, a hotspot for migrants, and stated that there were plans to ensure that migrants were returned to their homeland, and as such, plans for rehabilitation and reintegration was a priority, in line with the Christian notion of hospitality, to ensure that affected persons were properly catered for.

Principal Coordinator of Childolescent and Family Survival Organisation & Women Rights Action Group (CAFSO-WRAG), Dr Tola Winjobi, in his first presentation entitled Migration in Africa: Challenges and Realities, explained the various challenges migrants faced. According the him, plans were on to discourage the label ‘illegal’ for migrants, as ‘irregular’ was increasingly becoming the accepted description.

He called on Christian communities in Africa “to enable intervention to potentially irregular (illegal) migrants to make informed decisions on migration, by ensuring provision of information as well as to operating in a rights-based framework; design a project to address identify and address the concerns of stakeholders and potential irregular migrants willing to participate in the intervention; create increased awareness; mount campaign on the rights of migrants; conduct relevant studies shaping migration; inclusion of migration/refugee studies in theological curriculum; encouraging significant others within the Christian body on the issues of Human Rights, peace, justice and migration.”

He also called for “collaboration with other stakeholders in combating human trafficking; reflection of migration issues on the pulpit through teaching, preaching and songs; organisation of in-church seminars on the dangers of irregular migration; push for discussion of migration issues during synods; provision of welfare programmes for youths and widows; engage a refocus on missionary migration, rather than economic migration and encouraging and supporting members to join politics so that true Christians can make a positive difference in issues of the polity.”

Presbyter of the Methodist Church Nigeria and Interim General Secretary of the Africa Methodist Council, Very Reverend Opeyemi Awe, advocated the setting up of rehabilitation and referral centres, and encouraging the use of the MCN’s position as a global community to provide assistance to migrants, especially those with valid reasons for migration, through networking among churches.

Coordinator of the Baptist Churches of Hausa-speaking people in the South-West, Reverend Musa Cephas, reiterated the need for input into theological studies so that clerics can be well-informed on migration issues and be better equipped to inform the people, as well as target Sunday school services in order to lay the foundation for discouraging irregular (illegal) migration; provide more training on family planning, while Reverend (Dr) Zabulon Djarra from Benin Republic called for a re-orientation in prosperity messages.

Programme executive of CAPAD, Reverend Kolade Fadahunsi, called for policy statements and reminded churches of their responsibility to ensure government was committed to the service of the people.

Archbishop Stephen further advocated better treatment of refugees and immigrants, opportunities for irregular (illegal) migrants to share their experiences in church fora, provision of legal representation where necessary, among other interventions, promising that CAPAD would further consultations with other global stakeholders to aggressively pursue the resolutions of the conference to ensure that the issues are worked on.

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