Christian Aid has welcomed Pope Francis’ call for more to be done for the massive numbers of people who have been forced to leave their homes due to persecution, violence, natural disasters and the scourge of poverty. This comes as the charity states the UN agreements are set to ignore the largest group of people forced to flee –the forgotten 40 million people displaced within their own countries, who make up the majority the 65 million people fleeing their homes worldwide.
Christian Aid’s Head of Advocacy, Laura Taylor said: “Pope Francis has time and again demonstrated his commitment to those otherwise left behind by the rich and powerful. At a time when the news is dominated by politics that is seemingly determined to divide us, faith leaders have a unique ability to speak across borders and remind us of our common humanity.
“The Pope’s message must be a wake up call to world leaders, who are developing UN agreements intended to protect the tens of millions who are forced from their homes. These agreements cannot be called a success unless they support and protect all those forced from home, especially those most forgotten including the 40 million internally displaced people – those forced to flee, but still remain in their own country. Internally displaced people outnumber refugees by two to one. They too are our brothers and sisters.
“To date, these draft agreements deliberately exclude some of the largest groups of people displaced. Around two thirds of people who are forced from home yet stay in their own country and remain outside of our consciousness and the world’s interest.”
Every day thousands of people continue to be displaced in poorer countries around the world. Christian Aid partner organisations in northern Nigeria are currently supporting some of the two million people who have been displaced by violence and hunger, and whose future remains uncertain. Poor communities are offering shelter, despite having little themselves. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 997,000 people have fled their homes this year alone due to violence and conflict, with a total of 3.7 million internally displaced people.
Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon and Chair of the Churches Refugee Network, said: “I welcome the Pope’s continued commitment to refugees and migrants, and particularly his encouragement for churches to share his message, not only with each other but with our political leaders too.
“As chair of the Churches Refugee Network, I know that churches and faith groups across the country are working hard to make refugees welcome. In doing do, we stand alongside so many religious communities, especially in the poorest countries, who are on the front line of providing sanctuary to many millions of people fleeing their lives. Their generosity must be a reminder to us in the UK that we can and must do more.
“The journeys of refugees remind us that our world is connected, and we must work together across nations to find solutions that are global as well as local. I therefore welcome the opportunity of the United Nations agreements currently being drafted. We must stand together to promote the rights and dignity of all people on the move, both here and overseas.
“Welcoming the stranger and supporting the vulnerable are at the heart of our Christian faith – we have a special responsibility to ensure our political leaders heed the Pope’s call and to listen to the voices of those who are displaced.”
The Pope’s comments come ahead of the UN General Assembly in September, and a year before the international body has promised to finalise two new agreements on migration and refugees.
The Pope has called upon all world leaders to ensure there is adequate respect for the dignity, right and freedoms of refugees and migrants.