“I was a stranger and you welcomed me...” (Mat. 23:35)communique of croceuon the refugee crisis in europeSeptember 23, 2015Brussels
Over the past few months we have all been following the evolution of an unprecedented phenomenon in recent European history: the arrival at the borders of Europe, and now in its very heart, of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their home countries which have been devastated by prolonged military, civil, inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts.
Confronted with the reality of human suffering, as Disciples of Christ, we are called to wholeheartedly help alleviating the suffering of the innocent victims of these conflicts. We should constantly keep in mind the Lord’s words: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”(Mt. 25:35-36). We should also remind ourselves of the words of an Orthodox philosopher that “the question of bread for myself is a material question, but the question of bread for my neighbor is a spiritual question”.
It is well known that there are manifold implications of receiving such a high number of refugees in Europe – social, cultural, religious, demographic, economic. At the same time, as Christians and Europeans, who value human dignity and justice in the world, we underscore the need for solidarity among states and citizens. We condemn any form of xenophobia. Europe has always been a welcoming place for those who found themselves in distress. However, the refugees who are looking for a shelter in Europe will have to display willingness to respect European values. It becomes ever clearer today that human rights always combine with responsibilities. Isolating one from the other becomes dangerous in the current situation. Reminding refugees that Europe is not only about rights to be claimed, but also about responsibilities to be fulfilled, entails the very same fact to be acknowledged by Europe itself.
Finally, we should not focus merely on the issue of receiving refugees, but we should also look at the wider picture, i.e. the reasons that drove them out of their homes. This also makes it clearer that Europe needs to reflect deeper on the need for a more coherent and far-seeing neighborhood and external action policy. The aim should always remain to create the necessary conditions that will allow all these hundreds of thousands of refugees to safely return to their homelands.
Bearing in mind all of these things, we express our firm belief that, in dealing with this multi-faced crisis, Europe has to manifest charity, solidarity and realism.
 The Committee of the Representatives of the Orthodox Churches in the European Union brings together the representatives in Brussels of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, the Church of Cyprus and the Church of Greece.