In Sigtuna of Sweden between the 25th and the 29th of June 2014, the 19th General Assembly of the Commission of Churches for Migrants in Europe (CCME) took place. More than sixty representatives participated from several churches of Europe like Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Holland, Norwayay, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, United Kingdom and also organizations such as the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC). The Church of Cyprus was represented by Hierodeacon f. Nektarios Ioannou.
Like each General Assembly, the activities started with a seminar on the topic of the migration. The title of this year’s seminar was “Crossing Borders – At What Price?” Speakers were Mr. David Qvistrom Swedish journalist, and writer of the famous book “Nyttiga Manniskor – Healthy People” in which are mentioned facts and personal witnesses of abuse of migrants and violations of human rights. The second speaker was Mrs. Meron Estefanos, journalist and activist in Sweden who spoke about the detentions and the kidnappings in Eritrea by the nearby countries Iraq, Yemen and Soudan. On behalf of the churches’ members of CCME spoke Mr. Hakan Sandvik, representative of the church of Sweden, about migration on religious level. Finally, Mrs. Seta Hadeshian extensively spoke about the problems of migrants from Syria as a consequence of the civil war. She presented numerically the phenomenons of: abuse, acceptance of refugees by the European countries and also the number of children borned during their parents’ migration from Syria to new countries as refugees.
After the end of the seminar and during the afternoon of the same day, the President of CCME Mrs. Victoria Kamondji declared the activities of the 19th General Assembly. The previous Executive Committee, the President, the two Vice-Presidents and the Treasurer were dismissed from their duties by the General Assembly. The future programs were presented to the General Assembly in regards with the migrants in Europe. The General Secretary of CCME Mrs. Doris Peschke analyzed in extent the aspects of the programs as well as their budgets. Both, the budgets and the programs, were voted in parallel. Finally, the annual budgets were voted for the years 2015-2017.
A great part of the General Assembly’s time was consumed to the merger of CCME and CEC, which started from the General Assembly of CEC in Lyon in 2009. The Negotiation Group updated in detail the Assembly for the course of merger. Three scenarios were presented regarding their future relationship: that, of the full dissolution of CCME and the merger with CEC as a work team, secondly, the mutual existing of the two organizations under the name of CEC and thirdly the full independence of the two organizations. All the participants voted for the third scenario with the prospect to find the golden mean at the second choice. Additionally, it was discussed the necessity of creating an environment of trust from both sides in order to achieve the best solution as possible, thus the churches members of the two organizations will benefit the most.
During the third meeting, applications from the new churches were discussed by the members of the assembly. Among the three new members was also the Orthodox Church of Finland which is now a complete and active member. The Assembly later, voted for the members of the new Executive Committee. Dr Victoria Kamondji from the French Protestant Federation was unanimously re-elected as President of CCME. Ms Elena Timofticiuc (AIDRom, Romania) and Alfredo Abad (Evangelical Church , Spain) will serve as Vice-President with Thorsten Leisser (EKD,Germany) having been elected as treasurer. Mrs. Efthalia Pappa (Church of Greece), Dr Jery Jehu-Appiah (Council of African and Caribbean Churches, UK), Mr Lemma Desta (Church of Norway) and Ms Semegnish Asfaw Grosjean (representing the World Council of Churches) will complete the Executive Committee for the period until 2017. The representative of the Church of Cyprus Hierodeacon f. Nektarios Ioannou was elected as the first runner up.
After a suggestion of the General Secretary, with a unanimous decision, for the first time in the history of CCME, Mr. Antonios Papantoniou, the representative of the Church of Greece, was elected as a Honorary President. Mr. Papantoniou is one of the founders of CCME in 1964. Since 1964, he has served as President, Vice- President, and still serving as a member of the Negotiation Group for the merger of the two organizations. In the Executive Committee Mrs. Efthalia Pappa was elected in his position that specializes in themes concerning migrants and refugees.
At the end, Mrs. Victoria Kamondji, the President of CCME, terminated the activities of the 19th General Assembly of CCME and wished to the delegates a safe journey back to their countries.