“Basically, we are all refugees”

The Catholic Church in Germany calls for solidarity with the refugees on Lampedusa. Italy should "not have to shoulder this task alone," demands Cologne auxiliary bishop Heiner Koch. In an interview with our site, the member of the Migration Conference of the Bishops' Conference also calls for a better development policy.



Interviewer: What is important now in Lampedusa??

Koch: In the short term, it is a matter of receiving and caring for these people in a humanitarian way. The misery on this island and in the meantime also in the Italian reception camps is catastrophic. We are united with Italy in the EU. It cannot be that a country that lies on the southern border of the European Union has to shoulder everything alone. We also have to help that these people are accommodated in a humane way, that they are helped at the moment, that they can really survive.
Interviewer: The refugee problem is not new. Again and again people from Africa want to come to Europe – and we pull the fences higher and higher. Is that the right solution??

Koch: If we open the borders, hundreds of thousands will probably come to Europe – as a result of the political prere of dictatorships, economic conditions, educational conditions and the lack of future prospects for the many young people in their home countries. This would surely exhaust Europe's possibilities at some point. We must first consider which people from Africa we are very consciously taking in. These must be above all people who seek asylum here because they are endangered in body and soul. In addition, refugee aid is always a development policy task as well. We have to see to it that the people in their home countries can develop a situation themselves – also with our help – that enables them to stay there with a clear conscience and full of optimism. This concerns economic policy, this concerns education policy, this concerns, of course, above all, democratic rights, the rights of freedom, not least also of women. Here, of course, our development policy must ask itself many questions: Why are we still so far below what we ourselves have set as the norm in Europe and worldwide in our spending on development policy?? Of course, the question arises: How do we help? How can we prevent that rulers and terrorists get the money that is actually meant for the population; that it disappears as a result of corruption?. And of course it is also a worldwide networking task: How, for example, do we involve China, which is very involved in Africa, but does not always do what corresponds to human rights there, but searches for mineral resources?. A good development policy will be able to stem the flow of refugees to Europe in the long term. But this does not replace the short-term help that is necessary now, because people are standing at our door.
Interviewer: Why should Christians in particular get involved with refugees?

Koch: As Christians, we know the value of every human being. We know that we are all refugees at heart. I don't want to spiritualize this now, but we are all on the way. And: We have a great duty of faith; a duty of faith that shows how much every human being is worth to us, that we help especially the people in need. We know the commandments of Jesus, Jesus himself was a refugee as a child. And it is also simply a matter of bringing the Christian message to these people who know that we are a Christian Europe. How do we as Christians relate to this need? There have been too many disasters of the past century where we have failed as Christians. This must not happen to us again as a testimony of faith. This is also a very special challenge for us as Christians – also for our aid organizations: that we stand by where the need is now great.

The interview was conducted by our site Editor-in-Chief Ingo Bruggenjurgen.

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