2022 Assembly


COMECE Debate in Brussels: Integration of Migrants, a Catholic Perspective


Report from Sr. Andrea Tillmanns, who attended the COMECE evening debate in Brussels, 1st December, 2015
People migrate for a variety reasons. Today an increasing number of people are driven from their homeland by poverty or by despair concerning the economic or social prospects for themselves or their families. In 2015, welcoming migrants, asylum seekers and refugees became an urgent challenge, especially for Member States with external borders in the EU. The greater challenge however, is the long-term integration of migrants and refugees into their new home societies and respective labour markets.

Speakers at the COMECE Debate in Brussels
Speakers at the COMECE Debate in Brussels

On the 1st of December 2015, in an evening debate, COMECE brought together a variety of people from Catholic communities across Europe with a view to deepening the understanding of the complex challenges involved in integrating migrants into the host societies. The aim was to discuss models of integration, best practices, and the fundamental values that guide integration within the European Union. The participants were Mr. Martin Wilde, Association of Catholic Entrepreneurs (BKU) of Germany, Fr. Arun Alphonse, OFM, St. Anthony´s Parish of Kraainen-Brussels, Mr. Sergio Barciela, Migration and Inclusion Caritas Spain and Fr. Damian Cichy, SVD, Wyszynski-University, Fu Shenfu Migrant Center, Warsaw. The evening was moderated by Fr. Patrick H. Daly, General Secretary, COMECE.
Fr. Patrick H. Daly, General Secretary, COMECE
Fr. Patrick H. Daly, General Secretary, COMECE

Mentoring clusters
Mr. Martin Wilde as the first speaker, presented models of integration in the labour market of Germany. So far this year, Germany has welcomed 1 million people, 70-80 % without formation. The integration process is focusing on the following areas: language, assessing professional competences, pre-qualifying, formal professional competences and cultural-civic education. According to Mr. Wilde, it is crucial that every migrant has somebody to accompany him or her, as mentor and guide (voluntary social mentoring). Examples of such “mentoring clusters” are companies, chambers of commerce, social welfare institutions and educational institutions. To illustrate his idea, he shared his experiences of a local cooperation cluster project in Stuttgart, Germany, between Caritas, pre-qualification centres and companies.
Migration in Poland
Fr. Damian Cichy especially emphasized the pastoral dimension of the integration of migrants. Fr. Cichy stated that although Poland is new to welcoming migrants, he presented his work in the Fu Shenfu Migrant Centre in Warsaw, where he ministers specifically to Chinese and Vietnamese people.
“The other big part of our work is to change the mentality of the Polish people. We must give the message to the people that migrants have more positive than negative effects for the country.”
No ‘we’ and ‘they’
According to Fr. Arun Alphonse, “As Catholics, there is no ’we’ and ’they’. Our Christian identity does not know borders; we are all brothers and sisters. Our mission is kindness, mercy and compassion.” He told us to also be as migrants. “We all are pilgrims and strangers in this world.” For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (…)” Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25, 35-36; 40)
In the integration process, according to Fr. Alphonse, one of the main problems experienced by migrants is that of identity crisis. We must limit the impacts of the cultural shock; in this context, religion has an important role to play. Only after a cultural stabilization of the migrant in his origin culture, can we take the second step: integration in the new culture of the host country.
Identity crisis
The evening was closed by Mr. Sergio Barciela of Caritas Spain. In his view, the three main working fields in the integration of migrants are: the economic and social aspects (health, housing, work etc.), identity and civil society and finally political questions (human rights, participation in elections etc.). We need activities in all these three fields to realise a real and durable integration.
Mr. Barciela thinks that in Spain, both the migrants and the Spanish people face an identity crisis, especially because of the recent economic crisis which has so badly affected Spain. “Only personal relations protect the people from prejudices. They, migrants and host people, must meet a face.”
At the end, we can already state that close cooperation exists between public authorities at all levels in civil society. Churches and religious communities continue to strengthen responses to the crisis. Additionally, the Christian approach obliges us to see every migrant as a person, “a child of God”, with his or her inviolable human dignity. To welcome them in their need and suffering is a divine commandment.
Written by Sr. Andrea Tillmanns, RGS

Adapted and amended by Anne Kelleher, RENATE Communications Person

Churches Call on the EU for Action on a Wider Front


COMECE-CEC Dialogue Seminar on Human trafficking
An estimated 800,000 women, men, and children are victims of human trafficking within the EU today. Up to 60% of the victims originate from EU states. The EU and its member states urgently need to implement the legal framework already in place and to intensify cooperation with civil society and church organisations that work with victims at the grassroots level. This was one of the main messages of the Dialogue Seminar organised by COMECE and the Church and Society Commission of CEC in cooperation with CCME in dialogue with the EU Commission on 27 November.
Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery, a criminal activity, and a lucrative global enterprise. An estimated 16% of victims are children, and they can be sold for up to 40.000 EUR. In addition to sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic workers, human trafficking is also taking new forms such as for reproductive purposes, including surrogacy and illegal adoption.
Click here to read more: Churches Call on the EU for Action on a Wider Front
Click here to find out who was present: List of Participants
Source: COMECE website

COMECE Dialogue Seminar: Fighting against Trafficking in Human Beings


The Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community – COMECE – held an evening dialogue seminar on Wednesday, 26th November, 2014 at which RENATE representatives were present.
The topic of debate was ”Fighting against Trafficking in Human Beings: a Joint Effort”.  The key presenters were Sr. Eugenia Bonetti, President of Slaves No More & winner of the European Citizen Prize, 2013; Dr. Aidan McQuade, Director Anti-Slavery International & Ms. Annie Morris, Counter Trafficking and Training Focal Point for the International Organisation for Migration.
The substance of the three presentations was the extent to which we as citizens, need to take more action to heighten peoples’ awareness of human trafficking, how it begins, where it is manifest and what measures need to be taken to stop this crime against the dignity of the human person.
A critical consideration by Dr. McQuade was that NGO’s and governmental institutions are misplaced in their focus on actual victims, when instead his fundamental tenet proposes that we would be better placing our attention on prevention in the first place.
Sr. Bonetti passionately drew from her life-time of experiences working in the area of human trafficking and she repeatedly called upon all present to collaborate together to create a powerful force working against such evil. A particular concern is with those who are held in detention centres,  without any supports or possibilities of a future, as a result of the complicated legal frameworks around migration and asylum.

Mrs. Ivonne van de Kar and Sr. Eugenia Bonetti at COMECE Debate in Brussels, 26th December 2014
Mrs. Ivonne van de Kar and Sr. Eugenia Bonetti at COMECE Debate in Brussels, 26th November 2014

Ms. Morris illustrated the projects of the Counter Trafficking and International Organisation for Migration in the UK, which focused on practical considerations when assisting migrants.
One of the main messages from the evening was the urgency of need for the European Union to implement the existing legal framework and to deepen cooperation with civil society and faith-based organisations which work with victims at grassroots level.
Extensive experiences in advocacy and policy formation informed the conversations, with a call for greater protection of victims of human trafficking, through more pro-active implementation of existing legislation. The evening also lent strength to the call for constant updating of data and legislation itself, to cater for the new forms of human trafficking such as for reproductive purposes, organ removal and illegal adoption.
The need for ongoing financial support of civil society and church organisations was emphasised.
The evening was a wonderful opportunity to network and share in the dialogue amongst faith-based organisations.
Some questions were posed to the accuracy of the numbers of victims mentioned. While it is almost impossible to find exact numbers. Dr. Mc Quade referred to the ILO studies that are likely to give  the most accurate numbers.
In response to the complexity and seriousness of the concerns and issues raised during the evening, in the coming weeks COMECE intends to provide the European Union Commission with a compilation of their proposals and recommendations to fight human trafficking.
Sr. Eugenia Bonetti and Sr. Marie Helene Halligon at COMECE Debate in Brussels, 26th December 2014
Sr. Eugenia Bonetti and Sr. Marie Helene Halligon at COMECE Debate in Brussels, 26th November 2014

* Sr. Eugenia represents the Anti-Trafficking desk at the Italian Conference of Women religious.  At a practical level, Sr. Bonetti has organised to have over 200 shelters based in the houses of religious congregations in Italy and every Saturday, she accompanies her sisters in visitation of trafficked women who are now housed in detention centres in Rome, awaiting processing.
Anne Kelleher
RENATE Communications Person
Useful links:
COMECE_official summary of the evening debate_26th Nov 2014_Brussels
Recordings of Fr. Patrick H. Daly, Sr. Eugenia Bonetti MC, Dr Aidan McQuade, Annie Morris, José Luis Bazán.