Archive for the ‘Press releases’ Category

Attacks on innocent humans, freedom and our values

schwarze-rose

At the dawn of these terrible tragedies that have occurred in Brussels, in the heart of Europe, the JECI-MIEC European team would like to express its deepest and most sincere feelings of solidarity with the people affected and close relatives to the victims of such terrible acts.

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YOUTH IN ACTION: YFJ Member Organizations Demand a Strong Independent Programme for Youth in the post-2013 EU Budget

Yesterday, 23rd November 2011, the European Commission presented its Communication “Erasmus for all: the EU Programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport” that detailed its vision for the EU budget in the field of youth and education.

The European Youth Forum (YFJ), a platform representing 98 National Youth Councils as well as International Youth NGOs from all over Europe including JECI-MIEC, strongly believes that Europe needs to make youth policy a financial as well as a political priority. Today, in times of crisis, as well as in the long-term, investing in youth will reinforce the values of European cooperation.

During the Council of Members an extraordinary General Assembly of the European Youth Forum in Braga, Portugal, from the 17th-20th November 2011, the delegates present adopted an urgent resolution on the future of the Youth in Action (YiA) programme.

As stated in the resolution, the European Youth Forum reaffirms “the success and impact of the European Union’s current Youth in Action programme in Europe, which supports youth-led activities with the aim to improve the situation of young people. From 2007-2013, it will have provided around 1,000,000 young Europeans with valuable non-formal education (NFE) experience and mobility possibilities.

Currently, out of 100 euro paid in taxes by a European citizen, only 2.80 flow to the EU. Out of these 2.80 only 0.1% are used to provide funding to youth programmes. In average, the current ‘Youth in Action’ Programme just costs less than 28 cents per year to each European citizen. Investing in youth and in youth organizations is an extremely cost-efficient way to comprehensively reach the objectives of job creation and innovation, social inclusion and sustainable growth.

Taking into account this progress experienced the Forum decided to demand the further maintenance of Youth in Action as an independent programme and brand for the non-formal education provided in youth organizations.

Youth in Action is the only EU programme that provides support to youth work, non-formal education and youth organizations in Europe,” affirms Peter Matjaši?, President of the European Youth Forum. “As such, Youth in Action ensures and represents a visible EU youth policy initiative and the continuation of diversity, quality and the unique character of youth work in the long-term”.

In 2009, with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU gave itself the objective and competence to encourage the participation of young people in the democratic life in Europe. The European Youth Forum is concerned that this increased competence is not reflected in the Commission’s proposal and that it misses a strong link between the article 165§4 TFEU and the focus of the EU budget efforts in the field of youth, training and education.

Acknowledging planned increases in the EU budget in terms of finances as well as the pan-European approach, the inclusiveness and the reflection of the Youth Forum’s key strands in the programme itself, the urgent resolution comes along with six concrete demands:

–          to foster – in line with the Lisbon Treaty (TFEU) article 165(4) – the active citizenship and participation of young people;

–          to support non-formal education and volunteering in youth organizations;

–          to strengthen young people’s autonomy in terms of youth-led, volunteer based and democratic organizations as bodies;

–          to understand the need of implementation of the programme’s actions to be done by the youth organizations;

–          to assure co-management with young people as far as it regards the programme

–          to improve the user and youthfriendliness of the programme’s management.

 

Finally right at the moment the European Youth Forum is launching the campaign “Where are you going?”. You can find more information about this campaign on www.whereareyouthgoing.eu.

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Human Dignity – An action-guiding concept in today’s and tomorrow’s “Ecclesia in Europa”?

Dear friends from “Obnova” Ukraine, dear guests,

I would like to start with a quotation:

“European culture gives the impression of  “silent apostasy” on the part of people who have all that they need and who live as if God does not exist. This is the context for those attempts, including the most recent ones, to present European culture with no reference to the contribution of the Christian religion which marked its historical development and its universal diffusion. We are witnessing the emergence of a new culture, largely influenced by the mass media, whose content and character are often in conflict with the Gospel and the dignity of the human person. This culture is also marked by an widespread and growing religious agnosticism, connected to a more profound moral and legal relativism rooted in confusion regarding the truth about man as the basis of the inalienable rights of all human beings. At times the signs of a weakening of hope are evident in disturbing forms of what might be called a ‘culture of death’.” (9)

Although this rather unambiguous statement seems to be rooted in Benedict the XVI.’s teaching which hints at the permanent menace of what the Holy Father calls “dictatorship of relativism”, it is in fact taken from an Apostolic Exhortation of his predecessor John Paul II.

I discovered this document on the Vatican website when searching for an inspiring text which could serve the following multiple purposes:

1)      to transmit the central values and to be an authentic background of what a European Catholic student organization such as JECI-MIEC realizes in its everyday work and concrete actions while

2)      taking into account and paying a tribute to the topic chosen by Obnova: “Human dignity in John Paul II. teaching” although the presenter is not an expert at all on John Paul II. teachings and

3)      to offer a thematic basis on which also the other students as invited guests – even if they are non-believers – can reflect and discuss on.

What can better serve all this purposes, than a text named “Ecclesia in Europa” – “Church in Europe”?

The impact Church’s existence in fact had for the historical development of Europe is shortly, but pointedly described as follows:

The Church’s concern for Europe is born of her very nature and mission. Down the centuries the Church has been closely linked to our continent, so that Europe’s spiritual face gradually took shape thanks to the efforts of great missionaries, the witness of saints and martyrs, and the tireless efforts of monks and nuns, men and women religious and pastors. From the biblical conception of man Europe drew the best of its humanistic culture, found inspiration for its artistic and intellectual creations, created systems of law and, not least, advanced the dignity of the person as a subject of inalienable rights. The Church, as the bearer of the Gospel, thus helped to spread and consolidate those values which have made European culture universal.” (25)

Among the values fostered by the Church John Paul II. also names the “dignity of the person”, which is the core focus of this conference. Of course the literary source wherefrom Christianity argues in favor of a dignity of human beings can be found in Genesis 1,27 and therefore in the cultural context of ancient Israel. But the concept of human dignity neither ends there nor is this passage sufficient in itself. For Christians the value-added is so to speak what John Henry Newman says, when he is requested to reduce Christian doctrine to one central idea: “God became human in Jesus Christ”. The further development of the dignity-concept, among others, became as imago-Dei-doctrine” one of the milestones in Christian medieval theology and philosophy which helped to offer clarifications and precise interpretations. The development of the Church, the formation of European thinking and the concept of human dignity are in fact closely interrelated. John Paul II. therefore demands:

“To give new impetus to its own history, Europe must ‘recognize and reclaim with creative fidelity those fundamental values, acquired through a decisive contribution of Christianity, which can be summarized in the affirmation of the transcendent dignity of the human person, the value of reason, freedom, democracy, the constitutional state and the distinction between political life and religion’” (109)

That this statement has certain raison d’être is witnessed by the fact that among the thinkers of the age of enlightenment the dignity concept was further elaborated. For example Immanuel Kant came to a similar strong position in favor of the human dignity, although his argumentation leaves out any theological implications. To shortly reconstruct Kant’s argument, every human being has a dignity, because every human being is an aim in itself as a bearer of reason. What Church’s doctrine renders additionally, is the concept of the human being as a person, considering not only his or her cognitive dimension such as reason, but also its emotions and weaknesses. In fact this approach does not exclude reason and offers Christians the possibility to discover overlaps between their own and different worldviews. The exhortation itself states:

“Because of its intrinsic connection with the dignity of the human person, the Church’s social doctrine is also capable of being appreciated by those who are not members of the community of believers.” (99)

Of course our European history does neither end in the age of enlightenment nor now. In today’s discussion we can basically find two competing theories on human dignity:

1)      Human dignity in the classical sense described above as the intrinsic and never losable value of human beings.

2)      Hinting at the fact, that human dignity – although not being losable as such – can be violated nonetheless, critics of the first position understand human dignity as an imperative to be realized again and again.

Both positions have their strengths. That is why John Paul II. figures out the relevance of an ongoing promotion of the value of human dignity:

“Given this state of affairs, it is necessary to serve the Gospel of life through ‘a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life. All together, we must build a new culture of life’. This is the great challenge which we must accept as our responsibility, in the certainty that ‘the future of European civilization greatly depends on the resolute defence [sic.] and promotion of the life-giving values which are the core of its cultural patrimony’. This means restoring to Europe her true dignity as a place where every person is affirmed in his or her incomparable dignity.” (96)

How and with which means can this restoring function properly? The document goes on:

“By the body of principles which it sets forth, the Church’s social doctrine helps [to] lay solid foundations for a humane coexistence in justice, peace, freedom and solidarity. Because it is aimed at defending and promoting the dignity of the human person, which is the basis not only of economic and political life, but also of social justice and peace, this doctrine proves capable of upholding the supporting structures of Europe’s future. It contains points of reference which make it possible to defend the moral structure of freedom, so as to protect European culture and society both from the totalitarian utopia of ‘justice without freedom’ and from the utopia of ‘freedom without truth’ which goes hand in hand with a false concept of ‘tolerance’. Both utopias portend errors and horrors for humanity, as the recent history of Europe sadly attests.” (98)

After this short presentation of the highlights on human dignity which can be found in the Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Europa”, I would now like to contextualize this text in the concrete work and projects of the European Coordination JECI-MIEC to figure out, that the Christian concept of human dignity can indeed be action guiding in our everyday lives as student leaders.

What are our concepts and values in concrete and which activities do we use to implement them? I could refer to our website one more time, but I will leave this reference up to you and illustrate however some highlights from the recent past and those which are planned for the near future:

During our Colloquium in March we reconsidered a topic discussed already in 2004: Integral Education. We found out, that this more or less ambiguous term must not necessarily be associated with Hindu or New Age doctrine, but can also be based on Catholic views on the human being. Integral Education understood from this perspective aims at the whole person as image of God being learner and multiplier of skills, values and spirituality. Concerning the interrelatedness of individuals and society, Integral Education also aims at the person’s actions to make up communities. We established a plan of actions starting from this general concept as the general methodological framework to clarify HOW to work on different topics in future. Fortunately the European Youth Foundation awarded a Study Session in the European Youth Centre in Strasbourg for 19th-26th February 2012 on the theme ‘Creating Empowered Students in Human Rights through Integral Education’. This can be regarded as an exemplary activity which focuses at the value of human dignity from both a methodological and thematic point of view: Human Rights as an instance of applied human dignity conveyed by the means Integral Education. In the context of society the concept of Integral Education certainly promotes Active Citizenship. This was a core element of all JECI-MIEC activities throughout 2011. Active Citizenship is a long term objective, which has to be always viewed, evaluated and contextualized from different perspectives and with different focuses. It provides the indisputable precondition for tolerance, peace-building and conflict resolution. These generally in both religious and secular contexts decisive social aims were covered in our Study Session in July. This Study Session was an activity of JECI-MIEC Europe in cooperation with the international Level of IMCS Pax Romana. Using such an approach, we provided the opportunity to realise intercultural learning by experiencing the realities of different organizations all over the world and offered a platform for fruitful dialogue. The sessions covering these ideals went far beyond mere definition and theoretical reflection of tolerance, peace-building and conflict resolution, but tried to contextualize them within our students’ realities and aimed to make them practicably recognizable among the single National Organizations. As the Study Session shows, these values can be elementary achieved through Intercultural Learning. This was also addressed during our Colloquium in Kaunas in March. The way JECI-MIEC promotes Intercultural Learning is mostly informal: A lot of learning experience flows from the participants’ diversity itself; further activities such as intercultural evenings appear to be pleasant and informative. Among all participants the general willingness for intercultural exchange was recognizable throughout all activities.

All of the named concepts can again be found theoretically reflected in one more passage of John Paul II. Apostolic document:

“While restating the ethical criteria which must guide the marketplace and the economy in scrupulous respect for the centrality of the human person, the Church will not fail to engage in dialogue with persons involved in political life, unions and business. This dialogue should aim at building a Europe seen as a community of peoples and individuals, a community joined together in hope, not exclusively subject to the law of the marketplace but resolutely determined to safeguard the dignity of the human person also in social and economic relations.” (87)

The everyday work and administration of the European Coordination is done by the European Team, which is annually elected during our European Committee. At the moment the position of the European Coordinator is occupied by me, whereas the newly elected Executive Board will start its work from the 1st of January 2012 on. Namely the members are Laura Sopon from ASTRU-Cluj Romania, Ryan Merceica from MKSU Malta, Nuno Wemans from MCE Portugal and coming from Obnova fortunately – Romana Mysula. Till then Fani Freri form EKNE Greece works closely together with me.

The Coordination sees one of its essential roles as a sort of link between National Organizations and external partners throughout Europe:

As it regards the member organizations, JECI-MIEC Europe strives for maintaining internal contacts and stability by doing visitations, helping with concrete problems and offering programs for students as well as young student leaders. Moreover the Coordination keeps contact and strives for collaboration with the international levels of IYCS/JECI and IMCS/MIEC Pax Romana as well as with the academics’ organization ICMICA/MIIC Pax Romana. The communication with the movements is regularly done via e-mail, Google groups of movements and through the participants in the Committees.

As it regards other partners on European level, the work is mostly about external representation: We for example represent our Coordination towards the “European Youth Forum” (YFJ) during the annual Councils of Members and General Assemblies.

Also these representational and contact tasks undertaken by the Coordination can be led by suggestions we can find in the words of John Paul II.:

“At the same time, it is a matter of becoming involved in the processes of social communications, in order to make them more respectful of the truth of information and of the dignity of the human person. In this regard, I invite Catholics to contribute to the establishment of a code of ethics for those who work in the field of social communications, letting themselves be guided by the criteria […] listed as follows: ‘respect for the dignity of the human person, for his or her rights, including the right of privacy; service to truth, to justice and to human, cultural and spiritual values; respect for diverse cultures to avoid their disappearance within the majority, protection of minority groups and of the weak; pursuit of the common good, over and above particular interests and the predominance of economic criteria alone’.” (63)

Apart from the Study Session in February, which I mentioned already, the European Coordination JECI-MIEC will finally hold a European Congress in September 2012, where the working guidelines for the next four years will be elaborated jointly and afterwards adopted in the following European Committee as the highest decision-making body.

 

At this point I would kindly invite you to our Study Session in February 2012 and especially to the European Congress in September 2012 to bring in your ideas on how the future work of the European Coordination JECI-MIEC should look like, to take part in discussions and decisions and finally to meet students from all over Europe who share similar values, tasks and challenges and come together in the unity of Catholic faith.

 

Summarisingly I would again like to quote one more statement from the Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Europa”, which joins the concept of human dignity as conveyed by John Paul II. and the youth work to be done on European level. It illustrates in my eyes best what our Coordination – which again consists of its member organizations – should strive for. I do not claim to have achieved these ideals already, since it would sound vain:

“[…] we need to rediscover the authentic meaning of Christian volunteerism. Born of and continually nourished by faith, Christian volunteer work should combine professional skills and genuine love, impelling those engaged in it ‘to lift their feelings of good will towards others to the heights of Christ’s charity; to renew every day, amid hard work and weariness, their awareness of the dignity of every person; to search out people’s needs and, where necessary, to set out on new paths where needs are greater but care and support weaker’.” (85)

The Apostolic Exhortation “Ecclesia in Europa” can be found in English on:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_20030628_ecclesia-in-europa_en.html

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JECI-MIEC European Comittee 2011 adopts updated Statutes and elects new European Team – a start in a hopeful future

„I have a motion!“ – This was the sentence probably most familiar to the 18 delegates of the JECI-MIEC member organizations who gathered for their annual European Committee 2011. This meeting was held in the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Corfu from the 12th-19th of September and hosted by EKNE Greece.
The highlights of the agenda to be decided on were the adoption of the updated statutes of the European Coordination JECI-MIEC and the election of the new leadership Board, named European Team. This Team will consist of Maximilian Niessen (KSJ Germany) as European Coordinator starting his mandate from 1st of October 2011, Laura Sopon (ASTRU Romania), Romana Mysula (Obnova Ukraine), Nuno Wemans (MCE Portugal) and Ryan Mercieca (MKSU Malta) all starting from 1st of January 2012.
In order to take into account the wishes of the national organizations, the preparatory team furthermore dedicated an entire day to focus on the current projects and aims, but also challenges and needs of the Coordination’s members. Starting from the members’ presentations another day enabled all delegates to work together in Commissions such as “activities”, “finances”, “maintenance, reactivation and expansion of members” and “statutes” to bring in their ideas into a fruitful future development of the European Coordination.
Moreover, members of the outgoing International Teams of IYCS and IMCS, as well as the vice-president of ICMICA and the contact board member of the European Youth Forum were invited to bring in their thoughts. One evening was dedicated to a meeting with his Excellency Archbishop Joannis Spiteris.
Based on the magnificent results of this inspiring week, one of our observers, who knows the Coordination’s ups and downs quite well from personal experience, came to the conclusion “I see, that the Coordination is alive again!” What we can hope for is that the members as well as the newly elected European Team will keep the spirit of this European Committee and make it action-guiding in order to lead JECI-MIEC into a positive future.

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Call for participants for Colloquium 2011

We have a pleasure to invite you to the Colloquium “Integral Education and Christian Faith”, which is taking place from 8-14 March 2011 in Kaunas, Lithuania.

The Colloquium is designed for members of the movements. This means that participants in the meeting should be actively involved in projects at national/local level or to be members of the national/local board of the movement.

In order to apply for this activity, you have to fill-in the application form (you can find it together with this document or download from our website at www.jeci-miec.eu or attached to this e-mail) and sent it by e-mail office@jeci-miec.eu. The deadline for receiving the applications is the 30 January 2011. In any case we already now are asking you to reserve the travel tickets and to buy then ONLY as your participation will be confirmed.

After receiving the applications we will inform your movement of the participants confirmed and we will send them the “Participants File”.

For any further information, please contact the European Secretariat by phone or by e-mail: office@jeci-miec.eu

We hope to have a lot of participants – especially from movements that are not so often present in the activities.

Attached files:

+ Colloquium2011-CallforParticipants
+ Colloquium2011-ParticipantForm
+ Colloquium2011-Timetable

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European Youth Forum elects a new leadership

More than 250 young delegates participated in the European Youth Forum General Assembly 2010, hosted by the Ukrainian Youth Forum. Elections were held to elect the new leadership for the 2011-2012 mandate. Peter Matjaši? (JEF) was elected President of the platform. Together with the 10 young volunteers appointed by the vote in Kiyv he will take his seat in the Board of the European Youth Forum from January 2011. The European Youth Forum Board 2011-2012 will be formed by: Peter Matjaši?, JEF (President), Katarina Nevedalova, ECOSY and Luca Scarpiello, FNG (Vice-Presidents). Imse Nilsson, LSU; Anemone Birkebæk, DUF; Guoda Lomanaite, LYMEC; Mourad Mahidi, OJV; Falko Mohrs, WOSM; Katrine Korsgaard, EEE-YFU; Lloyd Russell-Moyle, IFM-SEI; Rui Duarte, CNJ (Board Members).

The General Assembly also adopted the European Youth Forum’s Work Plan for the next two years, focusing on Volunteering, Youth Rights and the Building of a Stronger Youth Civil Society. Furthermore, the young delegates discussed and adopted two Policy Papers on Global Governance and on Poverty and Young People as well as a Position Paper on Youth in Action 2.0, describing their views on the new Youth in Action cycle after 2014.

Finally, there was a European Youth Dialogue debate between young people and political representatives focusing on the role of youth in democratic development and the promotion of human rights in Europe. The Minister of Youth of Ukraine, Ambassador Janez Lenar?i?, Director of OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and Ms. Elvira Kovacs, Member of the PACE participated in the debate.

Maribor (Slovenia) will be the next European Youth Capital 2013. The award ceremony took place in Kiev (Ukraine) during the European Youth Forum General Assembly. The city of Maribor stands out for an innovative bottom-up approach in which young people are involved in every step of the planning of activities and policies.

Amongst the four cities shortlisted (Goes/NL, Derry-Londonderry/UK, Karlstad/S), Maribor especially caught the jury’s attention for its cooperation with and strong support of stakeholders from the local to the European level and a very diverse programme including a variety of activities addressing challenges that young people all over Europe face. The application presented the most detailed breakdown of budget provisions, the clearest team and governing structures.

The European Youth Capital 2013 award is an initiative of the European Youth Forum. The title is granted to a European city for a period of one year, during which it is given the chance to showcase its youth-related cultural, social, political and economic life and development. The current European Youth Capital 2010 is Torino (Italy), and Antwerp (Belgium) will be the European Youth Capital 2011.

Further information: youthforum.org

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Major decisions taken at the European Committee 2010

Dear friends,

on the European Committee 2010 (16.-19. September) in Vilnius, Lithuania, the following major decisions were taken:

1) an office will be opened for JECI-MIEC as off 1.1.2012 with a full-time European Coordinator in Brussels, collaborating with 2-3 movements (the Administration Board) and a European Chaplain. All 4-5 of them form the European Team.

2) members of the European Team 2011:
– Administration Board: EKNE Greece, KSJ Germany
– European Coordinator: Mihai Floran (Astru Romania)

3) activities 2011:
a) 9.-13. March, Kaunas, Lithuania: Colloquium / Theological Session
b) 17.-24. July, Cologne, Germany: joint activity with the IMCS World Assembly
c) 12.-18. September, Corfu, Greece: European Committee
d) November/December, Strasbourg, France: Study Session with the Council of Europe

4) update of the statutes (to be finalized this year)

In case you have any questions, please feel free to contact office@jeci-miec.eu. The minutes will be sent to all the movements once they are finalized.

Kind greetings,

Anne-Marie Werner
(For the outgoing European Team)

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Statement of Summerweek 2010

„Learning to live in MY Y/OURrope”

European Coordination of International Young Catholic Students – International Movement of Catholic Students (JECI-MIEC)

18-25 of July 2010, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

We, 40 students from 11 countries[1], met in Cluj-Napoca, Romania for the Summerweek 2010 with the theme „Learning to live in MY/OURrope”, organised by JECI-MIEC European Coordination and hosted by ASTRU Cluj, Romania.

The main aim of the meeting was to raise awareness and to promote intercultural dialogue among students through integral education.

Acknowledging the upcoming International Year of Youth with the theme of „Dialogue and Mutual Understanding” that will start on 12 August 2010 until 11 August 2011:

  • We learned the importance of tolerance, respect and brotherhood/sisterhood regarding cultural diversity in order to respond to racism, intolerance, discrimination and other Human Rights violations.
  • We figured out what it means to be a young person in Europe today.  We are people with various origins, traditions, cultures and beliefs.  We are different, unique and a colourful composition of textures.  Together we create a beautiful coloured glass window of who we are.  This plurality is what characterises us as a sign of unity, cohabitation and a living dialogue. 
  • We are aware that there is still a lot of work to be done to reach the Europe we hope for. Today in our continent xenophobia, intolerance, sexism, apathy, prejudice, stubbornness and other phobias still exist.  We, as young people, are working to overcome this.

The Europe we strive for is not only based on economical interest, consumerism and individualism, but on humanity, freedom, liberty, the dignity of people and genuine interest for each other. 

We alone cannot achieve this Europe we hope for.  In order to build MY Y/OURope, we therefore:

  • Call upon all people of good-will to be courageous in our common struggle and hard work for justice. Because it’s worthy.
  • We challenge our fellow youth in Europe not to be passive actors but to be part of the solution with an open mind.
  • We acknowledge the potential of dialogue as a process for respectful understanding (and reconciliation); we therefore request the Church to establish and promote dialogue but not only at the clerical level, but also by the everyday faithful.
  • We call upon people of faith and no faith, not to be judgmental, but to be patient listeners and to stand up for what they believe in.
  • We call upon governments in Europe to put their trust in young people by investing in our efforts and potential to create a new Europe, based on liberty and solidarity.
  • We call upon all forms of media to be fair, balanced, objective and less sensational.

    Above all, we commit ourselves to honestly live out the values and virtues using the practical tools of inter-cultural dialogue so that we will not act based on misconceptions, prejudices and stereotypes.

    With our methodology of See-Judge-Act (Review of Life) we are not naïve to say that we are already perfect but we have the strong desire and willingness to change and follow what we believe in as Christian students in Europe.


[1]  The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Ukraine

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THE FINAL STATEMENT OF THE JECI-MIEC EUROPEAN STUDY SESSION

“Looking at Immigration in Europe through the Human Rights Perspective”
European Youth Centre, Strasbourg, France
15-22 November 2009

Introduction

In response to the thirst of social justice and human rights protection, we, 26 participants from 7 European countries and from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Middle East gathered at the European Youth Center in Strasbourg, France from 15-22 November 2009 to study, reflect and seek for actions on the theme ‘Looking at Immigration in Europe through the Human Rights Perspective’. This study session, organized by JECI-MIEC* European Coordination in collaboration with Council of Europe, aimed to build a higher awareness of the students on the reality of immigration and the human rights violations happening in Europe and across the world, at the same time, to indentify our roles as Christian students to promote and protect the human rights and especially the rights of the immigrants.    

We realised that

Immigration has always been a reality in the history of humanity. The colonization, wars, conflicts, unfavourable economic conditions and natural disasters have generated voluntary or forced movements of the masses. Around 20% of the world’s population is expected to be on the move by 2012.  Among these, the most vulnerable are undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. This movement will provide the new opportunities for the global human resources but it will also bring the challenges of the promotion and protection of the human rights.

Immigration implies:

A) Social cohesion: when the collision between different cultures results in a continuous process of transformation, by promoting the communication and interaction as a means of surpassing inherent barriers of culture and tradition. Thus, mutual efforts should be made to achieve social cohension in order to avoid the accentuated division among people and not to block human development.

B) Mutual gain: an immigrant is also a valuable resource. As long as his rights of working in dignifying conditions and being paid for the workload are respected, the immigrant brings to the receiving states enrichment in terms of economy, culture and traditions.

C) Refreshment of the spiritual life by reconsidering the position of the Church towards this reality: “to renew humanity and proclaim the Gospel of peace” (Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi)

D) “Brain – drain”: Poor countries will be put in a more disadvantaged position due to the instability and incapability of offering viable jobs.

E) Discrimination, racism and intolerance come as a result of self preservation and the fear of the unknown which hinders the formation of relationship, preventing the genuine approach among people.  

We reflected that

The immigration should be judged through the human rights perspective. Being Christian students, we also reflected on the issue through theological perspective. The history of migration  is linked with the history of the Church and our salvation: ‘Israel traced its origins back to Abraham, who in obedience to God’s call left his land and went to a foreign land, taking with him the divine promise that he would become the father ‘of a great nation’’ (Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi). Jesus himself was a living symbol of immigrant. Throughout his life, he was always on the move from place to place to avoid persecution, to preach and to help the people in need. ‘I was a stranger and you made me welcome’ (Mt 25: 35). If we all are the followers of a foreigner, a refugee ‘who has nowhere to lay his head’ (Mt 8: 20), we must not fail to see his image in the face of the migrants around us and make them welcome in our land as we have welcomed Jesus.

The Catholic Social Teachings also reminds us that we all are the children of God who were born in His image and have the equal dignity. “They have the right to migrate or not have to migrate” (Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi). As Christians, we must respect all the times the dignity of the migrants and live with them in love and harmony despite of all the difficulties and differences we are facing while living together.

We committed ourselves to the following actions:

On personal level, each individual will:

  • Behaviour change: fight our prejudgement and ways of approach towards the immigrants
  • Make our friends, family to be aware of the issue and influence their perception towards the immigrants.
  • Sharing our learning and experiences gained through this study session
  • To be more actively involved in all the activities and campaigns related to immigration and human rights at local level.

On community level through our movement we will involve ourselves by:

  1. Unleashing the potential of migrants by favouring inclusion into our movements, organisations and workplaces. Migrants are no longer to be seen as mouths to be fed but that they come with  hands that can produce and minds that can create
  2. Collaborating  with other NGO’s who share similar values and together proposing to policy markers on a European and an International level, while increasing awareness of the European Court of Human Rights
  3. Having the local JECI-MIEC local forum meet up on a regular basis and which is composed of representatives from different spheres of life, including immigrants to discuss current issues pertaining to migration. Thus immigration is no longer seen as a burden but as an opportunity to strengthen humanity, and which needs the vital contribution of everyone in all countries.
  4. Since most of the issue is hidden from the public eye, it is imperative to bring the subject to the forefront in the media in order to break barriers and improve awareness on this painful reality. 
  5. We assert that undocumented migrants
  •  
    • should be given the possibility of applying for permanent residence if they meet certain pre-determined requirements (refugee status or temporary humanitarian protection for not less than 5 years, employed for 5 years, have been living independently for 2 years)
    • Should have the right to apply for local citizenship if they are stateless for  5 years.

      6. We demand that migrants kept in detention centres have decent living conditions and are not kept in detention for an indefinite length of time.

Conclusion

Immigration is a necessary process of development throughout history. It must be viewed not as a problem but as a fact. Each individual, group, organization, authority and NGO has the responsibility to ensure that the dignity and the rights of all immigrants are protected throughout this process.

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European Congress : 23-27 September 2009

This year, 23 to 27 September 2009, the European Congress took place in Bonn and was organised by KSJ Germany and AKH Germany. The Congress which takes place only once in four or five years is the supreme and decision-making body of the European Coordination of JECI-MIEC and gathers representatives of the member movements, as well as of observes and guests.

Subject of the Study-Session-part was the « Bologna Process ». The participants discussed with guest-referees such as Mr. Michael Kuhn from COMECEM, the European Bishop Conference which is based in Brussels, and Matej Hotovcin from ESU, the European Students Union.

In continuity of the decisions of the last Congress in 2004 and in the light of the Study-Session, the Committee decided on « Integral Education and Catholic Faith » as main-theme for the action plan for the next three years.

Furthermore, AKH Germany was unanimously elected for a one year term in the European Team in order to work together with the members elected in 2008 for a two years term.

Anne-Marie Werner (AKH Germany)

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