NEW YORK, NY—A delegation of 18 Methodists, hosted by the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), is attending the People's Global Action on Migration, Development, and Human Rights (PGA) in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of the mission agency's focus on global migration and poverty. The global event began Nov. 28 and ends Dec. 2, 2011.
The PGA is a grassroots event organized by Migrant Rights International that brings together migrant organizations from around the world. It is held in tandem with the inter-governmental Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) – the only private, inter-governmental forum on migration – and an event called Civil Society Days, which is an invitation-only event involving faith, labor, development, and migrant organizations.
The General Board of Global Ministries, including United Methodist Women, has organized a delegation to PGA that is highly representative of areas in which The United Methodist Church and its mission partners are challenged by migration issues. It includes persons from the church's conferences in Africa, Europe, and the Philippines, as well as the United States. The delegation illustrates an ongoing commitment to the linked issues of global migration and poverty.
Ministry with the Poor is one of four current Focus Areas of the denomination, and a model project on Global Migration is part of that emphasis at Global Ministries. Global migration also is an increasing concern of the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration, an official inter-agency entity.
The backdrop for participation in the meetings in Geneva includes a 2008 resolution of the United Methodist General Conference, the church's legislature, on "Global Migration and the Quest for Justice," (#6028, Book of Resolutions 2008). This document understands the recent upsurge in migration around the world as resulting largely from the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, with people pushed to relocate by poverty, underdevelopment, climate change, and war. At the same time, wealthy nations eagerly recruit migrant workers to fill gaps in their employment needs and to lower costs, although the rights of the new workers are severely limited. Migrants encounter the barriers of racism, harsh enforcement policies, and criminalization of their very presence.
Global Ministries' delegation to Geneva is seeking to understand the migration realities faced by United Methodists and Methodists in diverse regions of the world. The group has joined with secular organizations from six continents in exploring migrant experiences and migration policy, with the following goals:
- to strengthen networks to promote global, regional, and national policies that put migrant human rights at the center of concern; and
- to consider how sustainable development could make it possible for the poor to choose to stay where they are, rather than being forced to migrate in search of livelihoods.
Methodist delegates are considering how this global advocacy experience can strengthen their ministries with 1) migrant-sending congregations, 2) migrant-receiving congregations, and 3) migrant congregations.
The delegation organized by Global Ministries includes members of the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration, agency staff, United Methodist missionaries, students, and a director of United Methodist Women.
United Methodist Involvement in Migration
Migration is a long-standing United Methodist and Global Ministries concern. There were UMW representatives at the 2006 UN High Level Dialogue and, since 2009, at the GFMD and Civil Society Days. Global Ministries organized an international delegation to the People's Global Action in Mexico City in 2010.
Global Ministries supports and works closely with immigrants and refugees through churches, ecumenical partners, and community-based organizations in the US and around the world. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has engaged the United Methodist churches in supporting resettlement of refugees in the US for more than 60 years. In addition, UMCOR's Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) program partners with local US congregations to provide free immigration legal services, while engaging congregations and community members in advocacy efforts to secure human and civil rights for immigrants. Various church and Global Ministries offices and ethnic ministry plans support, strengthen, and expand local organizations that provide services to migrants. These initiatives also create and nurture international, national, regional, and local partnerships and networks between local congregations and grassroots organizing groups.
United Methodist Policy
Global Migration is a natural expression of the United Methodist priority on ministry with the poor. The 2008 General Conference resolution, "Global Migration and the Quest for Justice," calls on the church to:
- Engage in strong, coordinated advocacy on migration issues and on behalf of actions that overcome poverty, war, and other causes leading to the displacement and marginalization of people;
- Advocate for "just and equitable trade and development policies that support human rights and counteract the root causes of migration such as war and militarization, environment spoilage, and corporate greed";Engage with other Christian and religious organizations in North-South dialogues, study of international economic policies, and joint action; and
- Educate church members and communities on the causes and realities of migration, including international treaty commitments, the issues of economic and environmental justice, and the obstacles to a just, peaceable world created by anti-immigrant racism and xenophobia.