European Churches Offer Hospitality to Many Muslim Immigrants

May 27, 2006

Source: The Washington Post

Wire Service: RNS

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/26/AR2006052601750.html

On May 27, 2006 Religion News Service reported, "They came politely to St. Hippolyte Catholic Church one Wednesday afternoon: the middle-aged mason from Algeria; the one-time farmer from Mali; the two young Mauritanians who had fled drought and despair stalking their desolate country.

And like a growing number of European parishes, St. Hippolyte let them in. 'When someone knocks, you open the door,' said the Rev. Francis Barjot of his decision to give shelter and food to 150 illegal immigrants this month.

As the welcome mat vanishes for low-skilled immigrants across broad swaths of Europe, parishes and Christian groups are spearheading opposition to stricter entrance rules.

Their growing activism mirrors that of their counterparts in the United States, with one critical twist: Many of the foreigners seeking Christian support in Europe these days are Muslim...

To be sure, many immigrants affected by tougher European laws are not Muslim. But rising anti-foreigner sentiment and fears of Islamic extremism are casting a particularly harsh spotlight on hundreds of thousands of Muslims flocking to the continent -- not to mention the 15 million already here.

Many Christian leaders say they are simply doing their job in defending foreigners of all beliefs.

'Throughout different immigration policies in Europe, the churches have held a position that we have to respect the human dignity of people,' said Doris Peschke, secretary general of the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe, a Brussels-based umbrella group of Protestant and Orthodox churches."