The recent attacks on French newspaper Charlie Hebdo's Paris offices have ignited a debate over the role of Islam and Muslim immigrants not only in France but in Germany as well. Protests against and condemnation of Muslim immigrants is not new in Germany. The country has a long and conflictual history of Muslim immigration, especially from Turkey, and mixed reception by native Germans. The current debate, which includes both anti-Muslim protests and counter-protests in support of the Muslim immigrant community, has, however, increased the volume of the debate.
It is worth noting, then, that the Germany Central Conference of the United Methodist Church issued a statement last year, before the recent attacks and protests, about immigration in Germany. The statement does not address Muslim immigration in particular, but rather talks in general terms about immigrants. The statement reviews biblical affirmations about the value God places on immigrants and the instructions God issued to the Israelites to welcome and care for immigrants. The statement uses these biblical injunctions to lay out the case that the UMC in Germany must, like the ancient Israelites, welcome and care for immigrants. The statement then lays out specific ways in which local congregations are invited to ministry with immigrants.
Given the UMC's small numbers in Germany, this statement is probably not likely to register in the current debate about immigration in Germany. Nevertheless, it is important. It is important in giving Germany Christians a way to faithfully think through the current debates. It is important, too, for helping United Methodists in other contexts faithfully think through the immigration debates in their own communities. While the specifics of immigration vary from country to country, it is a social issue with relevance all around the globe. For that reason, I will follow up this post with a post on Thursday about the United Methodist Church's recent Global Migration Consultation, also held in Germany.