Last April 24, the Webinar People not numbers… (Un)Welcoming migrants in Europe was held online.
This was the first of an ecumenical and international webinar series aim at fostering critical perspectives on migration in Europe. The series facilitates an ongoing conversation on these issues among theologians and migration scholars, refugees and migrants, activists, and church and civic leaders. This initiative provides a platform for dialogues and exchange of experiences of good practices and lessons learned among Christian communities.

After opening greetings from Fr. Aldo Skoda, director of SIMI and professor of Pastoral Theology and Human Mobility at the Pontifical Urbanina University, who shared how «the idea of holding a series of webinars on migration in Europe originated from a number of questions, especially in light of what has been happening in Europe in the past year with the conflict in Ukraine: How do we assess what is currently happening and how conflicts and migration are challenging European societies? How the perspective of welcoming changed in Europe compared to the past? Which are the positions, reflections of Christian churches in the current European migration context? What kind of theological perspective can be promoted regarding the actual situation? And last but not least can theology and churches represent serious challenges to the present European politics and societies, often dominated by issues of security, immigration restrictions, and populist initiatives?».

Starting from these questions  Cecilia Nahnfeld, professor in practical theology at Åbo Akademi University, after providing  the background for the welcoming work that still is done in Sweden in churches and in civil organizations, and in Finland –  who have received refugees from both Ukraine and Russia during the last year – focused on how «The reality for men and women; girls and boys on journeys towards a future does not change. Wars, climate changes, political repression doesn’t seize to exist – polical decisions can make people’s lives harder. It can make us forget the difference between: People – not numbers. Faces – not fingerprints. Stories – not policy drafts».

Oliviero Forti, Head of the Migration Policies and International Protection Office of Caritas Italiana, focused on the Italian Policies on migration. A challenge for Europe, shared data on the immigration flux to Europe through the different migrations ruts – and considering the countries of origin – and focusing particularly on the issues of security, externalization provigiono alternative pathways to current policies.

A voice from the field was that of  Davide Pignata, the contact person for the Agenzia Scalabriniana per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo  – ASCS’s Borders project, which aims to expand ASCS’s presence at the hot borders of European migration routes.

Br. Gioacchino Campese working with SIMI, president of ASCS and professor of theology of human mobility at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, closed the webinar with an open reflection and remarked how the webinars intend to be a platform for dialogues and exchange of experiences of good practices and lessons learned among Christian communities.