Church Engagement to End Statelessness

We strive to inform and equip churches and ecumenical partners about the struggles and challenges experienced daily by stateless people who live on the margins of the margins. The more we understand about the plight of stateless people, the better we are able to drawn them out of their legal “invisibility.”

The WCC 10th Assembly in 2013 called the ecumenical family to join and walk together in a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, bringing those left on the margins to the centre. As part of this process, and as mandated by the WCC Assembly Statement on the on the Human Rights of Stateless People, the WCC has strengthened its efforts to raise awareness about the rights of the most vulnerable groups in society, including stateless people.

Stateless people, estimated at 10 million worldwide, are individuals who are not recognized as citizens by any country in the world, and consequently are denied basic human rights. These are rights that others often take for granted: the right to health care, to education, to own property, to travel, to get a birth or death certificate. Stateless people are vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation, and violence.

The WCC has encouraged its constituency to contribute to ending statelessness in their own contexts. The Den Dolder Recommendations invite churches, for instance, to “creatively use their opportunities for registering important life events – such as birth, baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death – in ways that help people to secure documents that help reduce statelessness.”

In close collaboration with the Statelessness Section of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the WCC has been encouraging member churches to promote birth registration and gender equality in nationality laws in various regions through a series of yearly regional trainings on statelessness (Middle East, Africa, Europe, Carribean, Asia, Pacific).

The WCC has also encouraged theological and ethical reflection on the issue of belongingness and inclusion. With that in mind, it has produced a collection of theological reflections entitled “I Belong – Biblical reflections on statelessness”.

With statelessness as an issue affecting all communities from different confessions, the WCC has embarked on an inter-religious conversation about belongingness in various religious traditions (Abrahamic and Eastern religions). The conversation also invites participants to reflect on their respective religious ceremonies that commemorate (and register) important life events such as birth, marriage, death, etc., all these amounting to what is called civil registry in secular circles.

  • Contact us if you would like to get material on statelessness and/or organize a training session on statelessness.
  • If you know or come across a stateless person who seeks help, please put us in touch, and we will connect them with the United Nations representative who is best able to provide guidance.
  • Contact us if you would like to offer a biblical reflection on belongingness and inclusion, birth registration, as well as on gender equality in nationality law.

Ms Semegnish (Segma) Asfaw, Programme Executive
Commission of the Churches on International Affairs
phone: +41 22 791 6106


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