An article by a German Protestant priest who advocates allowing migrants, making hazardous sea crossings to Europe, to drown drew sharp criticism from church leaders Tuesday.
The article by Matthias Dreher of the Protestant Melanchthon Church in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg published in a church newspaper argued that migrants were deliberately risking their lives to fulfill their wish for a better life.
However, this did not oblige Christians to help them, Dreher wrote. "In terms of the doctrine of the two kingdoms, which leaves operative politics to the state, a Christian can allow migrants to drown if they neglect responsibility for themselves, so long as he does not see a dying person in front of him, like the Samaritan," he added.
Bavarian Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm contradicted Dreher.
"His argument is based on the assertion that sea rescuers are the reason that people risk crossing the Mediterranean. This assertion has been disproved," Bedford Strohm argued.
A church spokesman said Dreher, who declined to comment further on his article, would be summoned for a meeting with the church hierarchy.
In August, a boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized with at least 45 people having drowned, gone missing, or presumed dead, marking the largest number of fatalities in a single shipwreck off the coast of Libya.
IOM’s Missing Migrants Project said that since mid-August, when four shipwrecks were reported in the central Mediterranean, 48 bodies have washed ashore at Libyan coasts. It said at least 54 others may have died at sea in the tragedies.
Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, has emerged as a major transit point for African and Arab migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe.
Rights groups say those efforts have left migrants at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid and overcrowded detention centers that lack adequate food and water.