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Church asks members to foster migrant rights agreement


WASHINGTON (UMNS) - A United Methodist agency is urging the United States and several European countries to ratify an international agreement that protects migrant workers and their families.

The United Nations agreement went into effect July 1 in more than 20 other countries that had ratified it. The 1990 International Convention on the Protection of Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families seeks to prevent exploitation of migrant workers by establishing a standard of international law.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is calling on church members to encourage elected officials in the United States and Europe to ratify the convention.

"Most states that have ratified the convention are traditionally considered 'sending' migrant states," said Kathleen Stone, advocate on the board staff. "There is an obvious resistance in traditionally considered 'receiving' states to the signing and ratifying of this convention."

The United States and European countries have traditionally been seen as receiving states, she explained. The Philippines and countries in Africa and Latin America are considered sending states.

"In an age of increasing globalization, where mass movement of human and material capital is standard behavior, the distinctions between sending and receiving states are blurring," she commented. "Advocating for the human rights of such a mobile work force is no longer an option; it is a necessity in the building of a decent world."

The United Methodist Church has a history of work with migrant workers, she added. The church's Social Principles state: "We advocate for the rights of all migrants and applaud their efforts toward responsible self-organization and self-determination. We call upon governments and all employers to ensure for migratory workers the same economic, educational and social benefits enjoyed by other citizens."

The Social Principles are established by the General Conference, the church's highest legislative body and the only entity that speaks for the denomination. The Board of Church and Society uses the church's official statements as a guide in its work.

Stone urges United Methodists who are U.S. citizens to contact President Bush; Secretary of State Colin Powell; the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.); and other senators, who are responsible for ratifying treaties.

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