German church leads crowd funding to buy vessel to aid stranded Mediterranean migrants

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Germany’s main Protestant church led a crowdfunding effort that purchased the rescue ship Sea-Watch 4 that is ready for work in the Mediterranean Sea to help migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa.

The Evangelical Church (EKD) initiated the effort by United4Rescue, a broad alliance to support civilian sea rescue.

“We connect all social organizations and groups that do not want to stand idly by the thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean,” says United4Rescue. “Through donation campaigns, we support rescue organizations that act in a humanitarian manner where politics fails.”

The crew on board the “Sea-Watch 4” has spent the past few weeks converting the old research vessel into a sea rescue vessel, the German news agency epd reported.

Aboard is a protection area with 24 beds for women and children along with a hospital ward.

The news agency reported that recent sea tests have shown that all is ship shape aboard the vessel.

When the crew has passed its mandatory quarantine it can start its work.

soon when the crew has passed their mandatory quarantine. Due to the corona pandemic and the lockdown in Spain, the first mission was delayed almost four months.

Sea-Watch 4 is to set sail from the Spanish Burriana in the the coming day of August, less than a year after a petition was published by the 12th Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany, the WCC reported.

The petition asked the church council to continue to campaign for sea rescue, communal reception, safe escape routes, fair asylum procedures and legal migration opportunities.

“We ask for God’s blessing on the crew of Sea-Watch 4 and on their important mission. May each of us, too, become a vessel of hope and instruments of peace for our neighbors,” said Rev. Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

Work to convert the old research vessel into a sea rescue ship is almost complete and the crew is currently undergoing training and drills.

They will soon set out on their first mission.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown in Spain, the mission was delayed almost four months.

Since the end of all state-sponsored rescue operations, only private ships have been sailing in the Mediterranean to rescue people who have fled from distress at sea.

It is estimated that around 400 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in 2020.

“One does not let any single human drown, end of discussion,” said Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairperson of the Evangelical Church in Germany, during the ceremony that launched the mission in February, in the city of Kiel.

The fundraising efforts that enabled Sea-Watch 4 to prepare to operate started in December, with a campaign of the alliance called “United4Rescue” named #WirschickeneinSchiff (“We send a ship”).

The coalition initiated has more than 500 supporting organizations, ranging from congregations and student groups to diaconal agencies as well as secular partners.

In January, the alliance succeeded in auctioning the former research ship “Poseidon” at a cost of 1.3 million euros, including 1.1 million euros donated by United4Rescue.

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