CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Clear – and Compassionate – Thinking on Refugees

Sep 8, 2015

This may be news to a lotta folks, but compassion is not a synonym for being brainless. Caring should not involve throwing away your brains and simply running on feelings. Emoting is no substitute for compassionate reasoning. If you really want to care and be compassionate, then start using your mind and ease up on all the emotionalism.

When it comes to Western nations taking in refugees and asylum seekers, there is so much irrational moralism out there, especially from Christians, that it leaves me quite bewildered to be honest. How can so many minds simply turn to mush when it comes to important and complex issues such as this?

Far too many clueless Christians think we should just open our doors wide open and let in every single person who demands to come here, no questions asked. Yeah right, that will do a lotta good. Very soon our nations will look exactly like the ones these folks are fleeing from. Then where will they go?

Just as every home-owner has a clear obligation to wisely and critically assess who, if any, folks might be allowed to move in, so too every nation must think in these terms. That is simply being responsible with what one is given. Households and nations both must act this way.

syria 8Just as there are many queue jumpers, criminals, jihadists and others who are actively exploiting the refugee process for their own nefarious ends, so too in the domestic scene. No genuine father – Christian or otherwise – would just allow anyone into his home without first doing at least a basic background check into the person asking – or demanding – to be let in.

If his wife ends up being raped and his kids killed and his house destroyed – all because of a misplaced and unbiblical “compassion” – he of course was not being a good Christian at all, but an irresponsible steward of what God entrusted him with.

Governments have exactly the same biblical responsibility to look after their own, and make sure only those who are genuine refugees be considered. And they have the God-given right to determine how many people can be safely and appropriately taken in, and why. Undiscerning border policies based on mere emotion are a breach of this. There is nothing Christian about it.

Yes real refugees can and should be considered. But home owners and nation states have no obligation whatsoever to just have open slather border and intake policies because of emotive kneejerk reactions, instead of using our God-given brains to think carefully and wisely about how to best proceed.

And I think no better case can be made at the moment than to allow the real suffering refugees in – Christians being persecuted in the Middle East. I am not alone in thinking this. As Lord Carey wrote in a recent piece, Syria’s Christians should be at the top of our lists:

It would be a mistake to give way to bullying calls to immediately open our doors to tens of thousands of refugees. We are a small island and recent immigration figures are highly disturbing. Last year, a net figure of 330,000 people settled among us – more than the population of Sunderland. Imagine this continuing, year after year.
Alas, the signal that Germany is opening its doors to this influx will make Europe into an even more attractive magnet for those who are genuine refugees – but also to floods of economic migrants, most of whom are young men travelling alone. We don’t even know how many of these have been combatants in the civil war.
If some of what I say sounds harsh or, heaven forbid, a touch unchristian, let me make it clear that I welcome David Cameron’s announcement to allow thousands more to enter Britain through refugee camps in Syria’s neighbouring countries. In the long term, this strategy will cut out the traffickers and reduce the risk of the sea and land journeys.
But the frustration for those of us who have been calling for compassion for Syrian victims for many months is that the Christian community is yet again left at the bottom of the heap.
According to the Barnabas Fund, a charity which recently resettled some 50 Syrian Christian families in Poland, Mr Cameron’s policy inadvertently discriminates against the very Christian communities most victimised by the inhuman butchers of the so-called Islamic State. Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them. They are seeking refuge in private homes, church buildings and with neighbours and family.
They are the most vulnerable and repeatedly targeted victims of this conflict. Indeed, a hundred years after the Armenian and Assyrian genocide, in which over a million Christians are estimated to have been killed by Ottoman Muslims, the same is happening today in the form of an ethnic cleansing of Christians in the region. Christians have been crucified, beheaded, raped, and subjected to forced conversion. The so-called Islamic State and other radical groups are openly glorifying the slaughter of Christians.
Britain should make Syrian Christians a priority because they are a particularly vulnerable group. Furthermore, we are a Christian nation with an established Church so Syrian Christians will find no challenge to integration. The churches are already well-prepared and eager to offer support and accommodation to those escaping the conflict.
Some will not like me saying this, but in recent years, there has been too much Muslim mass immigration to Europe. This has resulted in ghettos of Muslim communities living parallel lives to mainstream society, following their own customs and even their own laws. Isn’t it high-time instead for the oil-rich Gulf States to open their doors to the many Muslims who are fleeing conflict? Surely if they are concerned for fellow Muslims who prefer to live in Muslim-majority countries, then they have a moral responsibility to intervene.
It is, of course, quite right that Europe has woken to the sheer scale of human suffering in Syria. It is equally right that our compassionate instincts will drive us to fund-raise and campaign for the innocent victims of the conflict. But that compassion must be realistic and clear-headed.
As a European Union, we should be prepared to close the doors to large numbers of economic migrants and return them to their countries. A proper process of registration must be conducted, ideally in refugee camps on the borders of Europe. And if the numbers get too large, we should be prepared to admit refugees on a provisional and temporary basis, reviewing their status periodically until they can return home.

I have criticised Carey in the past for some of the things he has said, but he is spot on here. Indeed, he makes even more sense on these issues, as another article reports;

David Cameron is facing growing pressure to extend RAF air strikes into Syria as the worsening conflict threatened to drive increasing numbers of desperate refugees to seek sanctuary in Europe. The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey became the latest senior figure to call for a renewed military effort to “crush” Islamic State in its Syrian heartlands.
He also backed calls for British military intervention to help create “safe enclaves” within the country where civilians would be protected from attack by the warring parties in Syria’s bloody civil war. His comments echoed the growing impatience among some Conservative backbenchers, with the former defence secretary Liam Fox saying “handwringing” about the plight of the refugees was not enough and action was needed to deal with the “root of the problem”.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Lord Carey said: “I do not consider it enough to send aid to refugee camps in the Middle East. Rather, there must be renewed military and diplomatic efforts to crush the twin menaces of Islamic State and al-Qaeda once and for all. Make no mistake: this may mean air strikes and other British military assistance to create secure and safe enclaves.”

Now that is more like it: a bit of tough thinking, instead of useless emoting. And according to this headline, some countries are already getting into the act: “Poland to the rescue: Opens safe haven for Christian refugees from Syria, which country will be next to help?” The article begins:

Polish charity Fundacja Estera says that the refugees are among the thousands of Christians facing murder in Syria. Of those that the foundation says should be granted asylum in Poland, more than half are children. The European country of Poland announced on Tuesday that it has decided to accept 60 Syrian Christian refugee families. The country has previously voiced opposition to European Union plans for binding quotas on asylum seekers.
According to a report from Agence France-Presse, Polish non-governmental organization Estera asked Poland’s government to allow around 1,500 Syrian Christians to live in the country. Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz made the announcement to reporters in Warsaw. “We’ll welcome 60 families for a start,” Kopacz said. “Today Christians who are being persecuted in a barbaric fashion in Syria deserve Christian countries like Poland to act fast to help them.”

One writer heads an important article with these words: “Christians, before you rush off to Calais to help the refugees ask yourself: what would Jesus do?” She writes:

What would Jesus do? John 5 tells the story of a man who Jesus found by the pool of Bethesda, by the gates of Jerusalem. The pool was surrounded by disabled people, blind, lame, paralysed, waiting for the waters to be stirred by angels, whereupon they would dash into the pool and the first in would be healed.
One man, who suffered from lameness, had lain by the pool for 38 years waiting for a chance to be healed. Jesus strides up to him and asks “do you want to get well?” The man replies “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
How many people with less serious conditions must that man have seen healed over his four decades by the pool? How many people younger than he, fitter than he, more capable than he were able to jump ahead of him, time and time again, to take for themselves the healing that he so craved?
Jesus bypassed those people and went straight to him, the man at the back of the queue. Jesus is not concerned with helping those who can help themselves. In fact, the Bible exhorts us to enjoy our ability to do so. In Ecclesiastes 3:22, King David notes: “I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot.” Jesus is concerned with helping those who cannot help themselves. Those who lie quietly on mats at the back of the queue, elbowed past, with no-one to help them step forward.
In this week’s Spectator Paul Collier describes the migrants making their way across Europe, packing themselves into trains and lorries, and when that fails, simply walking, the hope of prosperity in the rich West before them.
“Of Syria’s 20 million people,” he writes, “around half are now displaced. This ten million are the submerged iceberg: the group to whom we have some duty of rescue. They are displaced through circumstance rather than choice.
“The tiny minority (about 2 per cent) in the sea and camped on our doorstep are part of our duty of rescue, but they should not be allowed to crowd out the needs of others: for one thing, they tend to be richer and more resourceful.”…
Sure, it’s not fun being a Christian in our society. No one wants to be the adult, having to say ‘No’ all the time. And yes, the Bible calls on us to help those in need, to love our neighbours as ourselves. But it says nothing about making ourselves feel better by jumping on a bandwagon fuelled by unthinking emotion, nor of helping the first person in the queue, rather than the person most in need. So, when it comes to the refugee crisis, what would Jesus do?

Finally, Spiked editor Brendan O’Neil offers some level-headed sense here:

Spiked has long been at the forefront of calling for a generous, liberal approach to migration. Our take is that there should be as few restrictions as possible on the movement of people across borders as they search for stability or work, and the makings of a new life. However, we won’t be getting behind the hyper-moralism of the pitying political narrative around the refugees arriving from Syria. This media-orchestrated moral drama, complete with invasive photos of dead children, highly inappropriate comparisons with the Holocaust, and the performative piety of politicians and the Twitterati holding up pro-refugee placards or promising to open their homes to migrants, confirms that what ought to be a democratic discussion — the question of what caused this crisis and where refugees should go — has been reduced to an opportunity for virtue-advertising in which rational thought and public engagement are positively frowned upon.
The most striking thing about the outburst of ostentatious concern for the refugees is its bad faith. What is presented to us as a sad humanitarian disaster that somehow materialised over the past seven days is in fact traceable to the disintegration of the Middle East over the past five years and the hollowing-out of 50 years worth of state structures in Libya and the knock-on destabilising effect that had across north Africa — globe-shaking events which our governments in the West played no small part in bringing about. The same governments whose officials now make sad-eyed promises to take in a Syrian orphan or provide clothes to victims of this allegedly sudden humanitarian upheaval. The hyper-moralism of the sad-for-refugees narrative wrenches this large-scale movement of people from its political, global context, meaning even some of the contributing authors to the exodus from Syria (Western governments), and those who have traditionally been cagey about migration (the Labour Party, tabloids, trade unions), can assume the role of humanitarian saviours. The bad-faith depiction of this swell of humanity as a kind of politics-free natural disaster, or something whose origins lie entirely Over There, means it can be casually moralised, turned into a platform for posturing by the concerned classes….
The Syrian refugee crisis is unique to our times and has nothing in common with the extermination of Europe’s Jews. However, when it comes to orchestrating a morality tale to benefit a morally confused Europe, it seems history can be casually plundered, its imagery and crimes exploited by those in desperate need of a political adrenaline shot today.

I will happily take an atheist who thinks straight on these issues over a clueless Christian who simply emotes his way through matters. People are dying, and they won’t be saved by misplaced compassion and mindless moralism. Careful and discerning rationality based on reality will be of much more use instead.

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11846651/Lord-Carey-Britain-has-a-duty-to-rescue-Syrias-Christians.html
www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/06/syria-air-strikes-lord-carey-adds-to-pressure-on-cameron-with-call-to-crush-isis
www.breakingchristiannews.com/articles/display_art.html?ID=16036
www.breitbart.com/london/2015/09/07/christians-before-you-rush-off-to-calais-to-help-the-refugees-ask-yourself-what-would-jesus-do/
www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/dont-make-a-moral-melodrama-out-of-the-migrant-crisis/17409#.Ve2-4RHBzRY

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6 Responses to Clear – and Compassionate – Thinking on Refugees

  • There is certainly a good case for a triage approach to the current mass exodus from certain trouble spots in North Africa and the Middle East: It seems people with the wherewithal to pay people smugglers are the first to bang on Europe’s doors, while other more desperate cases languish in situations of ever-present danger closer to their native places.

    Once again, our Lord’s warning in John 16:2 rings true for His followers: “… a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is rendering a service to God.”…

  • Yes to all of that!!! And have you noticed that the salivating Left is already screaming “Discrimination!” and “That’s dangerous comment.” to the few public voices that have dared to promote Christians to the head of the queue?

  • Well said Bill.
    How quickly the mindless take the moral high ground when they have been blissfully unaware of the unfolding events in the Middle East.
    These are the same people who have been relentless in their pursuit of anyone who dared to oppose SSM.

  • Thank you, Bill, for the common sense perspective of your two recent articles about the Syrian refugee/migrant crisis.

    In part, it is the indiscriminate embracing of multiculturalism by the Left and its contempt for our Christian heritage and the politically correct climate they have fostered that makes it so difficult to have a reasoned discussion and allow good sense to prevail. It’s the same throughout Western Europe and the US.

    I have to admit to finding the scenes on television of large numbers of young able-bodied Syrian men demanding the right to a new life in a European country of their choosing while their fellow countrymen are left to fight for their country to be confounding. The demeanour and audacious attitude of many of them contrasts with the pitiful scenes of destitute refugees from other wars over the years. Syria is in the midst of a terrible struggle against Islamist rebel factions and ISIS, but it seems that a comfortable life and a nice home in Europe is a more important priority to these young men than joining the struggle to help determine the fate of their own country.

    In WW2 young men and women bravely shouldered their responsibilities to fight against Nazi Germany and Japanese totalitarianism despite terrible suffering and privation. A great many of them paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy nowadays and sadly take for granted. Our debt to them is rightly acknowledged every ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. The consequences of a victorious Germany and Japan were unthinkable, but enslavement by a vicious ideology is the fate that awaits Syria and great swathes of the Middle East and elsewhere if the threat of ISIS and other Islamist groups are not defeated. Now is not the time for young Syrian men to be abandoning their country and walking away from their responsibilities and dreaming of a good life in Europe.

  • Dear Bill, Thank you again for the sensible article about Europe’s migrant problem. You are one of the lone voices trying to instill a bit of sense into the debate amongst all the hand wringing, candlelight vigils and the incredibly silly comments of some politicians and journalists.

    I have been receiving news letters from Aid to the Church in Need for years now and they have been continually drawing attention to the plight of the persecuted Christian minority in Syria and other places. The last one gave some facts and figures about the suffering inflicted on the Maiduguri diocese in Nigeria by Boko Haram. It makes gruesome reading. 10,000 Christian faithful displaced, 5,000 Christian faithful killed, 7,000 widows, 10,000 orphans, 350 Churches destroyed, etc etc. Then they have the audacity to say Christians shouldn’t have priority when it comes to the refugee intake. The reason why some Christians here are so stupid is because the are ignorant and ill informed. Needless to say my suffering brothers and sisters have been included in my prayers for a long time now. The rise of extreme Islam is similar to Stalinism.

  • A very recent documentary from a German TV company. It seems to be balanced and realistic.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KVWAIKoatWM

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