The EU migrant crisis has been described as the greatest migration of refugees since World War II, a migration of “biblical proportions.” It’s a humanitarian emergency that will require the world to respond collectively and humanely.
Why are people fleeing?
Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing Iraq, Syria, and northern Africa to escape war, poverty, and religious persecution. Most just want to keep their children safe and alive. It’s expected that 800,000 will seek asylum in Germany this year alone, and it doesn’t appear that this influx of people will slow down anytime soon.
Their journey isn’t easy or safe. Just this year 2,500 people have died trying to flee their home countries. There are horrible accounts of people drowning in the Mediterranean or suffocating in refrigerated trucks as they seek asylum. Caring and providing for those who arrive is one issue, but helping save the lives of people in transit is even more daunting.
How are European nations responding?
Unfortunately, once migrants arrive in Europe they still face xenophobia, discrimination and fences designed to keep them out of certain countries. For example, there was a neo-Nazi demonstration in Dresden that protested the settlement of migrants in that city, and Slovakia is discriminating against Muslims — they’re only accepting Christian migrants for asylum.
German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has called for EU countries to stop erecting fences, allow free movement of migrants and to collaboratively address this humanitarian crisis. In her words, “Europe as a whole must move and its states must share the responsibility for refugees seeking asylum.”
She’s right. A collaborative effort to address the EU migrant crisis is needed to humanely care for these refugees and help them establish new lives in new lands.
The EU migrant crisis is a humanitarian crisis
On a recent newscast, a migrant father pleaded with anyone who would listen, “I am a person, you are a person. I have children, you have children.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that. We should care for those who are hurting and stand in solidarity with the poor and oppressed.
The good news in the EU migrant crisis is that average, everyday people of faith and good will are stepping up and doing the right thing. When governments have moved too slowly or have responded inadequately, people have stood in solidarity with the migrants and welcomed the stranger. Here are a few examples:
- After the neo-Nazi protest in Dresden, a larger, more vocal counter-protest let the migrants know that they were welcome. These counter protesters carried banners with sayings like “Refugees Welcome” and “Laughter Is the Same in Every Language.”
- In Iceland, where the government offered to accept only 50 refugees, the people of Iceland offered their homes for up to 10,000 people. The people are open to sharing what they have with those who need it, including beds, clothes, toys and other simple items that make a home. Items that mean the world to people who have left their homes behind.
- Speaking about the EU migrant crisis, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva said, “rescuing threatened human life is more important than economic questions or immediate state interests”.
As Christians, we need to allow our faith to guide us on the issue of immigration both in Europe and in the U.S. Governments and politicians act in their self-interest. As people of faith, it’s up to us to sometimes make the needs of strangers a priority.
Respect and dignity for human life demands that Christians care for “the stranger” (Deut. 10:19). While some of us live half a world away from the EU migrant crisis, we can still be the voice for the voiceless and be more gracious when we encounter the stranger in our midst.