Refugee problem… or opportunity?

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As I write this, a ship with 650 desperate people is arriving in Spain after being turned away from Italy by the new populist government. More and more governments are turning against the refugees. The new Prime Minister of Hungary has said that “replacement of populations is underway” with Muslims replacing the native Christian population. The German government is locked in a battle, with Chancellor Angela Merkel facing being replaced unless she ends the open door policy, her own interior minister leading the revolt against her over the refugees.

Europe is becoming more and more hostile to the refugees, yet they still keep on coming.  With over 1.4 million refugees officially having arrived in Germany in only the last few years.(1) and Italy taking in over 300,000 refugees that were rescued from the Mediterranean, in the last two years.(2) They are willing to face death to get to Europe with 3,116 dying in the Mediterranean last year. When you see the image of Syrian toddler, Alan Kurdi, whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015 you cannot help but be moved. Moved by what he saw, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch said what most of us were thinking “no one puts children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”.

However it is not that simple where the liberal press focus on the very tragic story of the loss of life of the innocent children what they do not report is the fact that the vast majority of all refugees are young men. In Italy the figure for 2017 is 83.8% being male. Only 12.5% are children.(3) Germany has refused to issue official figures as to the mix of male to females afraid of how it might be reported. This fact is challenged by the liberal press, I found many saying it is untrue that they are majority male, however consult the official figures and you will find it is true. But let’s look at this fairly in a war zone young males are more at risk, they are either forced to fight for a cause they do not believe in, or killed as a threat to those very people trying to make them fight. A large number are fleeing forced conscription, so in 2015 in Italy: Pakistanis who arrived, males account for 98.6% percent; males also account for 98.9% of refugees from Gambia and for 98.3% of those from Senegal. The disparity among refugees from Bangladesh are even more staggering 0.6% are female.(4) However please note something, none of the countries I have just listed are at war.

Let’s also look again at this claim that “no one puts children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”. Is that really true? The child who died who inspired that comment was put on a boat from Turkey to Greece. There is no war in Turkey and although the life of a refugee in Turkey is not good, it is a, relatively, safe country they are not facing death there. Europe is seen as the land of plenty the land of prosperity. And in the end the statistics say you have a 99% chance of making it. Would you take a 99% chance of prosperity overs a 1% chance of death?

A couple of years ago I spent some time in a small town just outside of Frankfurt in Germany, I was very shocked to be told that no female can go out at night there anymore as groups of refugees wander the streets, bored with nothing to do, and do not treat the women they come across well. Even when going out in groups the women will often come under verbal abuse.  This is not hard to understand when the refugee nearly entirely come from cultures where women’s rights are not respected; where women should never go out without a man; where they are taught that western dress of women means they have low morals.

Despite all of what I have been saying, we have a very clear command from scripture. In the Old Testament “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 19:34 and again in the New Testament “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2.  Although a large number of the refugees are young men they are all people who have lost everything, who have often lost friends and family. They are hated and not wanted. They are the exactly the people who Jesus called us to love.

The world, and Europe, are seeing the movement of people to a degree never seen before. Nearly all the people come from countries closed to the gospel, if they know anything of Christianity it is negative and lies. This is our opportunity to reach people never before able to be reached. The gospel is even for the young man so filled with hate for the west, who is hurt by losing everything in a war which he is told is caused by the west. We are called to love our enemy however much more should we love these people who although different from us are coming to our countries looking for peace and safety and, yes, prosperity.

In our compassion for the refugees let’s not forget the native populations who see theirs culture under threat and what they see as their once safe cities becoming somewhere where women fear to go. We need to have compassion and love for all. So the refugee situation is both a problem and an opportunity.