Volkerwanderung with a new meaning
The German word best describes the ongoing and relentless migration of refugees from war-torn and economically deprived areas of the globe to the prosperous West European and North American countries. It had its origins in the much earlier mass-movement of Celtic and Germanic tribes from their previous Central Asian locations under duress from hostile environments and advancing other ethnicities in a contest for human habitation. Armed conflict and habitat destruction are the motivating features that have necessitated migration in large numbers over thousands of years. What is different this time is the sheer volume of humanity in search of security and better living conditions that challenges the ability of host nations and carries uncertainties of many kinds
Recently awaiting my turn for service at a local bank with a TV news monitor I was engaged in discussion by a lady who identified herself as a fifth generation Indo-New Zealander. Commenting on what was displayed on screen she voiced her concern about demands on our country to absorb a greater number of refugees on the grounds of security concerns. She could see problems in identifying among those entering on humanitarian grounds infiltrators intent on acts of sabotage and murder. While I assured her that with the small number involved where we are concerned and the screening methods at our disposal there was little likelihood of this occurring, it left room for conjecture where the multitude of asylum seekers from Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa in Europe was concerned.
Putting these negative notions aside there is evidence in recent BBC news reports that the over-reaction of several central European countries to the crisis is understandable in light of Germany’s visible inability to live up to its promise of accommodating up to 800,000 refugees. Its record to date with other ethnic minorities after the Second World War and Turkish guest workers in particular throws doubt on that country’s absorption ability with the potential of social unrest on a much greater scale. As followers of Christ, churches of all denominations have to ask themselves how they figure in all this. The majority of displaced new arrivals identify as Muslim and are intent on establishing their own cultural and faith based belief system in competition with Christianity, with the advantage of a stronger religious commitment. The potential of conflict between the two branches of Islam with strong representation of both can also not be ruled out.
Taking the moral high ground in pressuring our government to be more accommodating in our refuge quota may be commendable, but is ill advised in the face of the European experience.