Fear of the refugee

In Europe, there is a lot of fear concerning refugees. There are the fears that “they will take our jobs” and that “Islam will take over our countries”. And there is especially the fear that we are receiving terrorists with open arms. This fear is seemingly confirmed in the recent and spectacular attacks in major European cities and is reflected in politics, where some have taken advantage of ‘the refugee crisis’ to gain votes, with the rest of the political spectrum having to follow suit (at least a little bit) in order to minimize their losses. Subsequently, these politicians, in order to protect European lives (or rather Europeans’ standard of living), take certain measures that sadly end up having dramatic consequences for the refugees. These are, for example, detained in degrading refugee camps on small Greek islands, or worse, kept in Libya with European money, where they have to rape each other for food, and are sold on slave markets. The further away the problems, the better we sleep.

However, we must ask ourselves whether this fear for terrorists among refugees is justified. If we look at the people that committed those recent attacks in Brussels and Paris for example, then we see that most are people who had already lived in Europe for a long time, and often even grew up there; not at all the recent refugees we fear so much. It’s the migrants of yesteryear or their children that committed these terrorist attacks. And although some of these terrorists fought in Syria and returned to Europe hidden in the stream of refugees, we must ask ourselves how it is possible that people that grew up in Europe, and not the Islamic State, are able to commit such atrocities? Perhaps the cause is to be found, at least in part, in the way we treated the migrants of old who have become the terrorists of today? Perhaps, if we deal differently with the migrants of today, they will become the good citizens and not the terrorists of tomorrow?

I suggest approaching the refugee crisis Jesus-style. We should not let ourselves be led by fear, but by Jesus. And Jesus’ approach is as clear as it is hard: love. From your best friend to your worst enemy: love. And that is not the cheap love whereby ‘I’m friendly to you if you are friendly to me,’ but the costly love whereby ‘I seek your wellbeing, even if you hate or reject me.’ If our response towards refugees is any less than this, then we are sowing seeds that will bear bad fruit in the future. Hate, fear and even indifference will not help a normal refugee integrate, let alone change the radical islamist’s ideas; love on the other hand undermines hate and changes lives. The government and the refugees themselves definitely have a role to play in their integration, but if the average Joe does not accept them and open his life for them, they will never integrate and our fears will come true as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, greet the foreigner in the street, invite the migrant from around the block for a meal, ask him or her how you can help, and tell them of the love of Jesus.