Migrants outside Keleti Station, Budapest
Over the last month, Europe has been convulsed by a dramatic migration crisis. Thousands of thousands of predominantly Muslim refugees and economic migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria and Somalia, often armed with Iphone 6+s, marched or were smuggled through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary, and then on to Austria, Germany, Sweden and other Scandinavian countries.
“This is an invasion,” said Hungarian Catholic Archbishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo. “They come here with cries of ‘Allahu Akbar. They want to take over. They behave in a way that is very arrogant.”
In Britain, Rev. Ian Paul quotes MEP Daniel Hannan: Should we contract out our immigration policy to people smugglers? Instead of those in the camps who have been classified by the UN as refugees, should we allow a lucky few to jump the queue by breaking the law?
The conservative blogger, Adrian Hilton, Archbishop Cranmer, pointing out that, for the last six years, Mohammed has been the most common name given to British babies, cites Oxford demographer David Coleman: Through immigration and procreation, Britain will be a majority Muslim country by 2050, Which may be precisely what every citizen wants. Or may not.
I then read Rev. Giles Fraser, the Loose Canon, whose hyperbole seems to me to resonate with the heartbeat of God. “Take all of them? Surely that’s the biblical answer to the “how many can we take?” question. Take every single last one. Let’s dig up the greenbelt, turn our Downton Abbeys into flats and churches into temporary dormitories. Yes, it may change the character of this country. But let’s do whatever it takes to open the door of welcome.”
I read Left, Right and Centre, and then, confused, I pray. I ask God “So! What do you want me to think? What is your heartbeat? What do you think about this?
* * *
1 When you fly high, you cannot see borders between nations. Mountain, valley, forest all merge. It’s all one.
God sees a borderless world. His world.
He loves the Syrians fleeing violence, and the Eritreans fleeing indefinite conscription for both men and women, virtual slavery, with sexual and physical violence, while the family at home struggle. And he loves the coiffed, diamonded European matron who wears the net worth of the Eritean’s entire village on her person. He loves refugees, and he loves economic migrants who subject themselves to danger, hunger and thirst to gain a fulfilling life for themselves and their children.
When he sees his children safe, out of danger, well-fed, well-educated and happy, He is happy.
2 What is the Spirit saying to the church? To Christians?
The great words spoken by angels whenever they encounter mortals, often repeated by Christ: Do not be afraid.
As the BBC economics editor Robert Peston wrote recently, “immigration promotes growth.” Economist Michael Clemens for the Centre for Global Development writes A world without borders makes economic sense. The world impoverishes itself much more through blocking international migration than any other single class of international policy. 40% of adults in the poorest quarter of nations wish to move permanently to another country. Preventing them from doing so causes more than just human harm: it hobbles the global economy, costing the world roughly half its potential economic product.
The Atlantic: Economists agree immigration is good for a nation. They term it “Immigration surplus:” the positive effect immigration has by creating new demand for goods and services, which encourages employers to hire more people. And if migrants replace incumbent workers, even though wages are lowered, goods and services are produced more cheaply. The winners are broadly distributed and the primary losers are incumbent workers, whose wages fall until the resulting economic growth boosts their wages.
The Economist: Migrants are net contributors to the public purse. They inject economic dynamism. They are, almost by definition, self-starters.
In the United States, the world’s largest economy and richest country, 12.9% of the population are foreign-born according to the latest census, and 11 million, 3.5% of the population are illegal immigrants. For generations, the US has led the world in the arts, sciences, technology, business, you name it…
2B. I am an immigrant myself, twice over, actually. I became a US citizen while I lived in the US for 17 years, and then a UK citizen when we moved back here 11 years ago. (My husband, Roy, is also a New Zealand citizen!)
Admittedly, we did not enter illegally. I don’t have the stomach for that–though faced with being aerially bombed as the Syrians are, who knows, who knows? My husband who has a BA from Cambridge University, a Ph.D from Johns Hopkins University, and post-docs from Stanford and Cornell entered on a Highly Skilled Workers Visa to a Professorship at the University of Birmingham (though we are now trying our hand at entrepreneurship!!)
Those striving to enter by sea and land, through mountains and rivers, within unventilated vans, on the tops of moving trains and beneath lorries and planes may not bring a fistful of advanced degrees with them, but they bring other things. Gumption, determination, physical strength, endurance, resilience, courage, optimism, hardiness, ambition, wild dreaming, a fierce love for their children. Thinking outside the box! How can these not benefit a society?
As a road trip through Europe or North America shows, there is enough, there is room, there is room. Whereas people leave places like Gambia for lack of opportunity, the economy of Oxford where I live, and London even more so, is powered by immigrants—the cleaners, builders, house painters, gardeners, nurses, doctors, scientists and academics.
Jesus tells us secrets in the Sermon on the Mount: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” It is a little acknowledged secret about how the world works.
What is true for individuals is true for nations. Germany and Sweden have been particularly generous to migrants. Hungary, Estonia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland Bulgaria and Romania are unwilling to accept non-Christian migrants. Guess which countries will have an increased GDP and increased prosperity ten years from now? Increased international goodwill? Blessing, if a spiritual term can be quantified, as it often can.
4 God works through migration. Judaeo-Christian history commences with Abraham being commanded to leave his country and his people and migrate to the promised land. The Jews migrate to Egypt during famine, return; are forcibly relocated to Babylon, mostly return; are forcibly dispersed during the Diaspora following the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, and go out into all the world, the converted Jews taking the Gospel with them.
Christians are commanded to be a migrant people, to go into all the world, and tell the good news to all people.
Wherever true Christianity spreads, it must cause diligence and frugality, which, in the natural course of things, must beget riches! (John Wesley). Now the Muslim nations– are coming to Europe, a land of milk and honey in every supermarket
It is the greatest missionary opportunity ever. The nations come to the Christians.
Should they hear the startlingly good news of Jesus , the secrets of the Universe he shares, hear of the love of God, the power of prayer, the power of grace to change us, amazing grace, on the airwaves, in their new neighbourhoods, in the schools and in refugee centres, and should some of them return with it to their native lands: Wow. It may change the world as dramatically as when the Gospel first went forth to Europe.
6 Mercy and generosity–particularly to the stranger and the alien– are Christian imperatives
The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says: “Europe needs to protect its Christian identity against a Muslim invasion, it’s millions, then tens of millions, because the supply of immigrants is endless.”
In fact, the supply of immigrants is not endless. 60% of adults in the world’s poorest countries have no wish to leave.
What is endless is the capacity of the mind of man to create wealth.
Wealth is infinitely expandable. Some of America’s most valuable companies—Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google are based on ideas incarnated by technology. Amazon now sells more ethereal books on Kindle than real books. Wealth is created from the mind of humankind (especially so, perhaps, when hooked to the mind of God). There is no ceiling. There is always enough.
We already grow enough food to feed everyone. The feeding of the five thousand? I believe it happened; it’s a miracle that has been repeated again and again.
There is enough wealth in this world to share with those fleeing bombs, those fleeing conscription, those fleeing starvation, and those fleeing boredom. Those who have come for safety, for food, for a Ph.D for themselves or their children.
There is enough goodness in the world for the Syrians and the Swiss, for the Afghanistanis and the Austrians, for the Indians and the English
Few brave oceans, mountains, barbed wire, tear gas, police dogs and stun grenades to be on welfare forever. The stranger and alien Judaeo-Christians are commanded to have compassion on will eventually be a dynamic blessing to the societies that offer sanctuary. So it has always been.
There are no borders in heaven. Living like that on earth will be out of everyone’s comfort zone. And in that zone, we change, we grow as we learn to really look, to see people with Jesus’s eyes, giving up prejudice, giving up pre-judging by skin colour, presumed intelligence, culture and education, or the lack of them. Being open-hearted. Obeying Jesus’ command not to judge.
By having mercy on the one in need, we live, as Jesus said in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
7 When I lived in America, and attended a church which occasionally conflated patriotism with Christianity, we’d sing in church:
This land is your land; this land is my land,
From California, to the Yukon highway.
I imagine that’s what God sings over the world today
This land is your land,
But this land is NOT really your land,
This land is MY land.
From Syria to Sweden
From Eritrea to Germany.
Do not be afraid.
Be open-hearted and willing to share.