Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, close to the border with Syria, give the peace sign. (Eoghan Rice / CC BY-SA 3.0)

With the unfolding of the largest refugee crisis since World War II, Europe’s governments appear to have forgotten the lessons brought about by thousands of years of migration. “It’s a slippery road from invader to refugee to emigrant to citizen,” explains British journalist Robert Fisk. “And woe betide those who think the words can’t go in the reverse order.”

Europe’s generosity stretched far in “welcoming Belgian refugees in the First World War, Jewish refugees before the Second World War, Germans afterwards, Hungarians fleeing the 1956 uprising … [and ]the Bosnian refugees of the early 1990s,” Fisk reminds us. Writing in The Independent, he says that other states should take Germany’s lead, moving beyond nativist and Islamophobic rhetoric to open the way for refugees.

Fisk tells us:

When I was at school, an idiotic vicar (“Religious Affairs Teacher” was his preposterous title) tried to persuade us pupils that Christianity was all about being “tested”. God was setting us tests, you see, not just giving us instructions to obey (as he – God, not the Vicar – supposedly did to Muslims). But post-war Europe – or at least the geographically western sector of Europe – is indeed now being tested. We thought that our Judgement Day would involve a test of our war-loving nature: did we or did we not resist the temptation of a Third World War once Hitler was dead?

We passed that test. Rather well. But now it turns out that the real test is based not on our supposedly belligerent nature, but on our own preaching and sermonizing and proselytizing. We had lectured the Muslim Arab dictatorships (whose criminal bosses we propped up with money and weapons and torture-training) on the need for human rights, equality and justice. But then, suddenly, from this very land-mass, came a benighted people in their hundreds of thousands – perhaps thousands of thousands – who decided that in their moment of agony, they would like to throw their lives into the hands of these beautiful people who had been teaching them for so many decades about the benefits of heaven on earth. This immensely wealthy paradise – a land of milk and honey in the most literal sense in any supermarket – had for years been talking of its promise and its human goodness, of its immensely high standards of law and justice. Now these people would like to have some of it.

And we – in this critical hour in the history of our continent, in the history of the EU, in the story of what was once called “Christendom” – we failed the Great Test. Our state-of-the-art nations did not want these wretched people. They became bloodsuckers, human mosquitoes, people-smugglers, a “swarm”. And if the rags of our integrity as human beings have been salvaged these past few weeks, this is due to the dour, rather sour Protestant ethics of an east German hausfrau who history may (or may not, for let us remember her people’s grandfathers for whom my Dad was supposed to shoot his own refugees) say has saved our soul.

But if our generosity stretched that far in welcoming Belgian refugees in the First World War, Jewish refugees before the Second World War, Germans afterwards, Hungarians fleeing the 1956 uprising, even a few Chernobyl survivors (some soon to die), they usually had two things in common. They were white – or as near as much as makes no difference – and they were European and – or as near as much as makes no difference – were from our monotheistic world. The Bosnian refugees of the early 1990s were mostly Muslim, of course, but they looked like and were Europeans, and their version of Islam was for us picturesque rather than religious: snow-covered mosques rather than hot Kabaas, a whiff of eastern cuisine washed down with slivovica, Ramadan-and-one-for-the-road.

But these chaps today, camping opposite Dover, for example, as my Dad’s racist friends used to say, were “black as the ace of spades”. Or a bit black. Or brown. Even the Ethiopian Christians – who passed the Christianity test – failed the color bar. That is why, I fear, we wept for poor Aylan al-Kurdi. His Muslim religion (such as he would have understood it at that age) was cancelled out by his Kurdish origin – the Kurds being a brave warrior people whom we regularly admire, support and usually betray. We mourned for him not just because he was an innocent three-year old but because he was a white innocent three-year old.

Only one more remark remains to me, and I say it now for the first time in my life, as the son of a father who fought the Kaiser’s arms on the Somme, and of a mother who repaired radios on damaged Spitfires during the Second World War.

Thank God for Germany.

Read the full article here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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