Beyond Good and Evil: The Religious Argument in the Refugee Debate

Religion – could there be a more sensitive topic in the history of mankind? Countless wars have taken place because of the crucial question of belief. Paradoxically, all religions in their core preach love, forgiveness and decency. Facing the current challenges of the high number of refugees arriving to Europe, many people experience fears – economic, social, cultural and religious, too. In order to solve a conflict, these emotions have to be acknowledged and taken seriously. However, I find it difficult to argue about the loss of Christianity in Europe, because in most countries, Christian values have been steadily disappearing.

Love thy neighbour as thyself

Important pillars of Christianity are the concept of hospitality and the notion to support people whenever they are in need. There is no exception, regardless of the person who happens to be your neighbour. Emphasizing the fact that many refugees are Muslims does not change the content of the biblical verses, but frankly, many countries with a high percent of supposedly faithful Christians neglect their moral duty.

According to the Eurobarometer Poll 2010, in Romania, Poland and Slovakia 92%, 79% and 63% respectively say they believe in God – nevertheless these were three of the most explicit cases of opposition against people who fled from war. Instead of showing the humble side of humanity, the topic of the refugee flow is treated as if it was a plague of locusts. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel, who enjoyed high popularity among many citizens in Germany, is being severely criticized for her approach to deal with the refugees, which she explained with Christian values. Especially in her own party – the Christian Democratic Party, more and more politicians attack her course.

The seven deadly sins – we’re culpable

Talking about biblical principles, the seven deadly sins come directly to my mind: pride, greed, lust, sloth, gluttony, wrath and envy. And yes, we’re all sinners, even the EU as an entitiy. Mostly because of greed. Looking a few months back, when the media was dominated by the Greek debt crisis, it was greed for money which determined the debate. Banks had to be saved although they had contributed significantly to the emergence of the financial bubble. Again, hardly any sympathy for the people hit by extreme economic poverty existed, because the European member states and citizens were scared to lose their capital.

Yet in everyday life, the deadly sins are as present as they can be – ever postponed to write a paper or assignment? You might call it procrastination, it’s sloth. Ever bragged about your fancy trip to an exotic place on a social network? Pride. Ever been jealous about somebody’s achievements? Envy. Ever heard of the countless cases of tax fraud and corruption? Gluttony. Ever desired someone else while being in a committed relationship? Lust. And setting refugee shelters on fire? Clearly wrath. There is a reason why we have come to that point to deconstruct these aspects as sins – because we’re all culpable in some way.

It’s not about religion

Christian values couldn’t prevent Europe from two World Wars, a cold-blooded genocide and the constant discrimination of minorities like the Roma. Yes, this is what people are capable of – regardless of the religion. In general, it seems that people only start believing in God when the turbulences of a plane overwhelm them or when being diagnosed with a lethal disease. Hardly anyone waits until marriage to have sexual intercourse or attends church service regularly. What makes the argument about the loss of religious values so delicate, is the sudden awareness about the fact that in many European countries, exactly these values have decayed a long time ago.

If the argument made really was about religion, people would seek salvation in their faith, but there is no such tendency. On the contrary: the modern, egoistic and individualistic attitude of “every man for himself” contributes to the erosion of values. Although it is important to respect religious identities, bringing the argument of religion to the debate about refugees, mostly appears to be flawed. Scared of different understandings of the rule of law? That’s a legal issue. Scared about the loss of democratic freedom? That’s a political issue. If your own religion doesn’t matter to you, why does somebody else’s?

Photo: Creative Commons; Raul Lieberwirth

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