Our choice of words can reveal our emotions. Let’s consider the massive number of people flowing into Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Are they refugees or migrants? Is their trek across Europe a movement or an onslaught? Is their motivation hope or fear? Are they a threat or an opportunity?
Is the attitude reflected in the words we choose based on empathy or indifference, compassion or contempt? Is that attitude shaped by reality or supposition? Are we making a considered choice or going along with what others think, choosing Gospel values or going with the crowd?
Today’s world is experiencing unusual migration shifts. For a long time, Europe has experienced population equilibrium. That equilibrium includes not only space, but race, ethnicity and religion. Recent voluntary migrations had already raised concerns about threats to that equilibrium which have been exacerbated by the influx of refugees.
A similar threat was seen with the great migration of Europeans to The United States in the 19th century when Germans and Irish arrived in great numbers and were perceived as possessing values incompatible with the American Dream.
Pope Francis and others recognize the situation as a humanitarian crisis that must be handled with compassion and mercy but others see the movement as an onslaught and an attack on their “way of life” and would enact draconian measures to stem the flow.
There are voices of reason, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country expects 800,000 asylum seekers this year, who reminded right wing rioters that “There is no tolerance of those who are not ready to help, where, for legal and humanitarian reasons, help is due,” adding “they are fellow human beings.”
In addressing the issue, the Holy Father said “these brothers and sisters of ours are seeking refuge far from their lands, they are seeking a home where they can live without fear,” further commenting, “I invite you all to ask forgiveness for the persons and the institutions who close the door to these people who are seeking a family, who are seeking to be protected.”
Unfortunately, the radical voices generating fear and contempt see the refugees not as suffering human beings but as an undesirable commodity to be dispatched with by any means possible.
God bless the voices of reason.
This post is also available in/Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish