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Muslim Refugees Face Love and Hate

Samuel Shropshire speaks at rally to welcome Muslim and Christian refugees in Bratislava, Slovakia. The rally was organized by Slovak Catholics and Muslim Voice for Peace & Reconciliation (MVPR).

Samuel Shropshire speaks at rally to welcome Syrian refugees to Bratislava, Slovakia. The rally was organized by Slovak Catholics and Muslim Voice for Peace & Reconciliation (MVPR). Working together we can accomplish great things for God and humanity.

Refugee Crisis and European Response

ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATHA German rescuer from the humanitarian organisation Sea-Watch holds a drowned migrant baby, off the Libyan cost May 27, 2016. The baby, who appears to be no more than a year old, was pulled from the sea after a wooden boat capsized last Friday. Mandatory Credit Christian Buettner/Eikon Nord GmbH Germany/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT. TEMPLATE OUT.

A German rescuer from the humanitarian organisation Sea-Watch holds a drowned migrant baby, off the Libyan cost May 27, 2016. The baby, who appears to be no more than a year old, was pulled from the sea after a wooden boat capsized last Friday.  (Click photos to enlarge.) 

More than 1.3 million refugees had crossed into Europe by March, 2016. They came by land and sea. This influx of refugees sparked a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the millions of arrivals. It created division in the European Union over how to best deal with resettling people. While Sweden, Germany and Austria offered an immediate welcome, some nations gave way to right-wing extremists and racists, refusing to help.

While the vast majority of refugees arrived by sea, many chose to walk to freedom and safety, principally via Turkey to Greece and then Albania and northward! Most hoped to reach Western Europe to join relatives already resettled there.

Adding to the horror of the crisis was the number of deaths occurring at sea. Now, nearly two years into this crisis, refugee ships continue making the crossing, some sinking in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.

And just this past week came a battered, blue-decked vessel that flipped over on Wednesday as terrified migrants plunged into the waters of the Mediterranean. The next day, a flimsy craft capsized with hundreds of people on board. And on Friday, still another boat sank into the deceptively placid waters.

Now another week and three sunken ships are again confronting Europe with the horrors of its refugee crisis, as desperate people trying to reach the Continent keep dying at sea. At least 700 people from the three boats are believed to have drowned, the United Nations refugee agency announced on Sunday, in one of the deadliest weeks in the Mediterranean in recent memory.

Most, attempting to escape war, terrorism, poverty and starvation in their homelands, are desperate to reach Europe, Canada and America, where they believe a new and better life awaits them.

Fear and rejection

A rally organized by the Slovak group Stop Islamisation of Europe and backed by far-right politicians

A rally organized by the Slovak group Stop Islamisation of Europe and backed by far-right politicians shouts “Refugees go home!”

But what they face in the West, in some cases, is extreme opposition based on misguided fear, anger and racism.

Since April 2015, the European Union has struggled to cope with the crisis, increasing funding for border patrol operations in the Mediterranean, devising plans to fight migrant smuggling, launching Operation Sophia and proposing a new quota system to relocate and resettle asylum seekers among EU states.

Individual countries have at times reintroduced border controls within the Schengen Area, and rifts have emerged between countries willing to accept asylum seekers and others trying to block their arrival.

According to Eurostat, EU member states received over 1.2 million first time asylum applications in 2015, a number more than double that of the previous year. Four states (Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and Austria) received around two-thirds of the EU’s asylum applications in 2015, with Hungary, Sweden, and Austria being the top recipients of asylum applications per capita. The main countries of citizenship of asylum seekers, accounting for more than half of the total, were the war-torn nations of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The conflict in Syria continues to be by far the biggest driver of refugees. But the ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, abuses in Eritrea, as well as abject poverty in Kosovo, are also leading people to look for new lives elsewhere.

According to the UN, there are more 60 million refugees in today’s world. And some nation’s are not at all friendly to these men, women and children who are seeking safety and a better life.

After Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, came out last year against taking in refugees, the great majority of which are Muslim, Cyprus and other nations have also sought to block refugees from entering their nations.

Hate and religious discrimination

Shropshire addresses crowd of several hundred Slovaks who came to support the refugees coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dominik Smrek and Shropshire address crowd of several hundred Slovaks in Bratislava. They came to encourage support for the refugees coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some have sought to reject refugees simply based on their religious beliefs.

“We would seek for them to be Orthodox Christians,” Cyprus’ Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos told state radio. “It’s not an issue of being inhuman or not helping if we are called upon, but to be honest, yes, that’s what we would prefer.”

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico also complained about the flow of refugees, setting an arbitrary number of “200 Christians” to be received.

Fico has taken a hard stand from the beginning, echoing far-right Polish leader Jaroslaw Kaczyński, Viktor Orbán and Czech President Miloš Zeman in an openly Islamophobic campaign against both the refugees and the EU’s attempt to redistribute the refugees.

Although the leader of a (nominally) center-left party, Direction-Social Democracy (SMER-SD), Fico has a history of nationalist statements, mostly against Roma (so-called “Gypsies”), which have landed him in trouble with his European allies in the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

Despite threats from S&D to censure him and his party, Fico doubled down by making various Islamophobic statements and threatening to take the EU to court over its refugee plan. He even went so far as to say that he wanted to put every Muslim in Slovakia under surveillance!

Slovakia’s most recent elections

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who railed against the refugees. His appeal to extremist groups in Slovakia failed to secure him a majority coalition in the Slovak parliament.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who railed against the refugees. His appeal to extremist groups in Slovakia failed to secure a majority coalition for him in the Slovak parliament.

These days we expect elections in East Central Europe to be bad news for liberal democracy. In 2014 Hungary re-elected its strongman Viktor Orbán, despite the fact that he had transformed his country into an narrow-minded democracy, and in 2015 Poland brought back Law and Justice (PiS), the party of Jaroslaw Kaczyński, who has been praising Viktor Orbán’s “Budapest Model” since 2011.

Surprisingly, Fico’s courting of right-wing groups did not help him in the Slovak general elections. Based on the results Smer-SD was the big loser of the election, winning just 28.3 percent of the vote, a loss of 16.1 percent compared to 2012!

Clearly this is not because of a lack of support for Fico’s anti-immigration positions within the Slovak population. Even before the refugee crisis hit Europe, Slovaks were among the least positive towards foreign immigration within the EU, and, given the various mass demonstrations during 2015, that situation has not changed for the better.

But the demonstrations did not just bring people together to voice opposition to Muslim refugees, they also gave a platform to a variety of far-right activists and groups. The most visible was Marian Kotleba, former leader of Slovak Brotherhood, a neo-Nazi party that was disbanded by the Supreme Court.

Kotleba has since bounced back, founding the extreme right People’s Party of Slovakia (ĽSNS), and getting elected governor of the Banská Bystrica Region in 2013. Kotleba and ĽSNS were very active and visible in the anti-immigration demonstrations in Slovakia and were rewarded with 8.0 percent of the vote (an increase of 6.4 percent) in the 2016 national elections. Even more shocking, ĽSNS was the biggest party among first-time voters, attracting a staggering 22.7 percent among 18 to 21 year olds!

What then should be our response?

In such crises, it is understandable that citizens are concerned about a mass influx of foreigners—especially when it involves hundreds of thousands of men and women of different faiths and cultures. After all, settling refugees in our communities exhausts our own governments’ resources, making it difficult to meet the needs of our own citizens.

But we people of faith have a higher calling to resist extremist politics when it is in opposition to immediate human need for compassion. We Christians and Muslims must respond as we believe Jesus and Mohammad (PBUT) would respond, encouraging their followers to assist helpless pilgrims and sojourners. There is a very famous Arabic statement in this regard, “The foreigner is blind even if he has eyes,” which indicates the vulnerability of the stranger and suggests that the stranger needs help and guidance.

What is it like when hundreds of thousands of men, women and children flee war? Watch the video below, and learn from the masses of Syrian refugees who are now making their way to Europe under the most difficult of circumstances. Watch and pray! And please give so Muslim Voice for Peace & Reconciliation can make a difference for Muslims around the world by encouraging an end to religious discrimination:  www.mvpr.org

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May 31, 2016 - Posted by | Human Rights, Peace, Refugees, Religious Reconciliation, Terrorism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Comments »

  1. Sam, Consider this. In order for two sides to actually accomplish reconciliation, there has to be a willingness for each to see how the other side views the situation. I appreciate your iteration of the humanitarian crisis from the point of view of the refugees. However, what is missing is any is any appreciation for the legitimacy of those who oppose the refugees coming to their neck of the woods. They, too, have legitimate concerns. Many of the refugees want, what the people of the ‘host’ company have, and they want it now and without strings attached. In many instances the refugees ( particularly in Germany) get more than the poorer people of that country have in terms of benefits. Most of those who plead the cause of the refugees give NO legitimacy, to those who have concerns of those who either oppose any refugees or seek moderation of the numbers of refugees. This is not a formula for reconciliation. Those who favor the refugees present the case in black and white terms, “we are right and you, the Neanderthals, the bigots, the blank-a-phobes, are wrong”. This approach has never worked in the past and it won’t work now. It is also not the Biblical way which is basically “seek first to understand, and then be understood”. There are legitimate concerns on both sides

    Secondly, the refugees themselves are partly responsible for the movement against refugees by behaving badly in their host country. Look at some of the things that happened in Germany over the New Year’s Holidays. Black and White are not reality. At least shades of gray. Please be careful, circumspect and respectful of both sides in whatever conflict you are reporting on. love, David David Hungerford Chairman of the Board Bridges to Common Ground http://www.bridgestocommonground.org Daveheide1@verizon.net

    >

    Comment by David Hungerford | May 31, 2016 | Reply

    • David,

      Thank you so much for your comments. I am grateful.

      In such crises, it is understandable that citizens are concerned about a mass influx of foreigners—especially when it involves hundreds of thousands of men and women of different faiths and cultures. After all, settling refugees in our communities exhausts our own governments’ resources, making it difficult to meet the needs of our own citizens.

      But we people of faith have a higher calling to resist extremist politics when it is in opposition to immediate human need for compassion. We Christians and Muslims must respond as we God Himself has encouraged His followers to respond to pilgrims and sojourners through the ages. There is a very famous Arabic statement in this regard, “The foreigner is blind even if he has eyes,” which indicates the vulnerability of the stranger and suggests that the stranger needs help and guidance.

      We have only to consider why the refugees are fleeing. The Syrians lived for years under extremely unjust conditions. When they finally protested nonviolently, voicing their opposition to years of oppression their nonviolent efforts were met with armed aggression by their own government. Their towns, houses and lives were destroyed by Assad who stooped to the level of using chemical weapons against his own people. Beginning five years ago millions were displaced. They have been sheltered in United Nations refugee camps.

      My words at our rally in Bratislava were not angry. I simply appealed to reason. In my speech I said, “Think. If you had been living numerous years in a UN refugee camp in extremely adverse conditions with no hope or expectation of getting out of that refugee camp for years to come, you, too, would most likely hit the road. You, no doubt, would try to get immediate relief for your family and yourself. You would try to find a better future.”

      “I understand the fear and anguish of many Slovaks, however, the promotion of unreasonable public dread and anxiety, especially when based on Islamaphobia and xenophobism, are not only nonproductive, but such attitudes when combined with right-wing politics leads to bigotry, hatred and violence against a refugee population that is already vulnerable.”

      It is true that a relatively few refugees have behaved badly in Germany. I think some 23 out of more than a million are facing legal action, as they should. Some of these are now being tried in the courts and will most likely face prison or deportation.

      Amazingly, Germany and its mostly gracious population has responded well. I applaud Chancellor Merkel for encouraging and welcoming the refugees. I applaud Pope Francis for his incredible appeal to Catholic parishes throughout Europe to adopt refugee families. He appealed to Catholics everywhere to help, saying, “We Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.”

      Needless to say, we Muslims in the Middle East must also respond in love and understanding to minority populations and refugees. I know that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are seeking to do so.

      Pope Francis’s words have opened wide a door for Muslims throughout the world to enter into a welcomed dialogue with Catholic Christians and others. Often now I am speaking in Catholic parishes in the US and Slovakia. I welcome those opportunities to share my faith with them and to have them respond with their own ideas and beliefs about God.

      Such horrific crises compel us to reason with one another, and that very practice of listening and responding to human need is what MVPR is doing in Slovakia, the US and elsewhere. The challenges faced by the world’s record numbers of refugees (Greater than 80% are Muslim) are also opportunities for increased witness and light-bearing. May we be faithful and obedient to the God of Abraham.

      Is Bridges to Common Ground involved in any dialogue relative to the refugee crisis? We at MVPR would welcome the opportunity, as time would permit, to join you, or have you join us.

      Wishing you the joy and blessings of Ramadan!

      Sam

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | June 2, 2016 | Reply

  2. Frightening.

    Comment by Pat Schenck | May 31, 2016 | Reply

    • Pat,

      Times are indeed difficult for the 60 million refugees in our world today. We must not give up in our efforts at peacemaking and assistance to those in need. If we are unable to assist directly, then we should at the least encourage understanding and compassion.

      Give my love to all AFM friends!

      Sam

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | June 2, 2016 | Reply

  3. Sam, you’ve written a comprehensive factual account detailing what is happening, something that is not happening many places. Thank you and I’m proud to know you and support your organization. Light,Life and Love, Mardy

    Comment by Martha Burgess | June 1, 2016 | Reply

    • God bless you, dear Marty. My love to Al and all Friends.

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | June 2, 2016 | Reply

  4. Thanks for your efforts Mr.Sam. Keep it up.

    Comment by Abdullah Rehman | June 1, 2016 | Reply

    • Abdullah, thank you for your faithful friendship and prayers! – Sam

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | June 2, 2016 | Reply

  5. Date: Tue, 7 Jun 2016 15:57:35 -0400
    Subject: Invitation to a poll launch discussion on “American attitudes on refugees from the Middle East”

    Comment by Sadig Malki | June 9, 2016 | Reply

    • Thank you, Dr Sadig!

      Comment by Sam Shropshire | June 9, 2016 | Reply

  6. My dear brother in faith in the ONE GOD of all.
    may peace be with you:
    The link below will take you to the house of the prophet. The prophet, may peace be upon him, and his 2 friends were buried in this house. Also his daughter Fatamh was berried in the same house. The idea of the visit is show love to the prophet for what he did for his. You can do that by standing very politely infront of the location and then you say: MAY PEACE AND BLESSING OF ALLAH BE UPON YOU, O PROPHET OF ALLAH.
    MAY PEACE AND BLESSING OF ALLAH BE UPON YOU, O PROPHET WHOM ALLAH HAVE SENT YOU AS MERCY TO MAN KIND
    ALSO YOU TAKE TO THE TWO KHALIFA ABO BAKER AND OMAR IN A SIMILAR FASHION
    ALSO YOU SAY THE SAME TO FATAMH MAY PEACE BE UPON HER.
    Of course Sam you do not ask the prophet for things because he is a human being like us but we should show gratitude for what he have done for us in delivering the message and handling the pressure of Dawa

    pleas convey my gratitude to prophet Mohammed may peace be upon him

    Date: Sun, 26 Jun 2016 06:04:59 +0300
    Subject: زيارة النبي للذكرى وانت في بيتك

    Comment by Sadig Malki | July 1, 2016 | Reply


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