“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance”. So thought St. Francis of Assisi. And in the current refugee crisis, while there may be a fair amount of charity, there is much less wisdom and, as a result, much more fear and, among our politicians, willful ignorance of the long term effects on Europe of their actions. Prompted by the photograph of drowned boy on a beach in Turkey, European leaders, with the exception of those in this region, have been bending over backwards to appear more charitable than the next.
Leading the charge has been Chancellor Merkel. Germany expects to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four time last year’s figure. Merkel has been quick to criticize those unable or unwilling to do more – and threats that EU funding may be withheld to those not showing the due degree of “solidarity” have been made by others – none more than the Hungarian prime minister who had the temerity to seek to apply the EU’s Dublin II regulations on registering asylum seekers. Ever quick to capitulate to Mutti, David Cameron decided to take five times as many Syrians as originally agreed, telling the world that Merkel was very pleased – a British prime minister putting the gratitude of a German chancellor before his promise to the British people.
Be that as it may, Poland has remained more cautious. Although, referring to Pope Francis’s call for every Catholic parish, religious community, monastery and sanctuary to take in one refugee family, former President Lech Wałęsa has said he will accept refugees into his own home – if his wife agrees – Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz has said that for the time being the government is focusing on providing for the 2,000 refugees that it has already agreed to accept, and that “no decision would be taken that would destabilise our lives.” The enraged Twitterati have dug up an old propaganda film of Poles trudging to Iran during the Second World War in response, an attempt to shame Poland into blindly following the zeitgeist.
Her caution is understandable given that there is a general election here next month and public opinion is divided on this issue. According to a poll by the IBRiS Institute for newspaper Rzeczpospolita, 37 per cent of respondents would accept refugees entering the country if the costs of such an operation were covered by the European Union or the United Nations, but only 16 per cent think that Poland should accept refugees without any conditions. Some 10 per cent said Poland should accept Christian refugees only, while 26 per cent were against Poland taking refugees at all, and 30 per cent favoured closing borders.
Whether this attitude will change as a result of the Pope’s call for charity remains to be seen. The day before, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, Head of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, said in a homily that every Polish parish should offer concrete assistance to refugees. “Our compatriots have been received with hospitality in Europe, the two Americas and Australia and now is the time for a reciprocal gesture of hospitality.”
The problem is identifying the genuine refugees, those who simply (and understandably) wish for a better life, and those who constitute the so-called ISIS advance guard. Seeing families trudging together to safety is one thing; seeing apparently well-fed, well-dressed young men waiving their iPhones as they chant angrily at police or throw away the food and water offered to them, is quite another. This feeds the fear of those for whom the effects of large scale Muslim immigration into Europe: on social cohesion, on European freedoms of which Islam disapproves, and the demographic time bomb which is being detonated, re not benign. Si monumentum requiris circumspice, as the plaque to Wren in St.Paul’s Cathedral puts it. Without Europe’s Christian heritage Europe is simply not Europe.
That said, there is no doubt that it is our duty to help those in need. Europe has been very generous, and it is notable that Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and those of Syria’s neighbours which finance extremism or interfere in the country, have shown neither charity nor Muslim brotherhood – they refuse to take any refugees – while being quick to castigate Europe for its response to a problem largely of their own causing. But, on our part, a response which is neither wise, nor sustainable and which ignores the valid concerns of many Europeans will end in disaster. After all, as Oscar Wilde reminds us, “Charity creates a multitude of sins.”