One of Johannes's writings was translated by Dóri Herbert, a longer reflection on the refugee issue.
It's a little older, he posted it online on October 20th, and then he modified it a little bit on November 2nd. It mainly reflects the situation in Germany (but it can also be of particular interest, I think), but it also generally applies to what you say. He speaks in many ways and very wisely, but at the same time gives directions on where to go, how to pray. It's worth reading. 🙂
"What do you think of thisabout the refugee situation?" they often ask me since August. I haven't wanted to comment much so far because this problem is so multifaceted. And differentiation is not very fashionable in any of the "camps." That's why it's a long time.
The number of acts of violence against foreigners and anti-foreigner sentiment are now increasing worryingly. The situation is getting sharper every day, but for the most part people do not feel that the government is offering real solutions to the most pressing problems.
What is our job as Christians?
The church's main task in this situation is to preach the gospel in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Turkish, etc. People need food and abode, but there's so much more to it than that. We need hope! And most Muslims fleeing to Germany are fleeing because their country is in ruins as a result of revenge, terror and corruption. They are profoundly spiritual and spiritual people with religious issues. They need a message of reconciliation and forgiveness. Yes, we Christians believe that life with Jesus can be a peaceful and meaningful life. We should have enough self-awareness to say that it is no coincidence that in countries where the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been the driving force behind cultural development, peace and prosperity prevail, there is not a single Muslim country in the world in which freedom of the press, religion and opinion exists. This is a historic opportunity, and the majority of those who have just arrived have lived in countries where it has not been easy and harmless to obtain the gospel. I pray there are many more workers for this overripe harvest!!
Contrary to what prominent Church leaders have said, this does not mean exploiting people's emergencies for the mission. This statement is as bizarre as taking advantage of the drowning emergency, who throws him a lifeline. The deepest human need is to make sense of our existence. The most important question is aimed at God. And the answer is Jesus Christ. As Christians, that's our faith.
Today, more Muslims are reaching faith in Jesus Christ than ever before. There are many people among Muslims, many of them extremely unsure of their religion, but they are just as repulsed by Western secularism. I am convinced that wherever ALPHA courses, church services or Bible seminars are offered in the appropriate languages in Germany, Muslims would like to visit them. We Christians must put down all false shyness, coyness, and boldly proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. Kindly and openly, but with a strong message!
Personal encounters are of particular importance now. Unlike our society, which focuses on performance and projects, relations are much more important in most societies in Africa and the Middle East. Everything works only through personal acquaintances.
Muslims are very interested in faith, they like to talk about it. If they respect their faith, they are usually very open to learning about the faith of their interlocutor.
I encourage everyone not to be afraid: our country is Christian in nature and has a long Christian history. No one can forbid a Christian to talk about his faith in Germany. This also applies to helpers in refugee shelters or social institutions. Of course, there can be no targeted mission in these places. But to talk about our own personal beliefs is part of his right to free expression.
The cultural foundations of our country include knowledge of the Christian message and must also be part of successful integration, although obviously everyone is free to choose for or against it.
As far as the political assessment of the situation is concerned, I believe that the denim of your politician and the general fear are destructive. The rise of xenophocity is worrying and we Christians must contrast this with a spirit of hope and cordial hospitality. Because whoever's in front of us is always the individual who has a story, not just one of the anonymous masses of newcomers.
However, the recent reversal of the mood indicates that the problems that many people, both responsible leaders and the media, are ignoring are real.
What we are experiencing now is political inertia (Johannes puts it more beautifully: the loss of the ability of politics to act — the ford.). On the one hand, they open the gates, and on the other hand, they cannot explain what the plan is for integration that will be carried out at some point – this is not a love of neighbours, but a dangerous myopia.
Basically, the signal of openness and optimism is great. It is quite clear that refugees need to be helped, yes, Germany should be a hosay and open country. But it does not take a particularly large intelligence to realize that supply creates demand.
There are millions (maybe billions?) of people who would love to live in a country like Germany. For me, the hour of truth came in the late '90s. There was no major war in the Middle East back then. But there, as in Africa, countless people told me that their greatest dream would be to immigrate to Germany one day. A lot of people asked me for addresses. They heard that life is very good in our country.
I don't even assume malice about these people: it was a sight to see that they actually heard that everything is relatively simple here once you're here. Someone even told me that social assistance in Germany is more money than what he earns by working there. Unfortunately, you are right: this is for many countries, it is also a sign of roaring global injustice.
And on the west coast of Africa, it was already very high, and I'm sure uganda was much less pleasant than Germany. After all, it would be naïve to think that only those fleeing heavy bombardment will head for Germany.
But the problem is, there are people like that. There are refugees in Germany who have barely been able to save their lives from the most horrful wars. Maybe hundreds of thousands! But not everyone is like that. My view is that if we want to help those who really need it, we do not need to help those who are less in need. In other words, we must assume that there are probably significantly more people who come to Germany who are not eligible for refugee status than those who are eligible.
If you're offering free beer at a busy intersection, don't complain about the big rush. However, to say that it is impossible to stop these masses of people is all we can do is make the best of this situation ("We will solve it!"), this is a short-sighted and cowardly thing to say.
Opening the borders and allowing virtually uncontrolled influx and then ex post, in a lengthy procedure, to clarify who can stay is extremely inhumane.
It encourages people who, from what we hear, to say that Germany is open to all, to go on a costly, extremely dangerous journey, to move very far away from their homeland. It creates completely misconceptions, which inevitably turn into huge disappointment, when someone does not speak a word in the language of the new country, finds themselves in an overcrowded, dirty gym, only to be unsure for years whether they can stay in the longer term.
It would be considerably more humane to inform people more clearly about the conditions of refugee status in Germany and to assess applications in an expedited procedure at stations abroad (say, in North Africa or Turkey, etc.). And then to deport it consistently and to check the borders so that the very people who really need it will be given asylum in Germany.
Here, however, we come to one of the biggest blind spots in the current debate. The question is: who exactly will make it to Germany? Anyone who comes to Germany from Syria or Africa would most likely have to pay a lot for it. And this money has often gone to dangerous smuggling gangs.
On the other hand, who doesn't come? The poorest. The old ones. The women. The wounded. And in the case of Syria: many Christians, for whom it is too uncertain to reach the border. I would argue that the people most in need of help are those who are in Syria itself or mass camps in Lebanon and Turkey. There's the real refugee change. That's where the most urgent thing is.
Yes, the fact that the West did not do its part more forcefully and sooner in the fight against ISIS, and that the US's completely hasty retreat from Iraq (many cheered in Germany at the time, yes, Obama!) really made it possible for the situation to escalate, all this scandal. However, the solution to the conflict cannot be to generously offer shelter to young men in Germany, while children, women, old people and the sick are forced to stay, at the mercy of the insane jihadists coming from all over the world.
(Yes, the West itself is responsible for the situation in the Middle East, but before we start scolding the United States and Bush: there was no Western military intervention in Syria and yet there was a civil war. Everything is more complex than you think.)
But how do we deal with the people who came to us? What applies to them is that each of them has its own story, each of them has a face, each of them worthy of attention, respect, love. The most pressing question, however, is how our society can offer them a long-term perspective if the enthusiasm for free concerts and inclusive events has waned. The answer is that it will only succeed if cultural integration and training are not only supported, but also required.
Both will only succeed if the total number of new arrivals is limited. If, as it is now, more foreign refugees arrive each year than the number of people born in Germany, that is certainly a remarkable trend. It does not help to claim that the number of refugees is low compared to the total population. Of course, most refugees live in countries adjacent to war areas – but there they live in huge tent camps and disastrous conditions. However, they will only integrate into society if the total number is limited.
Of course, in Rottach-Egern and the Middle Ages research department of the University of Berlin, it will not soon be felt that there are too many aliens. But there will be neighborhoods and sections of society in which the German language and culture will become less and less present. If you have romantic ideas about the cultural diversity of such neighbourhoods, we recommend that you buy your own apartment in Marseille or go to a vocational school in Neu-Kölln as an intern. No, the sunset won't sink, and no one will come to kill us all, but we'll run away from reality if we deny the obvious problems that are going to bite everywhere...
Now we're going to get to the most unpleasant part of the debate. They bite everywhere where the influence of Islam is particularly strong.
For now, criticism of Islam has always been interpreted by the public as racism, he says. This is surprising, since Islam is not an ethnicity, but a religion. There are Muslim and non-Muslim Syrians, Iranians, Turks, etc. And the lives of those who call themselves Muslims are very different from islam.
But just as criticism of Christianity is not racism, so is criticism of Islam.
We now live in a country where, fortunately, there is freedom of religion. However, this only applies where it does not limit other principles of a free, democratic order. No one should refuse to pay taxes or comply with the law on the grounds of their religious affiliation.
There is no such thing as "Islam itself." That is why all statements about "Islam" are problematic. Especially since these statements always tend to lump all Muslims together. Islam is a religion in many forms, unfortunately there are still very large differences in the interpretation of the Koran. By the way, this is one of the reasons why Muslims around the world are at war with each other in so many places. The question of what would be a "correct interpretation" of the Koran is very difficult. For a peaceful Muslim, peaceful interpretation is the right thing to do, for an ISIS follower, it's terror. What's the use of peaceful Muslims talking on German TV about Islam being peaceful as long as dissenters get their guns and money from Saudi Arabia and can rely on proper stings and warships?
So: most Muslims are peaceful, kind people and in many ways closer to Christians than to non-Christians. I also believe that the recent shocks of the Islamic world are the ideal breeding ground for Muslims to get to know Jesus Christ. This is exactly what is happening en masse in Germany. And with anti-Muslim sentiment and collective contempt against Islam, we're just closing the door on them. Basically, all human religions and cultures deserve openness, dialogue, respect and tolerance.
I specifically invite everyone to get to know Muslim people, to meet them kindly and openly. You will almost always meet nice, peaceful and, above all, simply perfectly normal people.
From the point of view of the state, however, there are several things to consider, not just the culture of "open arms".
Where the state has to set a framework, a free, democratic state must in many places be forced to directly oppose the cultural-religious practices of traditional Muslims. You have to do it if you want to remain credible as a state. The integration of new Muslim citizens will only work if the state as a whole makes it much clearer what needs to be integrated and what happens if one refuses to respect the laws of the country. And the laws of the country stem from the liberal Western social order based on Judeo-Christian heritage. This is precisely the social order whose hatred has been taught to millions of Muslims since childhood. This hatred is as much a part of the cultural DNA of most Muslim nations as it is of the lower status of women and hatred of Israel.
The arrival of a large number of Muslims leads to ghettoisation, stronger anti-Muslimism and an even stronger division of society if the state is so liberal that it does not clearly define the duties that those who wish to live in Germany must fulfil. Fulfilling these duties will be especially burdening for those who are followers of the traditional and literal reading of the Koran. You could say that the more committed someone is to Islam, the more difficult it will be for them to integrate into German society. The less islam plays a role in someone's everyday life, the less trouble they will have in fitting into a society in which women also go to choose, churches and crucifixes are everywhere, schoolgirls are on the beach, female school principals can actually make decisions without the presence of a man, where teenagers can have sex and where beer and pork roast are essential food.
Of course, there are liberal Muslim theologians who simply explain Islam democratically and tolerantly. It's a good thing they are. Unfortunately, in the majority Muslim countries, however, not only do they not have a majority, but they could probably only move there under police protection, because they are a traitor!
I fear that in the near future the mood will change sharply, from euphoria to increasing xenophobe. Then, as now, our job as Christians will be to pray for our politicians, even if we do not consider all their decisions wise. To help refugees even if we do not believe that the right way is for everyone to stay here. To bear witness to Jesus with deeds and words before Muslims, even if the growing Muslim population continues to shape our country more and more. To point out the problems without causing panic. To be a carrier of hope, even if I consider the password "We will solve it!" to be frivolous without specific guidance on how to do it in the long term.
Anyone who believes always has hope. And God has always had the peculiarity of turning what the enemy has planned to destroy into salvation! Are you praying for this to happen to me?
Published on Johannes' blog (http://johanneshartl.org/blog/) and Facebook
Translated by: Dora Herbert