Category Archives: crisis of refugees

Croatia: Evangelicals and the unfortunates

Two days ago I posted a link to a blog regarding the unfortunate travelers and the personal experience of one leader.

Melody Wachsmuth, a leader living in Croatia and involved in numerous ministries in the Balkans, was published on the Christianity Today website. 

Click HERE to read her article… “On the Refugee Crisis Frontline: Croatia’s Christians”

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Refugees: an important report from Croatia

…has been posted from a leader in Osijek. In this report you’ll find first person observations, personal experience of lending aid, and a thoughtful challenge… This post articulates truth from the keyboard of a person who cares. Over the last few weeks we’ve urged that regular folks are stepping up. This is a welcome and articulate example of such.

Read on!

CLICK HERE

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Hungary, Croatia, the EU, the Declaration on Human Rights and a disciple’s duty

I decided to take a break from my vacation and weigh in afresh. The migrants and refugees (I suppose we all know the difference by now) believe they have the right to traverse visa free through any country they need to get to the promised land (usually Germany or Sweden).

These travelers were throwing stones, intifada style, at the border set up between Hungary and Serbia. Hungary responded with water canon and either tear gas or pepper spray (The video I saw looked like pepper spray not tear gas). Some would look at this response as measured. Others as extreme. Mr. Orban may have made a grievous misjudgment, but I digress. The fence between Hungary and Serbia is up and for the most part, it has done the job for which it was intended. The refugees are connected enough that they are turning NW from Belgrade and heading straight to Croatia instead of Hungary.

Yesterday I saw the Croatian Minister of Health speaking as though things were well in hand. Today the Interior Minister mocked EuroNews when they asked if Croatia was overwhelmed. Six thousand since yesterday? Of course they are. So the army is on stand by and 7 or the 8 border crossings with Hungary are closed. God help those charged with keeping order in this madness.

Auntie Angelia has invited them by saying she will take 800,000. But we see how she receives them, she tightened the border with Austria as Austria and Slovenia tighten the border with Croatia. The chaos at the Serb Croat border today was as bad as any I’ve seen in Hungary when day after day the travelers rolled across the border, but without the same kind of violence. Good for Croatia. Yet, I warn you, that too much congratulations of anyone right now is very, very premature.

Here in the US all the relief organizations are raising money to see how they can help. In every country the common folk are the ones really helping out. Indeed, as I watch the fluidity of the situation, it looks like everywhere I go in the first two weeks of my trip there will be the unfortunates.

Here are a couple of questions that have been building in my mind.

Aside from Aunti Angelia telling the world that she will take 800,000 unfortunates into the waiting arms of Germany, who exactly started this flood? (Granted the 800k deal is a reaction to the situation, so she is not to blame for starting it, but perhaps for fueling it.) Where did these folks learn that they would be welcome in Europe? Is the basis of the right they claim The Declaration of Human Rights? Has that document been ratified by all these countries? Is that a requirement for EU membership? Is there another law that gives them the right to travel visa free through these countries?

The EU parliament wants the member states to accept refugees. Will the rich be required to take more based on per capita GDP? What about the economic migrants? What if this human tsunami doesn’t stop until the whole of the X millions of these displaced persons have moved from the Middle East to Europe? How can rich Germany, France and Austria afford to take the potential millions that may be thinking, right now, as you read, about leaving the refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon? Will they all, over the next couple of years at the rate of 3000 – 6000 per day, pick up and make the walk from the Middle East to Germany? My main question in this is from whom did these unfortunates learn that Europe wanted them? …that there are jobs and housing and security waiting for them?

In the last couple of years I’ve learned of the challenges that Germany, France and the UK have had assimilating  folks from Muslim cultures into their communities. Imagine what that will be like in 5 years? 10? With millions of new residents from Muslim cultures. Here’s another question: Is anyone asking about this migration as a security risk? How is it even possible to guess how many radicals are mixed in with the boni-fide refugees and migrants? Based on the way this travesty has gone down, how many are being radicalized in the process? Who, other than right-wingers, are asking this question? Is there really no concern about this? Or are all the politicians afraid to talk about it?

In the meantime, in the 30 minutes since I began getting these thoughts and questions written down, approximately 125 more unfortunates have crossed from Serbia to Croatia. Hopefully the Croatians will not have the same experience that the Hungarians have had with their “partners” upstream in this new river of humanity when closed borders cause the development of yet more “lakes of humanity” with nowhere to go. Until governments figure out what to do, common folk will do what they can to help. It looks like the funds I take with me may go to help refugees in Croatia instead of Hungary since at this moment that is where the need seems to be. But by the time I get to Hungary in a week and a half the situation may have changed yet again.

Individuals can only do so much. But we must do what we can. If you’re in the US and want your personal effort to join ours, you can donate at www.ceokids.org and read about what my friends and I are trying to do.

But even if you can’t give, you can pray. Ask the God of Abraham who sent His only Son Jesus to move in the hearts of decision makers to do the best they can for these unfortunates.

Justice. Compassion. Hope.

But remember dear reader, the only real hope is found in that aforementioned Son. Who loved you enough to give his life for you, no matter if you are Catholic, Agnostic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Atheist, or whatever, He loves you and rose to give you life.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, if you’re His disciple, you should be involved. By praying. By advocating for or serving or giving to these unfortunates. Give them a cup of water for crying out loud. Jesus said love your neighbor. Jesus said love your enemy.

There went another 125. What are you waiting for?

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Hungary and the shameful reductionistic Western press

Warning: rant follows

reductionism – the attempt to reduce complex phenomenon to a simple statement

The idea of boiling things down to understand them is not bad. Unless there are elements in the resulting boiled down statement that imply or allow for the inference what the person boiling it down is trying to convey, whether correct or not.

In the last weeks, especially the last 7 days, as I watch and hear reports from Hungary, I am increasingly frustrated by this method.

There is no doubt that the Orban administration is not handling things as well as many would like, but who is doing better? Apparently no one. I don’t see Germany or Sweden sending busses and bureaucrats with authority to issue visas. That would seem to be a legal solution as we seem to understand EU, Schengen and Dublin rules.

Last Saturday the leader of Austria made headlines as it was announced that  Austria and Germany would open the gates. 16,000 got through. That relieved a lot of pressure in Budapest but that 16,000 has been replaced since then. Today, Austria stopped the trains because they were “overwhelmed.” Did you know, dear reader, that Austria is, per capita GDP, better off than Germany? But Austria is “overwhelmed.” So they stopped the trains.

When the shameful extreme right wing camera operator in Hungary was filmed abusing refugees, she was fired. But the on the radio in the US, the presenter/interviewer asked a British journalist (who was reporting from Germany) if this reflected the attitude of Hungarians. The question wasn’t actually answered. But the question, since it was not refuted, stood. Anyone listening might then surmise that this shameful woman who tripped a man running with his toddler represented Hungarians. This impression is categorically wrong.

Report after report shows the terrible conditions on the Hungarian – Serbian border. They show the horrible plight of the refugees and bemoan the fact that the UNHCR has told Hungary to set up better conditions. They interview the people who say that they just want to walk to Germany. This situation is not a two sided coin (as we say, with two side of a story). This is a Rubik’s cube with all the colors mixed up. The press seems to think that this country can solve this Rubik’s cube by waving a magic wand. Hungary is a country that is struggling economically and politically. They can’t just wave a magic wand to have wonderful tents set up and lavatories set up to the tune of what now seems to be 5,000 persons a day. Yes the government could do better. All governments could.

Austria’s solution was to stop the trains. Hungary can’t, the people just keep coming. Orban’s fence will not stop them, nor will Army maneuvers.

But realize that Hungarian and many internationals are on the scene and are doing the best they can with whatever resources they can gather. Fund raising efforts abound to help these people.

But 5,000 people today. How could anyone handle that?

Again, it’s a political/humanitarian crisis Rubik’s cube. It is way to complicated for an American reporter to show up, spend a half a day interviewing people and then report in 27 seconds while mispronouncing every proper name they try to say.

Am I being too harsh on the Western press?

Of course I am.

Because they are committing a journalistic injustice to everyday Hungarians, and Greeks, and Macedonians and Serbs by giving their viewers and listeners a view that is just not the whole story.

Shame on the journalists for their truncated stories.

Shame on the politicians for hiding behind laws and their polls.

May God use the kind folks in Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece to help these unfortunates. May we all look around us wherever we are with compassion on unfortunates everywhere.

May we tell the whole truth.

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Refugees in Hungary, 5000 today… why is there a problem? Dublin treaty. watch

Today Austria stopped rail traffic because they were “overwhelmed.”

Macedonia saw 7,000 cross from Greece.

Macedonian border authorities lashed out in frustration and threatened a fence.

Where was the indignation from the self-righteous Western press?

Here is a fair explanation of the problem from EuroNews.

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Christian? European leaders?

70+ years ago C. S. Lewis said that the word Christian had lost its meaning. He compared it to the word gentleman, in that ‘gentleman’ once meant that one had a coat of arms and owned land. Today a gentleman might hold the door for a lady. He continued by pointing out that the word Christian once meant ‘little Christ.’ I think what Lewis was getting at was that being  a Christian meant that one was a disciple, a learner of Jesus who gave up a great deal to follow Him as master. 

Today, calling oneself a Christian is a label one chooses as part of one’s identity. In many contexts, it really doesn’t mean much more than one’s political party affiliation. 

Click, read and consider this exchange in a Budapest paper where Hungary’s PM Orban has stirred the waters about protecting a so-called Christian Europe.

The article shows a Christianity that is hardly Christian in the biblical sense. Thus, I largely reject using the term at all today.

Shocking?

Well, dear reader, remember Jesus died to forgive our sins and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. He then told his disciples to make disciples.

He told no one to fill buildings with converts, onlookers and seekers listening to someone talking about subjects they don’t care about. All so they can check a box that helps them call themselves Christian. Or helps them be seen as “Christian” because they are in the building.

Don’t check a box in a building full of people you don’t really agree with. Instead, do what Jesus commanded: 

Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength

and 

love your neighbor

and

love your enemies.

He did. 

Want to protect “Christian Europe” Mr. PM? Love those refugees and help them get to Western Europe. Love and help the NGOs and just plain folks who are taking sandwiches and water to these oppressed people. 

Don’t feel the love? Consider C. S. Lewis’ advice. If you don’t love your neighbor, just begin by acting as if you do, then, after a while, you may find that you do.

_________

Both Lewis thoughts are from Mere Christianity.

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Thinking through Germany, Hungary and the refugees.

There seems to be a big sigh of relief right now as, according to a quick media check, something under 10,000 refugees and migrants arrived on Saturday in their hoped for promised land, Germany. The relief comes as Austria and Germany opened their borders to these unfortunate souls in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

What a luxury, the ability to say “Sure, let them in, we’ll help.”

None of the countries along the way have had such a luxury. Greece (who as one commenter in an earlier post noted: has received 250k) Macedonia, Serbia and then finally (EU and Schengen Treaty bound) Hungary found their borders overrun. As many as 3000 unfortunates per day crossed the borders, rode trains along this swelling river of humanity until they arrived in a lake.

A lake of refugees that was created when EU and Schengen rules confused by EU states’ disunity and, frankly, fear soaked governmental ineptitude held them in Hungary.

So Hungary is the location of this lake of humanity. For months they came, long before the crisis drew the rapt attention of the West’s short attention spanned press. They arrived with stories that will break your heart. But they arrived in countries filled with similar stories. Don’t be fooled, the countries these people came through have, in the last 100 years, plenty of similar stories. They have had more than their share of war, civil war and oppression. These countries have been and are experiencing incredible economic hardship.

There is a railroad track that connects Subotica, Serbia with Szeged, Hungary. Many media outlets have shown film and photos of migrants walking along this stretch of track, now littered with trash. I ride trains on this stretch several times a year. On the Serbian stretch of the journey the single car train travels about 10mph because the track conditions are so bad. Presumably Serbia cannot afford upgrades. This is to illustrate that the migrants are traveling from war through poverty to the West. But first they enter the EU and Schengen Zone through Hungary. Who is a country bound by multiple treaties to receive, process and hold these unfortunates, thus the lake of habitual developed as people were not allowed to leave their country of entry.

Those gates opened yesterday and it seems between six and ten thousand went through.

Meanwhile, in all likelihood another 2-3000 arrived in the lake from the south. (See EuroNews video below)

The AP reported that an Austrian police spokesman, facing 12k people since yesterday stated that there are rules… “But now at this moment, in this outstanding situation, we cannot handle the procedure, we cannot register all the refugees.” Huh, how about that?

NPR just reported that the migrants are boarding trains but had to change trains at the border. The correspondent implied things in Budapest are calmer.

But this crisis is far from over. With the situation in the Middle East being what it is, this river of humanity will continue to flow. And winter is coming.

The Hungarian government has been all over the place regarding statements made by Orban and then the police and railway policies that seem to change daily. Mr. Orban’s fence is nearly completed and he plans police and army patrols. (see EuroNews video) Is stopping the flow into Hungary the answer? No, this will only create more problems in Serbia, Romania and Croatia.

Leadership is lacking at every governmental level: Local, national and EU. But before you get on your high horse, remember that this, like all of the conduit nations, is a small country with limited resources (that are not managed very well) and a population that is struggling economically.

Cut Hungarians some slack. Thousands of regular folks are reaching out to and feeding and clothing these migrants and war refugees. People are giving of their resources and their time.

Let’s see how the Germans are doing in January IF they receive the 200,000+ migrants that are in the lake and on their way now. Then we will need to cut them some slack as they deal with such a huge influx of humanity. It isn’t hard to predict a possible ouster of the Merkel government once all this settles in on the Geman public who will feel the strain that Hungarians feel now.

Let’s take in the big picture that has been going on for months. This crisis didn’t just start two weeks ago. It won’t be gone when Western reporters go to the next big thing because the attention span of their editors is so short. But the flow of people along that slow track will probably continue. I bet I’ll meet some of them later this month.

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