An interesting part of working in a radio station is that you get to gauge how a lot of the public feel towards a particular story. Texts, tweets, e-mails and calls fly in when certain topics are discussed. When certain others are discussed, not so much. And while it never tells the full story, it is always noteworthy.
In the early afternoon of Friday October 9th, Brian Hayes MEP was hosting an event in Parliament Buildings where he was to discuss, with the NGOs who had been invited, what the European response to the refugee/migrant crisis would be.
He then came onto Newstalk that evening, and debated the issue with George Hook. Hayes took the position that we need to find a way, as a European collective, to accept these refugees and integrate them into European society. It’s our responsibility not to abandon these people who are fleeing unimaginable horror in their respective homelands. George took the position that Ireland can’t even house or properly integrate its own, so to simply accept refugees because we’re told to by Europe is foolhardy, and we’re going to end in a mess. Sure, we don’t even know how many people we’d ultimately have to take in?
The texts, tweets, calls and emails flew in like they haven’t in a long time.
Bear in mind that everyone, including our show, has been talking about this issue almost non-stop all summer. People aren’t tired of talking about it. Everyone still has a position. And the reality of it is, there are a huge amount of people who are very much against the idea of bringing more people into Ireland, whether they’re fleeing danger or not.
‘We don’t have the space’
‘Where will we house them?’
‘We can’t even house our own people properly’
‘When would it end?’
‘Why should we do what Europe tells us – can we not decide for ourselves?’
There are legitimate concerns embedded in this kind of reaction.
I understand why many are scared of what how packed our country might get if endless numbers of people start pouring in.
I understand that people have looked over to the UK and seen the struggles they’ve had with integrating people who have immigrated, and are worried as a result for what the future would hold in store for Ireland.
I understand how people view Europe as a bureaucratic dictatorship who are only out for themselves, and not for the people who they are supposed to represent. People feel let down by how difficult the last few years have been economically; therefore any idea from ‘those bureaucrats’ is met with extreme caution, and sometimes hostility.
Jesus tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and house the homeless. There was no ambiguity in his message. At the End of Days, He has said that He will look at what each of us has done for the least in society, and he will identify with those who have helped them.
Again, let me be clear that Jesus’ message is clear. His love transforms us, and one of the ways it transforms us in the way we treat people like refugees who are fleeing war ravaged lands.
Modern society in the West has been built on capitalism, and improvement of self at the cost of social obligation and service. The natural inclination is to look after my needs first, and then if I have enough time, money and energy, I will look after the needs of others. If it doesn’t inconvenience me too much, if it doesn’t cost me too much, then I’ll happily help.
The response to the refugee crisis will be built on how much societies in Europe are willing to sacrifice in order to help.
If we’ll only accept people if they integrate seamlessly, without inconveniencing our lives at all, we’ll fail. If we’ll only accept people if it doesn’t cost us money, we’ll fail. If we’ll only accept people if it doesn’t cost us space, we’ll fail.
The essence of the Gospel is love and sacrifice. Only those two in tandem will see Ireland, and the greater Europe, respond to the needs of desperate people in a way that will make a lasting difference.
As followers of Christ, is there something we can do?
Should we take in a family?
Should we give to a charity that is helping on the ground?
Should we be a voice for the refugees in some shape or form; even if it’s just in our own group of friends and family?
There is no silver bullet. Those opposing accepting refugees aren’t all automatically racist. Those who want thousands of refugees to come to Ireland immediately aren’t whack jobs either.
Both sides of the argument just need to consider what it will take to actually deal with this crisis, in light of what Jesus has said and done.
As Christians, if we really mean what we say, and want to help the desperate, then be ready to make some sacrifices.