Immigration: Ten observations

I’ve been doing some long-hard thinking about immigration recently. I’ve argued here and here that Europe is doing the right thing in letting hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and Iraq in.

After all Syria is home to a world-conflict (as in lots of countries are fighting or sponsoring fighting there) and is a nation of killing. 2015 was unquestionably the year of the migrant. It was the year-long story.

Then came Paris and Cologne and it felt different. Sweden hit the wall, closed it’s borders, talked of deporting half of the migrants and the mood more or less changed in the space of a month.

As Ross Douthat points out we don’t really know what the outcome of all this migration into Europe will be but there are some massive forces at work. Here are ten observations on the changing nature of the immigration debate.

  1. 2016 is also likely to be the year of the migrant. The journey that tens of thousands continue to make each month is not as Mark Meynell pointedly observes simply inconvenient. People don’t simply make hazardous, dangerous, deadly journeys spending all they have, facing disappointment, disease and death just for the fun of it.  They don’t go to the Jungle for a holiday.
  2. One of the main reasons Europe is struggling is because they have not acted together. A few nations have taken too many and many nations have taken too few.
  3. You can’t compare Europe with Lebanon, Turkey & Jordan. I’ve made the comparison myself but I don’t think it quite holds. All three of those nations have taken more on their own than Europe has together but language, culture, relationships and a black economy all make that possible. Many Syrians would have had existing family relationships in those countries. In the case of Jordan & Lebanon they wouldn’t have needed a new language or make any cultural changes. All three countries have a significant black economy making work possible but none of those countries guarantee housing, welfare, health, education in the way Europe does.
  4. There are genuine questions surrounding future cultural changes. Europe isn’t going to become a Muslim continent as a result of this wave of immigrants but neither will its values be untested. Cologne is evidence of that. Exclusion of young men from a host society is almost always an ingredient for a rise in criminality, violence and gang culture. There are reasonable questions to ask for those new arrivals about their willingness to learn languages, abide by laws and understand cultural norms. There will be serious challenges ahead.
  5. We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to a politics of fear. Fear of the Muslim, fear of the stranger, fear of the swarthy skinned, bearded men from across the Levant. Love your neighbour, love your enemy, go the extra mile.
  6. More churches in more cities will need to become multi-ethnic. As Derwin Gray says, “A lack of gospel-diversity reproduces inequality, encourages oppression, strengthens ethnic division, heightens political separation, and causes the church to lose credibility.”
  7. We need to rediscover the gift of hospitality. It’s not entertainment, it’s what the Good Samaritan did. Sacrificial, costly, care for those left ignored and bleeding by the side of the road.
  8. There is an opportunity for the Gospel. One lady in our church has been meeting with a Syrian man to help him learn Swedish. His comment: “Christians are so kind, Muslims would never treat people like this.”
  9. We need a foreign-policy rethink. Foreign policy rarely matters in elections but is still dominated by the sort of short-term thinking that plagues domestic politics. We need long-term thinking to get to grips with the challenges posed by the situation in Libya, Syria, Iraq to name but three.
  10. Nations rise, nations fall. Don’t put your hope in your nation, put your hope in God.


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4 Thoughts to “Immigration: Ten observations”

  1. Huw Humphreys

    Phil, this is a helpful summary, and a good push to further thinking. From our stingy perspective in the UK (our city, Milton Keynes has “graciously” decided to take 40 families over the next 3 years!), I am full of admiration for German and Scandinavian communities who have decided to make this work, peaceably (by and large), and with a vision of common humanity. We have 35 nations and 40 languages in our school, which is more than any local church I know (a point well made above), but we have been working with a kindergarten in Bergsjon in Goteborg where there are only 5-6% white Swedish kids, and where all their effort goes into gender-equality issues to help break the fierce misogyny that many families arrive with. I trust you are all well! Huw

    1. Hi Huw, sorry for the slow reply and thanks for leaving a comment. I know Bergsjon and we have a church plant near there. If you’re over at all, let me know and I can connect you. Best – Phil

  2. I agree with this.

    My number 11 would be, engage in active and sustained political pressure to prohibit our western governments from engaging in any further military interventions in the Middle East/North Africa. These interventions have broken several nation states already, created a political vacuum for ISIS, and directly created the conditions which have lead to the exodus of people from the region.

    1. Yes that would be a good no 11!

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