Why I am Not Anti-Muslim | A Pilgrim in Narnia
The result of this fuzzy thinking in culture is that while millions face dislocation, cold, and hunger as they flee a region destabilized by the post-9/11 war on terror, there is a gut-level reaction against Muslims. Some respond by reminding folk that the refugees are the victims of Islamist extremism, not the perpetrators. Others remind us that 1 in 6 of the refugees are Christians and other minorities that have faced generations of oppression.
In the last few weeks I have seen people who claim to be Christians saying quite vehemently, in a strange inversion of Christian values, that it is morally wrong not only to give shelter to refugees, but even to speak of doing so.
In South Africa we have seen outbreaks of xenophobia and xenophobic violence in recent years. Some of the foreigners who have been attacked have been refugees, others have been economic migrants, but it is often hard hard to tell the difference. Many Somalis have fled from a country torn by civil war over the last few years, as Syria has been. But they have been attacked in South Africa.
Many Zimbabweans are economic migrants, but where do you draw the line? The Zimbabwean government engaged in military adventures in the Congo civil war. This depleted Zimbabwean foreign exchange reserves, leading to a fuel shortage. The fuel shortage damaged the economy, leading to job losses, especially in the cities. The urban workers, who had been most affected by this, formed an opposition party which gained a lot of electoral support. To prevent this support from spreading to the rural areas, the ZANU-PF government seized land from commercial farmers and distributed it to their supporters, which depressed the economy still further. Zimbabwe had to import crops that it had previously exported. In addition opposition supporters were beaten up, and sometimes killed and threatened. Many of them fled to South Africa. Some were fleeing because of direct threats to their lives, others because of the decline in the economy, and some because of both. War and violence tends to disrupt economies, and so people flee for both reasons, and the reasons are intertwined.
And Zimbabwe’s loss was South Africa’s gain. Zimbabwe never suffered from Bantu Education or anything like it, and hundreds of well-qualified teachers came to South Africa. We had a good opportunity to fix our broken education system, but because of xenophobia we failed to make use of it.
So even from a practical, secular point of view, it can make sense to welcome refugees.
But in the Christian faith welcoming refugees is a moral duty, even when we can see no economic advantage in doing so. Yet some argue that it is immoral to say that.