‘Get up,’ the angel said to Joseph, ‘take the child Jesus and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’
In Germany’s 2013 election, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (think ‘Conservatives’) failed to win a majority in the Bundestag. So they entered into a grand coalition (GroKo) with their Social Democratic Party (think ‘Liberal’) opposition.
On the face of it, one might think that a coalition presents the opportunity to deal with those difficult areas of policy that require broad party support. Cutting government overspending is the obvious example. When the Cameron-Clegg coalition was formed here, even the Labour Party had promised financial prudence. Surely, under a coalition, two parties could put aside party political aims and tackle the deficit? In practice far from it. In the Con/Lib coalition, both parties sought to be the good guys, each doling out favours to its section of the electorate to the detriment of the economy as a whole.
So it was under the GroKo. Despite the low birth rate in German and an ageing population, the Social Democrats had promised to bring the retirement age down to 63. Who wants to be the bad guy? Mutti (Mummy) Merkel embraced the policy and the retirement age was reduced, despite the financial costs, as well as a loss of skill from the workforce. Promise and deliver now: tell them they can pay later. The politician is ever the salesman and just occasionally the price for retaining political power may be a little disingenuousness. There remained, clearly, a problem to be solved. Whence would one get replacement workers?
Instability in the Middle East seems like divine intervention to a Europe afflicted by falling birth rates. Suddenly the young and virile are available in profusion. Mutti opened her arms wide. ‘The right to political asylum has no limits on the number of asylum seekers…As a strong, economically healthy country we have the strength to do what is necessary and ensure every asylum seeker gets a fair hearing.’ Refugees are an economic benefit, not a burden, we are told. Europe’s refugee crisis is a major opportunity for businesses.
And then suddenly, only in the last few weeks, Merkel performs a volte face. Refugee numbers will be limited. Not to do so would mean electoral defeat.
Such abstract discussion takes us away from those in real need of asylum. Rabeel Aftab, a student at Jhang University in Pakistan, faced severe persecution when a prominent Islamist-terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, wanted him to renounce his Christian faith. He was abducted, taken to the nearby Farhan School Mosque, tied with chains, drugged, severely beaten, and sexually assaulted for refusing to renounce his faith. Constant verbal threats followed. He would be killed and his family’s home burnt if they continued to exercise their faith.
In response to the ongoing threat, the seven members of the Aftab family, including Rabeel, fled Pakistan for Sri Lanka in December 2012. After registration with UNHCR and a two year wait, they were given refugee status. However, the threat of deportation by the Sri Lankan Government remains. Aftab and his family live in a constant state of fear and insecurity that they may be returned to Pakistan and faced with severe persecution under the state-wide enforcement of blasphemy laws targeting Christian minorities.
Real refugees, like Rabeel and his family, are of little economic benefit to any receiving government. Accepting people like these would be claimed by no-one to be a ‘major opportunity for business’. Truth to tell, should that be a reason for taking any refugees? Won’t Syria need its young and fit men and its women and children to rebuild its society? Whichever way the wind blows Merkel’s opinion, surely we should be holding back the flow of those from, say, Syria who are likely to be economically active so that they might return and take part in its rebuilding at the earliest opportunity?
As for the Rabeels, they are the common story of persecution of Christians in Muslim environments. It is a story to which the West turns a blind eye. Ten per cent of the population of Syria were Christians. Such is the persecution that few Christians make it through the refugee routes to Europe. Last year only 2 per cent of the refugees accepted from Syria were Christian. This year the figure has dropped to 1 per cent. The problem of Christian refugees from the Middle East is gradually disappearing as Christians there are gradually being killed off.
It is very easy to write to your MP about the persecution of Christians. Click here and follow the unbelievably simple process. Those few lines make a difference.