The world rejects and accepts migrants and refugees

Columban Fr. Shay Cullen explores how migrants and refugees are welcomed by different countries around the world.

When Pope Francis made a visit to so-called Catholic Hungary recently, it was short. He was made to feel unwelcome because he stands for the rights and dignity of every migrant and refugee who seeks a refuge, welcome and acceptance, understanding, shelter, care, and help. But Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the Hungarian officials told Pope Francis they considered refugees and migrants fleeing persecution and hunger as a Mongol invasion. They gave Francis a copy of a 13th century letter from Hungarian King Bela 4th to Pope Innocent 4th. The letter asked the then-Pope for help in resisting the Mongol invasion of Hungary and Europe. Orban considers himself the defender of Christian values in Hungary and Europe.

This is monumental hypocrisy. Besides, Orban is an autocratic right-wing ruler who has curbed free expression and the media. According to a CNN report, Balazs Orban, Deputy Minister for the Prime Minister’s Office, said on his Facebook page, “There are many similarities between the situation at [the] time and today… We should learn from history.” Pope Francis said, “My wish is that you be…grounded and open, rooted and considerate” for refugees.

The government of Catholic Poland is not very welcoming either, especially since asylum-seekers coming from Belarus are being turned back. According to data made public by the Polish Interior Ministry, between Aug. 1 and 18, 2021 some 2,100 migrants tried to enter Poland via Belarus, out of whom 1,342 were “prevented from entering.”

Among the most unwelcoming countries are those with Orthodox Christian traditions: North Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Catholic Hungary. They have closed their borders and slammed shut the door on the faces of thousands of desperate, homeless migrants and refugees.

The refugees endure hardships and flee poverty, war, violence, hunger and want, just like what the parents of Jesus of Nazareth did during their flight to Egypt pursued by killers sent by King Herod. The heart of the message of Jesus of Nazareth is to welcome the stranger, to consider all people of equal value, with equal rights and Children of God and to help and assist them like the Good Samaritan who helped a dying man on the side of the road. Whereas in that story, the priest and politician walked past, ignoring the plight of the man who was set upon by gangs and left to die. The story tells who indeed the true neighbour is. It is the person who helps the needy and shows love as did the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan himself was an outcast in the Jewish state at the time.

Today, the Palestinians are excluded, occupied and oppressed by Israel to their eternal shame by ignoring their rights to freedom and justice. Thousands of Palestinians have fled abroad as migrants and refugees. Thousands of people in the world from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are seeking asylum in Europe and refugees from South American countries are seeking asylum in the United States.

The colonial history of conquest of nations has caused centuries of global injustice, exploitation of natural resources, oppression of the poor and gross inequality and poverty in South America, Africa and Asia. Western nations where colonialists grew rich on their exploitation backed up by force and war. It continues today by proxy and now the refugees and migrants are escaping impossible living conditions caused by powerful nations like Russia in Syria and tyrants in South America in cahoots with Western multinational corporations.

Among the most welcoming countries for migrants and refugees are Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia and Sierra Leone, according to the Gallup Index. The United States of America was listed as the sixth most-accepting country for migrants, followed by Burkina Faso, Sweden, Chad, Ireland and Rwanda.

Recently, Ireland, as an example, is noted as being accepting and tolerant of migrants and refugees. It had undergone a massive change in the past 20 years from Catholic to secular. It is becoming a more multicultural country with migrants and refugees adding to the mix of the population. Change and acceptance are coming slowly, however. There are still some negative attitudes toward migrants.

According to a report in the Irish Examiner of Tuesday, March 23, 2021, the Irish Network Against Racism has released a 2020 finding on iReport, the racist incident reporting system, which showed that the total number of incidents has increased and there has been a record number of hate speech incidents.

The iReport also found that there were 700 racist incidents reported in 2020, compared to 530 in 2019. It also recorded 159 criminal incidents, a record 51 racist assaults and a record 594 hate speech incidents. There were 334 cases of racist hate speech reported last year. “It’s been a bad year for everyone and racism and hate crime have made it an even worse one for all minorities.” Most of this has been apparently directed against people of African descent.

Despite this, there is a high level of tolerance of people of different religions in Ireland. In 2011, a census found that there were 12,791 Filipinos living in Ireland. This has greatly increased by 2021. They are hired workers for the health sector and the country is dependent on them for nursing services and they are warmly accepted.

Black Irish people are sometimes discriminated against but more accepted these days. According to a BBC report this September 2021, “The 26-year-old medical scientist Pamela Uba…has been crowned Miss Ireland 2021, becoming the first black woman in history to win the title. The competition has been running since 1947, but Pamela says it’s “crazy to imagine that 74 years went by before anyone different won this.” She adds, “I’m the first and it feels amazing – people are looking up to me and I never thought I’d be in that position.”

Pamela moved to the Republic of Ireland from South Africa aged seven, with her mother and three siblings.” So, the times they are a-changing indeed and may they continue to do so.”

Miss Ireland 2021 holds her crown on her head
Pamela Uba. Photo by Brian McEvoy via BBC News

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