Aylan, Gassed Refugees: A Pivotal Moment for Civilization

The crisis of Syrian refugees is coming to a head. We’ve all seen the awful pictures and even drawings and artwork covering little Aylan Kurdi’s tragic death.

teargas On August 26, there were reports of a tear-gassing of refugees, in Hungary. It is dramatic and hard to watch.

These are human beings, and how Europe deals with such a humanitarian crisis is going to matter a great deal; it is going to tell us where the future of Western civilization — a civilization built on Christian principles — is headed.

“Everyone must make his choice,” said Chesterton and said Francis; two men — neither fathers of biological offspring but spiritual fathers to many — formed of a profoundly pro-life and family oriented Church, and defined by the Gospel. They are giving us a warning as we watch families struggle to stay together in the midst of terror and persecution, as we watch human life being held cheap by barbarians of the East (and their more sterilized counterparts of the West, see Parenthood, Planned).

It is a warning about what is directly before us.

Francis and Chesterton were of a single mind about choices, but Chesterton also reminded us that, “when you choose one thing, you reject everything else.”

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we love to quote Moses in Deuteronomy Chapter 30: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live…”

Right now, we are watching people who are trying to live, and a world unsure that it can materially or culturally afford to let them. Out of that human instinct to self-protect, and to not be accountable for any mistakes, the world is panicking, and worrying about how they will manage as persons, if they make a choice for life. How will they manage as politicians if the voters don’t like it? How will they manage as sovereign nations, given the extra burdens, both moral and social?

The world is very close to making a choice not to help, but to imprison; a choice against families, a choice against life.

There is some sense that, in the wake of Aylan’s death, Europe may be softening its stance on migrants and refugees.

“When you choose one thing, you reject everything else.” If we choose against the lives and well-being of migrants and refugees, rejecting Christ’s call to put ourselves out, make ourselves uncomfortable for the sake of others, then what is the choice we are for?

Related:
Michael Gerson:
Syria is a graveyard of our credibility

A reader reminds me: of this imagined “Letter from an Exile”


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