The Catholic Bishops of Croatia have denounced the fact that stronger EU nations, such as Germany, have created “chaos” in the “transit” region of southeastern Europe by “inviting” immigrants to the continent “without any limitations whatsoever”. In the opinion of the prelates, the disorder in Europe has been exacerbated by the fact that the continent’s citizens in general “are increasingly less ‘open to life’ and are gradually, volens-nolens, renouncing our future”.
The Justice and Peace Commission of the Croatian Conference of Bishops issued a statement July 17 in which it decried the fact that “the European Union has still not found the right response to the arriving migrants fleeing the horrors of war and persecution, as well as the poverty and misery in certain Asian and African countries”. The reason? That Europe is preoccupied “with protecting our own security or economic interests”, and as such fails “to see human beings like ourselves in these unfortunates”. The 3.1 million people currently seeking asylum around the world deserve better, warn the Croatian bishops.
Beyond security and economic concerns, however, the Croatian prelates see a still more insidious political problem. “The EU is presently deeply divided”, they observe, between those who call for respect for the human rights of migrants, above all, and those who prioritize “national priorities and interests” or the “identities and values of peoples and regions”. Despite the fact, though, that Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović is one of the most xenophobic and populist leaders in Europe, the country’s bishops have shied away from denouncing the “populist alarms and political demagogy” that frames immigration as a matter of “national interests”, but not of human rights.
“It is necessary to demand that new arrivals respect the customs and values of host countries”For the Croatian bishops, although it is non-negotiable that the EU accept refugees to some extent – “according to the abilities and needs of the individual member states”, they state – the question of how to treat those who arrive “remains open”. Though it is “neither good nor fair” to demand the “assimilation” of migrants, the prelates argue – that new arrivals abandon their customs, religions and languages “in the private sphere” – “it is necessary to demand” that they respect the “customs and values of the host countries”. Other key measures that the Croatian bishops demand the EU adopt in the short-term include the “differentiation of displaced persons from refugees and economic migrants”. More importantly, though, the solution to the whole problem of displaced people, they argue, involves helping to them to “remain or return to their homelands” with sustained economic and “integral development” assistance to the nations from which they flee.
The Croatian bishops end their latest statement with a warning that the immigration problem must be solved, and soon, since “the peace and coexistence in the countries to which people are immigrating is being jeopardized” and “conflicts and friction are developing among EU member states”. Is it really the best solution, though, that a national Church wade into the tension and not only blame individual countries for the deadlock but also claim a Gospel inspiration to demand a restrictive “integration” policy for new arrivals?