October 01, 2015

Today Europe faces the greatest crisis of mass migration since the Second World War. Most of these are Syrians and others fleeing the violence in the Middle East.

At the time of this writing some thousands men, women, and children are in Hungary seeking to continue on to Austria and Germany. Instead of being allowed to proceed, they have been placed in a detention center where they lack adequate food and water. Individual Hungarians have been bringing them aid, but the number of people needing assistance is staggering.

The Hungarian Prime Minister has made it clear that Hungary does not want them. Writing in a German newspaper he said “Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims...Europe and European culture have Christian roots.” “Is it not worrying,” he asks, “that European Christianity is barely able to keep Europe Christian?”

Thus, he argues, we must defend our borders to keep refugees out. He proposes building a fence along the Hungarian border to do so.

Now in fairness to the Prime Minister, he is being challenged by rapidly growing opposition to immigrants, and is responding to political pressure. And assimilating this many people throughout all of Europe is a massive undertaking in any event.

But what struck me was the Prime Minister’s concern about keeping Europe Christian. John Wesley had his own view of this matter of being a Christian nation. In his 1744 sermon “Scriptural Christianity” Wesley asks:

Where, I pray, do the Christians live? Which is the country, the inhabitants whereof are all… filled with the Holy Ghost?.... Who one and all have the love of God filling their hearts, and constraining them to love their neighbor as themselves?....Who offend not in kind, either by word or deed, against justice, mercy or truth but in every point do unto all… as they would these do unto them? With what propriety can we term any a Christian country which does not answer this description?

Wesley concludes: “Why then, let us confess we have never yet seen a Christian country upon earth.”

If the concern is for Europe to be Christian, then the way forward is clear. The real evidence that Christianity is alive in Europe are the thousands of Christians and churches that are responding with compassion for those fleeing violence.

But Wesley’s remarks are not only a word to Europe but to America as well.

In 2014 63,000 unaccompanied children fleeing gang and drug-related violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala crossed our borders. Many had seen parents, siblings or friends murdered, often in retaliation for not joining a gang. Our system has not been able to handle well these large numbers. But as to the reaction of Christians in America to the plight of these children, the answer seems clear: to love them as we have been loved in Christ.

Thankfully many have done so, from all segments of the Christian family.