I’m not going to post a picture with this.
I was sent pictures via email this week that went along with text purporting to be from a travel blogger at the Italian-Austrian border. The pictures showed garbage, tents, uneaten food, clothing…an overall atrocious mess. According to the text, refugees had been “swarming” across boarders, looking for handouts, wreaking havoc. It included reports of violence, and theft, and hooliganism.
I don’t know if the reports are true. A Facebook post with the text I was sent clearly states that the images are from a different border. But the email I got doesn’t mention anything.
Look…I am not in Europe. I am not in a border town with thousands of immigrants from a distant land coming into our neighborhood. I have no idea what it must be like in those countries — which may be struggling economically themselves — to face this situation financially.
And, clearly, I am not a Syrian refugee (or from another country), chased out of my homeland by warfare and unrest.
I sit safely in Seward, Alaska. I’m a long way away from what’s going on in those places. I can appreciate the fear of people who are different than me. But this is beyond the scope of my limited experiences.
That said, the email disturbed me with its language. Here’s a taste:
With all solidarity with people in difficult circumstances I have to say that what I saw arouses horror … This huge mass of people – sorry, that I’ll write this – but these are absolute savages.
How is this savagery to assimilate in Germany?
Among them there were virtually no women, no children—the vast majority were aggressive young men.
To the EU a pathology is marching which we had not yet a chance to ever see, and I am sorry if anyone gets offended by his entry … And this was the greatest horror … For among those few thousand people nobody understood Italian or English, or German, or Russian, or Spanish.
Again, I am not there. I am so far removed from the situation that I find it challenging to understand the perspective of any of those involved.
But I am more than a little disturbed by the dehumanization of the refugees evident in the language used in an email someone felt I should read: “savages,” “aggressive young men,” “a pathology.” Instead of finding any commonality, the language makes these refugees to be completely “other;” and worse, less than human.
I’m reminded of the language used about slaves in our own country. But we don’t have to go back many years to find similar dehumanizing language about many people groups — anyone we’ve wanted to characterize as less than human. (I started to make a list here of people who have been dehumanized and I started to feel “icky” about it and stopped.)
I don’t know what to say except for the following:
God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male and female God created them (Genesis 1:27)
Yes, “in the divine image God created them.” That goes for those of us sitting here in Alaska and those in Europe and those seeking assylum.
I don’t know how to address the human, political, social, and economic issues here. But if we don’t start with viewing all persons as made in the image of God, we are losing the battle before we begin.
Rev. Dr. Cari Jackson writes at Sojourners:
…welcome is possible only when we see God in others.
I am encouraged about the possibilities offered in this moment in our nation’s history. This moment invites us to break through and tear down the walls of anti-Muslim fear that have been erected since the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Now, the opportunity is for us to see the faces of Syrians and other refugees as people who seek peace, people who long for home, and people who have endured the ravages of civil war. And in their faces to see God.
This quest of ours to see the face of Christ in the other is for Syrian refugees as much as it is for immigrants to our own country or those with a different skin color or faith or sexual identity or theological persuasion. It’s not something we stop doing when the degree of difficulty increases. If we fail to see the image of God in others then the image of God that we ourselves our projecting is broken and we are being less than faithful in our following of Christ.
Participating in the dehumanizing of others, particularly in light of the current refugee crisis, is less than faithful following of Christ.
The email said, at the bottom, “Share this.”
You shouldn’t either.
But if you’d like to help, here’s a link to what The United Methodist Committee On Relief is doing.