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EUROPE IN CRISIS: Autumn 2016 | Volume 105 | No. 419
This issue of Studies is devoted to the theme of ‘Europe in Crisis’. Originally intended to focus largely on the problems and challenges created by the huge influx of refugees and migrants from the chaos of the Middle East and the all too inadequate response of the European Union to date, the scope of coverage was necessarily broadened by the unexpected and deeply damaging decision of the British electorate, through the ‘Brexit’ vote in their 23 June referendum, to leave the Union. A continent already struggling to maintain cohesion and commitment to its founding principles was thrown into further uncertainty and a degree of disarray by this unhappy development. In his comprehensive overview of the refugee problem as this is affecting Europe as a whole, Eugene Quinn, Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Ireland, describes the continent’s stumbling response as ‘inequitable and unsustainable’. Ireland’s contribution, moreover, with just 38 Syrian refugees resettled here by early July 2016, has been deeply disappointing. Media spotlight often moves away, but the crisis continues unabated. The suffering of so many thousands, particularly children, who are being deprived of a real childhood and proper education while they search desperately for a new life in a country willing to receive them, pricks the conscience of us all. Few have done more to bring the world’s, and especially Europe’s, attention to the urgency of the situation than Pope Francis. In January, the Pope, who has spoken of the danger of the Mediterranean becoming a graveyard, insisted that ‘Indifference and silence lead to complicity whenever we stand by as people are dying’. ‘Each of us’, Eugene Quinn concludes his own powerful plea, which Studies is glad to amplify here, ‘is called to act’. Syria has been, as the same writer notes, ‘the principal driver of the rise in global refugee figures’. The current Jesuit Superior-General Fr Adolfo Nicolás recently asked a number of his men in that region to reflect on the situation from the front line. He was anxious that their reflection be shared as widely as possible, and Studies reproduces it in this issue. The roots of the crisis are, they say, deeply entangled in more or less complex local, regional and international conflicts. The lack of a political settlement in the chronic Arab-Israeli confrontation is pivotal. But the Jesuits in the Middle East, who have called their reflection ‘Searching for the Word’, stress that the crisis is primarily a ‘crise de la Parole’. ‘Suppressed or censored speeches’, they say, ‘truncated or deceptive statements, declarations disconnected from the lives of people … all these have led to a virtually complete political bankruptcy’. People cannot speak openly. ‘Democracy and transparency are often referred to, but used as mere terms in speeches and solemn declaration; they are not actually looked for or promoted’. Enunciating a theme that occurs elsewhere in these pages, they stress that ‘it is through culture, mutual knowledge and meetings with others that distrust, prejudice and simplistic readings of reality disappear, making it possible to weave a viable social fabric. Learning to listen, to talk together, to respect everyone, to give an appropriate place to the individual as well as to the community, to manage conflict, these are urgent civic and educational needs’. Easier said than done, as they readily acknowledge – and, indeed, these reflections apply, mutatis mutandis, to all of us. Christians must continue to hope, they conclude firmly, to build unity among themselves and to practise openness to all. This Jesuit document quotes a shocking statistic: ‘13.5 million Syrians (out of an estimated population of 22 million in 2010) need humanitarian aid, 4.8 million have already left the country to seek refuge in neighbouring countries or in Europe, and 6.6 million are displaced within their own country because of violence’. One of these neighbouring countries, as Eugene Quinn reports, is Lebanon, which ‘with a comparable population to Ireland, is currently hosting 1 million refugees’. Turkey, currently going through huge internal turmoil to add to its external threats, has nearly 3 million refugees. In viewing the situation, we need to keep in mind, as the JRS Director points out, that Europe ‘has a population of over 500 million, with considerable resources at its disposal to respond generously to the needs of arriving refugees’. There are inevitably – sometimes severe – logistical and bureaucratic problems in absorbing the numbers involved, but the issue is, arguably, less about numbers or resources than about cultural integration. Apart from other differences, most of those making their way to a still at least nominally Christian Europe from the Middle East are Muslims and this question of future Christian-Muslim relationships in Europe is the territory illuminatingly explored in Studies by Damian Howard SJ. Muslims, for so long – and still – ‘the other’, already comprise 7% of Europe’s population. Their presence will progressively challenge the continent in many ways. The question of the relationship between religion and violence in Islam, especially at a time of what he calls ‘nihilistic carnage’, needs nuanced understanding. Ignorance about Islam, the facile assumption of cultural superiority, unpreparedness to attempt dialogue with a new interlocutor in place of the secularism which has for so long been Europe’s conversation partner, with often deleterious consequences for the quality of its Christianity – all these will be exposed in the new situation in which we will find ourselves. Not all of the implications are negative. If events such as the shocking murder of Fr Jacques Hamel in his church in Rouen on Bastille Day represents what Dr Howard rightly calls ‘the heart of darkness’ (‘Get away, Satan’, were the elderly priest’s words to his assailant as he was being attacked, and Satan looms large in the inhuman barbarism of so-called ISIS), there are also grounds for optimism about what Islam may do for Western Christianity and the author explores these. There is, as he says, a ‘provocation’ here for Christians to recover or deepen and renew their own religious selfunderstanding, to the benefit of everyone. He ends by quoting the moving tribute by Muslim intellectual Navid Kermani to two other Catholic priests, Jacques Mourad and Paolo Dall’Oglio SJ, when he spoke at an award ceremony last November. Both priests were abducted by jihadists (Fr Mourad was eventually released; Fr Dall’Oglio’s whereabouts are still unknown), both were steadfast in defending the true nature of Islam, even in the face of violence or the threat of violence against themselves. Dr Kermani said: … a Christian, a Christian priest who could expect to be expelled, humiliated, abducted or killed by followers of another faith, yet still insisted on defending that faith – such a man of God displays a magnanimity that I have encountered nowhere else, except in the lives of the saints. Kermani’s own magnanimity, as Howard concludes, might offer a headline for European Christians as they grapple with the challenge of a dialogue that becomes ever more urgent. Introducing his discussion of Brexit, which he calls ‘the greatest seismic shock’ that the European Union ‘has suffered since its creation’, Peter Sutherland, who is, among other things, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for International Migration, takes account of the wider context of ‘other potentially traumatic events’ in which Brexit has happened. It is pertinent at this point to note that, for him, these include Hungary’s intention to hold a referendum in October on the EU’s proposals for the sharing of refugees and the shameful description of refugees and migrants by Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, as ‘a poison that Hungarians won’t swallow’. Mr Orbán actually explains his stance as in aid of defending Europe’s ‘Christian values’, which reinforces points made by Damian Howard about Europe’s need for some self-examination about what Christianity means. Moving to his main topic, Peter Sutherland brings his vast experience to bear on a careful examination of what Brexit means – for Britain itself, for Europe as a whole, and for Ireland in particular. He sees the vote as an expression of ‘populist nationalism’ and sets it against the background of a long history of UK obstructionism. He teases out the implications of the choice made by Britain’s electorate and the options now available. He is insistent that ‘Ireland’s essential interests in all of this … must be in favouring an outcome that does not undermine the European Union itself’. ‘[M]embership of a cohesive and integrating EU’ not only ‘provides us with an influence over our future that otherwise will be denied to us’, but also gives ‘assurance for our young in particular’ – the section of their own population so sorely overlooked by Brexit voters – ‘of a place in a wider world’. In this way, ‘[i] nstead of being a dependency, we in Ireland can influence our own destiny through shared sovereignty in a manner that we never could at any time prior to our accession’. The key player in the European Union’s future evolution is Germany. The Irish Times Berlin correspondent Derek Scally shines a revealing light on Germany’s own sense of its situation and the role expected of it, a role of leadership which, ever since the dark days of the Second World War in particular, it has been singularly reluctant to play. He quotes the editor of The Economist, who has described Germany as ‘the reluctant hegemon’. His own preference is to think in terms of what he calls ‘Deutschland dysmorphia’, the disconnect between how Germany is seen inside and outside the country. Inevitably, Chancellor Angela Merkel, such a powerful figure in Europe at large during the now eleven years of her tenure, as well as in Germany itself, occupies a central place in the discussion. The picture Derek Scally gives is of a politician – perhaps inevitably after so long in office – more controversial in ways and somewhat less commanding than she appears to outsiders, less of a visionary, more of a pragmatist, a tactician rather than a strategist. The lack of strong partners in Europe – France is struggling, Brexit now becomes a further part of this problem, and so on – makes it particularly difficult for Germany to exercise the leadership it must, without quite appearing to do so. The trademark Merkel policy of imposing fiscal austerity as the solution to Europe’s failing economies, notwithstanding the downturn, is seen by others, in the author’s words, ‘as economic madness, not to mention poison for social cohesion’. Her confidence in opening Germany’s borders to refugees (Wir schaffen das!), which has seemed in many ways visionary, is beginning to cause problems at home, particularly after a number of violent incidents, rightly or wrongly attributed to immigrants. The rise of the political right in the form of Alternative für Deutschland, among other factors, may be threatening her dominance; her poll-numbers have been falling. But it is not clear that her position is under serious threat. As for the wider question of Germany’s growing hegemony, to use the word, in Europe, Derek Scally had the opportunity of asking former Chancellor, the great Helmut Schmidt, about that some years ago. ‘We’ve had many attempts to unite Europe from the centre … I see no interest from anyone here in trying that again’. Last May Pope Francis was awarded the Charlemagne prize by the German city of Aachen, a prize named for someone who did once unite Europe, at least in a manner of speaking, in his day. The prize is conferred annually ‘on a personality whose thinking, by common agreement, has had political, economic and spiritual relevance’ for the European Union. Francis does not accept personal prizes but made an exception for this one (although he chose to receive it in the Vatican, rather than in Aachen), in order to use the opportunity to share his high vision of Europe and to urge it to live out its vocation in the contemporary world. He wanted to stress that Europe is a ‘process’, whereby it is to develop a unified ‘dynamic, multicultural identity’, not a space to be defended and from which ‘the other’ is to be excluded. He also wanted to proclaim again his characteristic vision of the Church’s role in this as a Church that ‘goes forth’ to the peripheries, and seeks to bind all wounds. Antonio Spadaro SJ has written an analysis of the Pope’s vision for La Civitá Cattolica, the leading journal in Europe’s loose partnership of Jesuit journals, of which he is editor-in-chief. Studies (itself part of this group) is pleased to be able to reproduce this essay in translation here. As a number of the essays here forcibly remind us, the original inspiration behind what we now call the EU was to heal the terrible wounds inflicted on the continent (and on the world further afield, where Europe’s influence, for good or ill, has been so enormous for several millennia) by two devastating wars. Edmond Grace SJ traces these origins in the work of Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet and others in the post-war period, helpfully comparing and contrasting the vision proposed in the so-called Schuman Declaration of 1950 with the Dutch Act of Abjuration of 1581 and the American Declaration of 1776, which the Dutch document partly influenced. The initial purpose of the Schuman Declaration was to make future war in Europe – which, in effect, meant war between France and Germany – unthinkable and impossible. But this was only a first step. As Fr Grace writes, the Declaration ‘was pointing towards a future in which Europeans would look beyond their own national loyalties to a wider solidarity’. If what he calls ‘this imperative’ is rejected, we risk ‘a potentially catastrophic unravelling of human solidarity in an increasingly interdependent world’. For him, ‘Europe is entering a time of crisis, in which the struggle will be between those who see Europe as a community of nations thriving in solidarity with each other and the wider world and those who are eager to see this vision fail because they resent the idea that their nation cannot exist as a law unto itself’. Martin Henry’s essay on Rochus Misch, a minor functionary who served as a courier, bodyguard and telephone operator in Adolf Hitler’s entourage (and was never actually a member of the Nazi party), is a reminder of Europe’s dark past, the very past from which what was to become the EU was designed to liberate it once and for all. Dr Henry, who on a couple of occasions met Misch in old age, was intrigued by ‘[t]he contrast between, in particular, the horror of what had happened in the years between 1933 and 1945, and the “ordinariness” of Rochus’s whole persona’, and the latter’s apparent unawareness of ‘the abyss he had traversed’. Does this apparently ordinary, yet in fact quite extraordinary, life exemplify Hannah Arendt’s ‘banality of evil’? Even though present in the bunker in Berlin at the end, Rochus Misch remained unjudgmental about the ‘poisonous ideology’ of those he was serving and ‘the vast killing machine that was the Third Reich’. Here, as the author underlines, we are confronted by the mystery of evil and the paradox of an ostensibly Christian culture, incubating such unspeakable inhumanity and wickedness. In the light of Helmut Schmidt’s remark to Derek Scally, quoted above, and at least one of the ‘Leave’ campaigners’ false propaganda claims during the Brexit debate in Britain, it is interesting to record that, althought Rochus Misch ‘had no overarching systematic views about world history or the evolution of German or European history’, he did express the opinion to Martin Henry that ‘the SS represented, in fact, the first European army’. As Dr Henry observes, ‘If this were in any sense true, then perhaps still slumbering memories of Hitler’s pan-European aspirations could be one of the deep-seated sources of the stubborn Euro-scepticism that has continued to shadow the progress of the European Union’. Bryan Fanning’s account of how Ireland dealt with those fleeing Germany during the war, Jewish and other refugees, and also Nazi collaborators, throws a somewhat lurid light on this country’s role at that time. With all allowances made for ideas of Catholic solidarity and the strong antipathy to communism that marked the postwar period, the naked antisemitism of officialdom in Dublin, as documented by Professor Fanning, is deeply shaming. One of the individual stories he tells is of Alfred Leicht, from a small Jewish community in Bilke, in Hungary, who was liberated from Buchenwald by the Americans in 1945, when in his teens. His father had been arrested and summarily shot with other Jews in 1942; his mother and three younger brothers later died in Auschwitz. He himself was eventually rescued by London Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld and, with other young refugees, came for a time to Ireland. Of this last episode he would later write: It is one of history’s mocking ironies that inward-looking Ireland offered us, one hundred dispersed and displaced orphans from wartorn Europe, only conditional and temporary status in their land. Yet masses of their own poverty-stricken citizens had emigrated to America during the 19th and the 20th centuries to seek a better life. Some of us might have opted to remain there had we been allowed to do so. But their restrictions were sadly emblematic of the antipathy and apathy that have so often spawned ugly misconceptions and inciting myths about Jews. He was gracious enough to add: ‘Despite this, our time in Ireland was a flare in the night for all of us and a dramatic crossroads in our formative years’. But his words retain their shaming resonance to this day. Are we responding adequately now to the new refugee crisis that we confront in Europe? The last essay in this issue of Studies is strictly unconnected with the others: the first part of Dr Seán Brophy’s helpful overview of the events we are presently commemorating in Ireland, the ‘decade of conflict’, 1913–1923. The challenge for Ireland now, a hundred years on, is for our once ‘inward looking’, disappointingly small-minded country, as revealed in Bryan Fanning’s narrative of the late 1940s and 1950s (and the Catholic Church does not escape censure in this), to be true Europeans in the best sense, whatever our nearest neighbours, once our nemesis, may do, no longer dependents but self-confident, active participants in and generous, hospitable contributors to making a better world.
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