Aren't they human beings, our brothers and sisters?

  • Español
  • English
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Português
  • Opinión
-A +A

A society's level of civilization and of humanitarian spirit is measured by how it welcomes and coexists with those who are different. By this measure, Europe offers a pitiful example, one that borders on barbarism. Europe reveals herself as so self-centered and self-congratulatory that it is extremely hard for her to welcome and coexist with those who are different.


The strategy generally was and continues to be this: either exclude or destroy the other. This is what happened in the process of colonial expansion in Africa, Asia and principally in Latin America. They destroyed whole nations, as in Haiti, Mexico and Peru.


The primary limit on Western European culture is her arrogance, as is seen in its presumption of being the most developed in the world, as having the best form of government (democracy), the highest awareness of rights, as the creator of philosophy and technology, and, if that was not enough, as the carrier of the one true religion: Christianity. Traces of this arrogance can still be seen in the Preamble of the Constitution of the European Union. There it is simply asserted:


«The European continent is the bearer of civilization, its people have inhabited it since the beginning of humanity in successive phases, and throughout the centuries they developed the values that are the basis of humanism: the equality of all human beings, liberty, and the value of reason…»


This vision is only partly true. It forgets the frequent violations of those rights, the catastrophes it created with totalitarian ideologies, devastating wars, pitiless colonialism and ferocious imperialism that subjugated and destroyed whole cultures in Africa and in Latin America, in direct contrast to the values they proclaim. The dramatic state of the world today and the quantities of refugees who come from the Mediterranean countries are due, in great part, to the type of globalization Europe supports, since, in concrete terms, it constitutes a sort of later day Westernization of the world, more than the development of a true global community.


This is the background that helps us understand the ambiguities and the resistance of most European countries to receiving the refugees and immigrants who come from the countries of North Africa and of the Middle East, fleeing the terror of the war, caused in great part by Western Intervention (NATO) and especially by the imperialistic policies of the United States.


According to data from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), just this year 60 million of persons have been forced to abandon their homes. The Syrian conflict alone has created 4 million displaced people. The countries that are most willing to take in these victims are Lebanon, with more than one million (1.1 million) and Turkey (1.8 million).


Now those thousands of people seek a little peace in Europe. This year alone nearly 300,000, both migrants and refugees, have crossed the Mediterranean sea. And the numbers grow daily. Their reception is charged with ill will, arousing fascist and xenophobic ideas in the population that betray great insensitivity, even a lack of humanity. Only after the tragedy of the island of Lampedusa, to the South of Italy, where 700 people drowned in April, 2014, was the operation Mare Nostrum launched, with the mission of searching for distressed ships.


Their reception is filled with incidents, especially in Spain and England. The most open and hospitable, notwithstanding the attacks on refugee camps, has been Germany. The phile-fascist government of Viktor Orban of Hungary has declared war on the refugees. It made a decision of great barbarity: ordering the construction of a razor-wire fence four meters high the whole length of the border with Serbia, to bar the arrival of those coming from the Middle East. The governments of Slovakia and Poland declared that they will only accept Christian refugees.


These are criminal measures. Aren't all those who are suffering human beings? Are they not our brothers and sisters? Immanuel Kant was one of the first to propose a World Republic (Welterepublik) in his final book Perpetual Peace. He said that the first virtue of this republic would be hospitality, as the right of all, and it must be for all, because we all are children of the Earth.


All this is being shamefully denied by members of the European Community. The Judeo-Christian tradition always affirmed: whoever welcomes the stranger is unknowingly hosting God. The words of the quantum physicist Danah Zohar, who best wrote about spiritual intelligence, apply here: «The truth is that we and the others are a single one, that there is no separation, that we and the "stranger" are aspects of the one and only life» (QS: conciencia espiritual, Record 2002, p. 219). How different would be the tragic destiny of the refugees if these words were lived passionately and compassionately.




- Leonardo Boff, Theologian-Philosopher / Earthcharter Commission


Free translation from the Spanish sent by Melina Alfaro, done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.
Subscribe to America Latina en Movimiento - RSS