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How Can We Worship One Refugee and Despise Another?

JoseyMariaWeb

José y Maria. Amazing image by Everett Patterson

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there’s been a lot of hostility towards refugees in the minority (so called “Western”) world lately. In Europe, country after country are closing their borders and argue that they don’t have capacity and resources to welcome refugees, even though the EU is the world’s richest political entity and development countries receive 86 % of the world’s refugees. In Australia the government is pushing back boats of refugees and put refugees in horrible detention camps, and in the United States there’s a guy called Trump who wants to ban Muslims from entering the country and build a wall against Mexico.

The two latter examples are extremely confusing since the white population there are obviously descendants of immigrants themselves… I read in Bob Ekblad’s book A New Christian Manifesto recently about some Scandinavian Americans who were protesting against native Americans’ claims of land, and the Scandinavians’ argument were that they had owned that land for such a long time.

The Bible says: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Lev 19:34). The Israelites had then been in Egypt for 400 years. Most American and Australian families have lived in their colonies for less than that, which means that they surely are immigrants from God’s perspective, and this Bible passage is naturally very relevant to them. They have no moral grounds for deporting immigrants when they are rich and themselves have benefited from migration. (more…)

How to Stop the Mass Drownings in the Mediterranean

The Waters

The Mediterranean genocide is nothing new , over 25,000 people have drowned when they have tried to cross the sea to reach Europe during the last 20 years. European politicians have known about this problem for centuries, yet it is still ongoing. The reason for this is that they simply want it to be like this: they are stuck between being insanely evil or sacrificially merciful, and then they chose a deadly middle-way instead. That’s why Syrian children die in Mare Nostrum: it’s because of politics.

First of all, why do refugees die in the Mediterranean? It’s because they travel with extremely fragile boats provided by smugglers. These crooks usually demand lots of money – often around 1,000 euros and sometimes even as much as 10,000 euros. So why don’t the refugees fly with airplanes? Well, because they aren’t allowed to. As professor Hans Rosling explains in the video above, an EU directive has made sure that airlines must pay the costs of all immigrants who aren’t refugees and therefore are to be deported. Since no airline wants to take the risk of paying these costs, they simply deny all people from developing countries that don’t have a visa, entrance to their planes. And visas aren’t granted to refugees.

This is why all refugees must enter the EU illegally, on dangerous boat rides across the Mediterranean or inside trucks from Turkey to Greece. It’s illegal because there is no single way for them to enter legally. Still, since refugees must be granted asylum according to UN conventions that European countries have signed as well as EU:s own decisions, many who do enter a EU country will be granted asylum, and then suddenly become a legal immigrant. Pretty messed up system, isn’t it?

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How can xenophobic Christians be so passionate about hating immigrants?

There are a lot of things I’m passionate about: Jesus, poverty reduction, community, evangelism, revival and many other things. But one thing I’m not passionate about is being a racist. Racism is terrible and insane and I’m praying every day that i will treat everyone equal, with love and dignity, and that the Holy Spirit will give me a humanitarian passion for everyone that is in need.

Skärmavbild 2015-08-05 kl. 19.07.47

And so when I retweet Doctors without borders who point out that refugees are people who seek a better future for themselves and their children, I am devastated when another Twitter user responds with racism. Yes, this is racism, he knows nothing about these mothers other than that they are African, and yet he argues that they “bring a lot of pain and suffering for the country that accepts them”. Cold, hateful racism. And this guy claims to be a Christian.

Some will just tell me to ignore the trolls and go on with my life, but these comments don’t come from isolated dark corners of the internet anymore, this is a mass movement all across Europe that is occupying parliaments and governments. A movement filled with hostility against people from Africa and the Middle East, a movement promoting inequality, deportation and white supremacy. (more…)

How Should Christians View Multiculturalism?

Chapel of Grace, a multicultural church in the UK

Chapel of Grace, a multicultural church in the UK

It’s very popular to speak negatively about multiculturalism in Europe these days, the idea that multiple cultures can thrive and co-exist within the same state. It’s a bit strange since most European countries are democracy, and the idea that anyone can say, believe and live the way they want is quite essential to democracy, but Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s David Cameron and Denmark’s Pia Kjaersgaard have all condemned multiculturalism as something that should be prohibited (Kjaersgaard have even condemned the idea of a multiethnic society).

Since the culture these politicians are defending is labeled Christian (even though it’s rather Constantinian), and the culture that they portray as the main antagonist is islamic culture, many Christians have condemned multiculturalism in a similar fashion and argued that Muslims should be deported so that European Christianity is preserved.

The condemnation of multicultural states is also known as nationalism, the idea that each state should have one language and one culture. But is this idea Biblical? Are Christians supposed to prohibit or promote multiculturalism?

In the Old Testament, God gave laws to the Israelites that were not just moral but also cultural. the Pentateuch tells the Israelites how they should eat, dress and behave, what holidays they should have and how they should worship the Lord. These cultural laws are still being practised by Jews to this day. And while immigrants were very welcome to Israel and were treated as natives (Lev 19:33-34), they were expected to follow most of the laws. There were some exceptions, kosher food was not required for example (Deut 14:21), but in general immigrants were expected to follow the cultural laws of Israel. Not much multiculturalism there. (more…)

The Desperate Need for Christian Hospitality

Have you ever wanted to meet an angel? If so, let some homeless people into your home.

Scripture says: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebr 13:2). And even if the person we’re hosting turns out to be mere human, that’s not a very big problem since we are then simply doing a very good deed: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Rom 12:13).

Homeless people getting a home§

Homeless people getting a home

In Sweden where I live, almost 50% of all the households are single households, meaning that only one person lives in them. We have almost half a million vacation houses standing empty most months of the year. And yet, so many – even Christians – are arguing that we don’t have space for more immigrants, that we should send Syrian refugees back to war and Romanian beggars back to misery. How about showing some hospitality instead?

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Don’t Blame the Immigrants, Blame the Rich!

Not the Problem

Not the Problem

As poor people are being oppressed by rich people, the poor paradoxically often blame other poor people for their misery. The apostle James, Jesus’ own brother who is one of my favourite author, writes in his letter about how strange it is for the Christians of his time to despise the poor while the rich oppressed them:

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? (Jam 2:5-7)

I have read in the news that in South Africa, some people suffering from unemplyment and marginalization violently attack immigrants from countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, accusing them for “taking our jobs”. At the same time, white South Africans earn six times as much money than blacks, which of course means that if whites earned less there would be more money to employ people with, just as this American CEO could raise the wages of all his employees by lowering his own.

The European colonisers who plundered Africa’s natural resources, installed racist segregation and enjoyed wealth and luxury in gated communities while the indigenous population suffered in poor townships, are the immigrants that black South Africans should really be caring about, since most of their white descendants still are much richer than the rest of the population. SA is one of the most unequal countries in the world. Yet, the poor starts to blame other poor people from other countries. Why is that?

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World’s Richest Country Makes Feeding the Poor Illegal 

Me sitting with Doinita, a Romanian Pentecostal who has to beg to survive

Me sitting with Doinita, a Romanian Pentecostal who has to beg to survive

I wish this was a joke. The government of Norway will soon make begging illegal. Many have already pointed out how ironic this is since Norway is in the top five of richest countries in the world (in fact, if you exclude city-states from the list, that have an unfair chance of climbing the top of it, Norway is the richest country in the world). But the madness doesn’t end there. When details in the law proposal were released two days ago, it turned out that the government also wants to criminalize those who help begging people:

The scope of the law, which was originally intended to ban homeless people from begging on the street, has been extended to also criminalise those offering money or other help… Under the law, organised begging would become a crime, punishable with a prison sentence of up to one year. The same punishment would apply to those aiding beggars.

Some of you may recall that a town called Fort Lauderdale in Florida has inforced a similar law, so that 90-year-old Arnold Abbott was arrested when he was handing out food to homeless people through his organization Love Thy Neighbor. I wrote a blog post about this in November last year, reflecting on how strange it is that some reach the conclusion that helping the poor is not helping the poor, while not helping the poor is in fact helping the poor.

Just like my country Sweden, Norway has had many visitors from eastern Europe that are extremely poor and marginalised, who are begging on the streets. Most of them are Romanis, the most discriminated ethnic group in Europe. In Romania, Romanis were slaves up to 1850, and even today 80 % of Romanis in the country are unemployed, 80 % lack water, sanitation or electricity and one in seven of Romani children never attend school. 30 % cannot read or write.

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Taking the Fight Against Heretic Xenophobic Christianity

apartheidposterChristians have so many times ignored the teachings of Jesus and become racists instead. It happened during the crusades. It happened in Nazi Germany. It happened in apartheid South Africa. Christians argued for racism, xenophobia and inequality, claiming that white Europeans were elected by God to rule over and even kill other ethnicities. There arguments however, have been extremely weak, since the Bible does not support white pride. Come on, Europeans are hardly even present in the Bible, and the Saviour of the world is a middle eastern Jew!

Yesterday, the xenophobic Swedish party known as the Sweden Democrats forced re-elections after refusing to let the government’s budget go through, and they also threatened that they will do so with every budget that doesn’t accept their demands of cutting non-white immigration. Since neither the left coalition nor the right have majority, this means trouble. Needless to say, this has produced a lot of debate in our little country, and while most Christians emphasize that we need to push back against the rise of racism and neo-fascism, more and more Christians are either joining the Sweden Democrats, or lobbying for the conservative coalition, where the Christian Democrats is a member, should listen to and cooperate with the racists.

As we’re experiencing a racist revival among Christians in all of Europe, the old bad arguments that were used by Nazi Lutherans and Apartheid Presbyterians pop up again. I will deal with these in depth when I have time, but for now let me just give some quick comments to the most common ones:

“Acts 17:26 says ‘From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.'”

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The Mediterranean Genocide

Dead Refugees. Photo from Reuters

Dead Refugees. Photo from Reuters

The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow

to kill the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.

But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;

for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. (ps 37:14-16)

Europe has a lot of experience in killing dark-skinned people, and this has by no means ceased. The Mediterranean Sea is a giant graveyard, where 2000 people have been killed just this year, and 25,000 the last 20 years. These are refugees, fleeing from war-torn countries like Syria or impoverished economies like Libya. Italy has had a rescue mission called Mare Nostrum which has saved countless lives that otherwise would have perished, but it has now ended. Instead, the European Union’s border police Frontex will start a mission called Triton, but it will have a much smaller budget than Mare Nostrum and not be allowed to go as far as the Italian operation could.

Just as Italy halted the Mare Nostrum mission, the British government decided to stop its funding of rescue missions in Mediterranean. They will only provide one “debriefer” to Triton. The reason is that they think that the rescue operation is a “pull factor” that gives more refugees incentives to come to Europe.

The Guardian rightly calls this “an outrageous and immoral act. It suggests a government so alarmed by Ukip that it has lost all sense of proportion. The Italian-funded Mare Nostrum exercise, mobilised after 300 refugees drowned off Lampedusa a year ago, has saved thousands of lives.”

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How Should We Stop the Rise of European Racism?

The last couple of days I have been busy, partly with a big evangelistic event and partly with following the Swedish elections. The result was dramatic: the xenophobic and racist Sweden Democrats party doubled their support and became our third biggest party, and since neither the progressive nor the conservative coalitions have majority because of the Sweden Democrats, our new prime minister Stefan Löfven has a lot of headaches in trying to figure out how to govern without relying on the racists.

Sweden is obviously not immune to the sad trend that has characterised European politics the last 20 years: xenophobic, racist and fascist parties are entering European parliaments and gain a lot of influence. There is basically no European parliament left without a party that wants to cut immigration drastically and that point out minorities like Muslims, Roma or Jews as a national problem. Some parties, like Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary, are clearly neo-Nazi and uses the same rhetoric that Hitler used 80 years ago against ethnic, religious and social minorities.

Naturally, many Europeans are worried that history will repeat itself, and countless theories and ideas concerning how we will stop the rise of racism and fascism have been discussed. They often contradict each other: some say we should ignore them, others that we should debate against them; some say we should be more generous towards immigrants, others that we should kick out more immigrants. What way is the correct one? How should we as Christians respond?

In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul talks about waging spiritual warfare against arguments and theoretical strongholds that are hostile towards Christ: “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3-5)

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European Anabaptism vs Global Pentecostalism #MennoNerdsOnRace

A few days ago, the Anabaptist blogging network MennoNerds, which this blog is a part of, arranged a webinar called Race, Mutuality and Anabaptist community. It was all recorded via Google Hangouts and can be watched in the video above. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to join the discussion live since time here was around 2 AM, but we MennoNerds now have a chance to contribute to the conversion via our blogs, which is what I’m doing right now.

Christianity is a Middle Eastern religion and for the first 300 years, most of the important theologians (the so called “church fathers”) came from the Middle East, Northern Africa and what is now Turkey. The present churches in for example Egypt, Syria and Ethiopia have survived since the time of the apostles. But since the Western Catholic church distanced itself from and condemned the eastern and oriental churches, the experiences, stories and theology of non-white Christians became peripheral. To this very day, it is common among Western Christians to identify themselves with and be inspired by Christian streams from Western Europe: Catholicism, Anglicanism, Calvinism, Lutherism, Anabaptism, Quakerism, Methodism, Salvationism, Baptism, and so on.

It gets increasingly problematic when people of European descent expect other people to submit to these European interpretations of the teachings of Jesus when they are born again, i.e. asking them to become “Lutherans” or “Anabaptists”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Anabaptism and identify myself with the movement, and I think that people like Drew Hart does an excellent job in outlining “Anablacktivism” and interpreting the Anabaptist message about justice and peace from an African-American perspective. Truth is that all of the church streams I mentioned above are global today – Catholicism is biggest in Latin America which their Argentinian pope signifies, Anglicanism is bigger outside England and the biggest Lutheran denomination in the world is Mekane Yesus in Ethiopia.

These voices need to be recognized and influential within these church streams. Yet, we cannot get away from the fact that if you want to get to the roots of the movement, as A.O. Green likes to do, you’ll have to read what a bunch of white, European men wrote. And that’s a bit boring, isn’t it?
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Is Europe Encountering a New Holocaust?

Islamophobic propaganda from Front National

Islamophobic propaganda from Front National

Yesterday’s election to the European Parliament was a shock to many people: the clear winners are the far-right, xenophobic and racist parties. Parties that want to decrease or stop non-Western immigration, and whos representatives say the most insane things about Muslims, Jews, homosexuals and other minorities:

Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of french party Front National that won a stunning 24 % of the french vote, has famously questioned the facts concerning the holocaust and has said that the gas chambers were a minor detail of world war two. And just a few weeks ago he said that the Ebola epidemic might solve the “migration problem” by killing non-Europeans. Jean-Marie led Front National for almost 40 years until he handed over the leadership to his daughter three years ago. She has distanced herself from her father’s antisemitism, instead the party is now extremely islamophobic and wants to stop non-Western immigration to France.

In the United Kingdoms, UKIP won a victory similar to Front National, and while they are not very antisemitic they are very hostile to immigrants. Their leader Nigel Farage has made racist statements concerning Romanians, he only wants to welcome Christians from Syria and not Muslims, and the party is overflowing with hostile stereotyping of non-British nationalities.

The depressing list could go on and on. The Danish People’s Party, that also had a success in the European election yesterday, wants to totally stop Muslim immigration, which obviously is clear religious discrimination. The Austrian FPÖ, which for a long time was lead by neo-Nazi Jörg Haider and which wants to stop immigration to “protect the cultural identity of Austria”, got 20% of the Austrian votes. And then we got the really bad guys: Jobbik from Hungary whose supporters say that the Roma people will die, that wants to register all Jews because they view them as a “national security risk” and that send neo-Nazis to the European Parliament. And of course Golden Dawn, who got 10 % of the Greek votes – their representatives deny the holocaust and quote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Greek parliament. And oh, their flag is very similar to the Germanic Nazi swastika.

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Seven Deadly Sins of Europe 7: War-Waging Wrath

As the election to the European Parliament gets closer, I want to highlight some of the biggest European sins that unfortunately are not very present in the political debates.

Weapons used in the Libyan civil war of 2011. Many of them were produced in Europe.

Weapons used in the Libyan civil war of 2011. Many of them were produced in Europe.

It is finally time to end this series. It has been a bit risky to focus so extensively on Europe on a blog with readers from all around the world, but I hope you have seen that these seven deadly sins are relevant to know about for most people. For my readers in the majority world (Africa, Asia and Latin America): I want you to know that I am strongly opposed to the neo-colonialism, environmental destruction and activist sloth of my continent that hurt you countries so badly, which is why I try to highlight this now that there is an election to the European Parliament. And for my readers in non-European rich countries: I hope you realize that these deadly sins are present in you countries as well, unfortunately.

Anyways, let us turn to the final sin: wrath, or anger. Our good ol’ friend New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia simply defines it as “The desire of vengeance… It becomes sinful when it is sought to wreak vengeance upon one who has not deserved it, or to a greater extent than it has been deserved, or in conflict with the dispositions of law, or from an improper motive. The sin is then in a general sense mortal as being opposed to justice and charity.” We have already seen how Europe kills non-European through lack of aid or by destroying the climate, but Europe also executes violent wrath in a much more direct way: through selling arms to dictatorships and countries at war.

Compared to its American cousin in the Wild West, Europe often portrays itself as a much more peaceful and friendly part of the world. But historically, Europe has been an extremely violent country, with hundreds of wars that have changed the borders of European countries over and over again. And of course, Europe was the main playgrounds for the two of the most bloody wars in history: the first and second world war. Thankfully, this violent era ended with the creation of the European Union. Increased trade and diplomacy has made Europe a much more peaceful place than ever before.

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Seven Deadly Sins of Europe 5: Xenophobic Pride

As the election to the European Parliament gets closer, I want to highlight some of the biggest European sins that unfortunately are not very present in the political debates.

Immigrants travelling dangerously, since it is illegal for them to go via airplane to Europe

Immigrants travelling dangerously, since it is illegal for them to go via airplane to Europe

Let us, as usual, look at the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia to get a definition of today’s deadly sin: “Pride is the excessive love of one’s own excellence… By it the creature refuses to stay within his essential orbit; he turns his back upon God, not through weakness or ignorance, but solely because in his self-exaltation he is minded not to submit. His attitude has something Satanic in it.”

I would say that Europe is overflowing with pride. It is because of their pride that European politicians promote economic inequality with Europe at the top, and because of pride they oppress the poor through neo-colonialism, destroy the planet and refuse to give enough aid so that poor people die abroad. And if that wasn’t enough, pride creates xenophobia, racism and evil migration policies.

It’s not any big news that xenophobia and racism is spreading across Europe. Xenophobic parties want to stop immigration of people from the so called third world, they are hostile towards Muslims and want to limit freedom of religion, and they emphasize their own culture and nation (which always is very pathetic in Europe since basically all countries here have changed culturally, geographically and politically over and over again since the fall of the Roman empire).

 

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Seven Deadly Sins of Europe 4: Activist Sloth

As the election to the European Parliament gets closer, I want to highlight some of the biggest European sins that unfortunately are not very present in the political debates. 

The Feeding Programme at Iris Ministries South Africa

The Feeding Programme at Iris Ministries South Africa

Sloth means, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, “disinclination to labour or exertion […] The narrow way stretches wearily before [the slothful] and his soul grows sluggish and torpid at the thought of the painful lifejourney. The idea of right living inspires not joy but disgust, because of its laboriousness.” Sloth is sinful laziness, the slothful is ignorant of the needs of the world and passive when other need their help. It isn’t rest from activism, but refusal to even start being active in the first place. And this is definitely something the European Union is guilty of when it comes to foreign aid.

When discussing aid giving, we have to remember that according to Jesus, generosity shouldn’t be measured in how much you give but how much you have left. While others were impressed of the big money the rich were able to donate in Luk 21:1-4, Jesus pointed out that the two coins a widow gave was all she had, and thus she gave more. It easy to think that the rich give a lot when you see the big numbers they are able to spare, but if you look at what they still keep for themselves it’s usually not as impressive.

According to Concord Europe, the member countries of the European Union gives around 50 billion euros every year to foreign aid. One could think that’s a lot of money – and indeed it helps a lot of people – but since the total GDP of the EU is 16 trillion euros, the amount of aid is actually minimal. Many European countries, together with other rich nations, pledged in 1970 that they would give at least 0,7 % of their GDP, but 40 years later only a few keep this promise.

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