Compassion, the ability to feel sympathy with someone else, is perhaps the most crucial human quality of all, but sometimes, sad to say, it can bring unintended consequences.
And that is what is happening right now in Europe. Wave upon wave of immigrants is surging into Europe, too many – far too many – for those countries to handle. There is no doubt the problem will become even worse in the next decade or two, if not sooner – to the point of social, economic and political catastrophes.
Images like the one of the little boy, drowned, washed up on shore, can melt even the stoniest heart. It’s horrifying to see and to read about the anguish, pain and long-suffering desperation of those immigrants from chaos. Most, apparently, are Syrians fleeing the vicious situations in that blood-drenched country, ripped apart by civil war and a barbaric ISIS rampage against civilians who happen to be so-called infidels, such as Christians.
To stay in Syria is to risk one’s life hour by hour as barrel bombs fall on neighborhoods or marketplaces, ripping human beings to shreds. Innocent people in that killing field are trapped between tyrant Bashir al Assad’s army, anti-Assad insurgents and ISIS’s acts of kidnapping, rape, torture, mass killings and terror of every description.
According to news reports, many of the refugees clamoring for safety in Europe have already long been refugees languishing miserably in camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. Some had been living as long as four years in hellish, crowded refugee camps, hanging on day to day merely to survive. Meanwhile, the insane violence in their homeland, Syria, kept getting worse. The estimated number of refugees in those camps was as high as four million.
You have to be a rock not to feel compassion for such hurting human beings.
Some European countries have already begun to accommodate the refugees, with France willing to accept as many as 32,000 for now. In the past four years, after the horrific Syrian violence began, the United States has accepted about 1,500 Syrian refugees. President Obama suggested last week we should allow 10,000 more of them into this country this year, 70,000 next year and 100,000 in 2017.
These awful exoduses have happened all too often throughout history. Jewish people, for example, were constantly on the move because of vicious persecutions, tormented and slaughtered village to village, and we all know – or should know – what happened to them during WWII. They were butchered throughout eastern Europe, along with other ethnic minorities, and not just in Nazi death camps. The world, mostly, turned a blind eye to such monstrous crimes and massive suffering.
That is why it’s heartening to know so many countries are trying to help these refugees, these homeless people stranded miserably between the thin border line of hope and despair. Yes, this compassion is a good thing, but it also presents problems. It poses many more questions than solutions, and they are questions we should all ponder:
- How many millions of refugees can any country absorb before social, economic and political break-downs start to happen?
- How many of the people scrambling to Europe are, in fact, bona-fide refugees? Countries claim they will screen them to determine which are refugees and which are opportunists or even possible terrorists? How will that be accomplished when most of them probably don’t even have any documents and arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs? How many of them are not escaping persecution and death but fleeing poverty and other problems in their countries – countries that include Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt, among others. As people in those countries hear about Europe’s compassionate acceptance, will they too join the rush for a chance at a better life? When will it ever stop?
- Will these people return home if and when conditions stabilize in their countries of origin?
- Will refugees be capable of assimilating into the societies they move into? Will there be jobs for them? Or will an inability to adapt or lack of employment lead to festering resentments that are vented in social disorder and violence? Such resentments and some resultant violence have long been happening in England, France and Germany.
The ultimate answer, obviously, would be a restoration of some kind of stability and safety in those cruel countries. That’s not likely to happen, especially with terrorist groups on the prowl, on the rampage.
It’s no accident Donald Trump’s comments about illegal immigration have touched a chord in many Americans. Even though Trump was wildly off-base and insulting, many Americans are fearful of what might result from unrestrained illegal immigration. Many are pondering questions similar to the ones listed above. Many are asking what are the limits to compassion? Does there come a point when compassion translates into a “free ticket” for anyone who decides they want to leave their own country for whatever reason?
These are unpleasant questions, but we must ask them and then try to come up with reasonable and – yes – compassionate but realistic compromises, policies and solutions.