RENEWED BARBARISM: THE GLOBAL ROOTS OF CURRENT REFUGEE CRISIS

image
How should we respond to global refugee crisis? As a personal response and a sign of solidarity, I participated in a multi-sectoral gathering in the central city of Groningen, Netherlands. We celebrated, expresed, and gave a warm welcome to Syrian and Eritrean refugees. During the celebration, I had mixed feelings — both happy and unsettled mind. On the one hand, I’m happy that someone cares for people like them. I have to confess, Dutch hospitality was overwhelming during the gathering. It was an incredible feeling indeed! With much sincerity, the government of the Netherlands made an impressive and wonderful response. On the other hand, I was unsettled by how the Western nations responded to the global refugee crisis.

These questions, however, remained unanswered and simultaneously bombarded my mind. How should we really address this problem? And what does this current refugee crisis really mean to us? I firmly believe that merely providing a safe haven for refugees is not enough to end this pervasive problem. In 2015, there was a wide range of mass protests across the European Union. Thousands clamoured loudly for an open policy in behalf of Syrian and Eritrean refugees. The results were varied. It reaped different reactions from Dutch people and various parts of Europe. Polarization among Europeans are still being felt until this writing. Some Dutch people that I encountered were complaining about the burden of taxation. For them, to receive more refugees may conceivably imply additional taxes. Others have been worried about their national security and pointed out the risks of having an open door policy. Others were concerned about the future image of the European Union. Some Europeans, proud of their national identity, have expressed their strong patriotism and highlighted their desire for a stronger, ethnocentric, nationalist government.

image

During the celebration, I grabbed an opportunity to ask some questions to a Dutch activist: “Hi! Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Nope,” the Dutch activists replied. “Please ask your question.”

“Why do Dutch people welcome these refugees with much delight?” I inquired.

The Dutch activist got back to me with a silly question: “Do you want an honest answer?”

“Yes!” I answered.

He continued: “Well, honestly, this is an embarrassing truth because we live by them!”

I was puzzled by his statement: “What do you mean by that?”

“Well, it simple,” he said. “We sell vast amount of weaponry that is causing this problem!”

I was struck by this statement. I stopped for a moment and kept thinking. This striking statement reminds me of something. It made me look again at the global “War On Terror”.

The ‘War On Terror’ has become a major catch-phrase in world affairs. Interestingly, the terms ‘war on terror,’ ‘terrorism’and ‘radical Islamist’, though they obviously have different meanings, have been used interchangeably by the big media. Worse, its connotation stereotypes Islam. Today, this language permeates in every area of public policy and foreign policy of most Western states.

The ‘War On Terror’, as a global narrative, enriches the pockets of the military-industrial complex or the defense industry. According to the December 2015 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States and some European countries earned $401 billion in defense products and services by the end of December 2014. This is unimaginable. A terrible reality to know! I can’t help but ask questions: Who really benefits from this industry? And above all, to whom and where were these weapons of destruction used?

These subjects of military-industrial complex and war typically raise a number of questions; not all of which I believe are helpful in framing the modern global problem of refugees. According to the 2014-2015 report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, there were 51 to 59.5 million people who were forcibly displaced (refugees, internal displaced people, and asylum seekers) by war; the worst data ever recorded since the end of World War II. Top origins, according to UNHCR Global Trends 2014 report, are Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

Though this may be most disturbing, I dare say that war is the root cause of global refugee crisis. The military-industrial complex amasses enormous wealth through the sufferings of innocent people because of this ‘War on Terror.’

I am aware that this is a very complicated issue. The more I immerse myself in this subject, the more questions confront me: Why would these countries feel the need to have massive production of weaponry? Who among these weapon-producing countries can be considered as allies? Who among them are deemed as enemies? How exactly do these defense industry decision-makers determined which states are allies and which states are rogue? Or are we just advocating and practising what Slavoj Zizek calls renewed barbarism?

Ironically, there’s a lot of money to be made in the so-called defense industry, which is actually a war-making mega-business. And yet, and unfortunately, there’s not enough funding for education, eradication of poverty, and other inclusive development initiatives that would generate descent jobs and livelihood.

In the midst of the refugee crisis in the European Union, Slavoj Zizek suggests that a complex measure be undertaken as a matter of priority: “First, Europe will have to reassert its full commitment to provide means for the dignified survival of the refugees. There should be no compromise here: Large migrations are our future, and the only alternative to such commitment is a renewed barbarism (what some call ‘clash of civilizations’).”

image

What does these mean for the Church? The Church ought to be true to her prophetic mission. The Church ought to participate in the struggle for a creation of a just society for all. Our response as a faith-based organisation and organism must be based on the concept of God as a God of Justice and Inclusion. One of the sacred names of God is JUSTICE! The Christian Scripture provides many stories of prophets who, with the guidance of YHWH, denounced human rights violation; they sought for justice. The Prophet Isaiah, for example, denounced the injustices during his time (Isaiah 5:7; 10:1-2). Prophet Isaiah critiqued the landlords, the judges and the officials of the state for exploiting the poor, for corruption and for manipulation of the system to suit their own evil interests. In short, the Christian Scripture provides reasons for the Church to act upon her calling as prophet to work for justice and peace in the world.

We, as prophetic Church, must condemn, in all its many forms, this renewed barbarism!

 

 

References

Slavoj Zizek (2015, Sept. 9), “We Can’t Address the EU Refugee Crisis Without Confronting Global Capitalism” In This Times. Retrieved from http://inthesetimes.com/article/18385/slavoj-zizek-european-refugee-crisis-and-global-capitalism.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 2014-2015 Report (2015, December). Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home.

“The World at War,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refigees, Global Trends Forced Displacement 2014 Report (2015, December). Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/statistics.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: https://peacebuilderscommunity.org/2016/01/renewed-barbarism-the-global-roots-of-current-refugee-crisis/

8 comments

Skip to comment form

    • M.O. on 27.May.2016 at 2141

    Interesting to know that there really are deeper reasons as to why these global problems sprung out. It also is interesting to see and hear different angles in addressing the problem. Hearing this arm-related industry somehow disgust me. States always engage in security related operations instead on focusing on the welfare of people. It is true that a state should secure itself responsibly but aren’t the people/citizens regardless of their nationality should be taken care of as well? This is also a statement that terrorism or threat will not leave the international setting and this is the reason why some states still engage in massive arms industry. I just want to point out that refugees should be taken care of and tjeir situations should not be taken for granted. Besides arms inflict war and that is the reason why they flee the country.

    • Edmund C. Osias Jr on 11.February.2016 at 1706

    I know for a fact that the world is getting smaller that positivism and negativism of element filter in the world peace. But the whole worlds need to be warned about the incursion of the unprincipled individuals to the illegal weapons. United Nation is supposed to be the leader of figthing against terrorism.Elements of Destruction should be watched and belligerent action is the best counteraction against this MODUS OPERANDI.

    • Chot on 05.February.2016 at 1958

    I need more education as to how we came to this point. Interesting though…

    • PJ on 05.February.2016 at 0058

    Interesting article Hadje. Thank you for sharing this. I’d like to share this page to my students if you won’t mind. Allow me to share my thoughts as well: It is also worth noting that in the midst of the refugee crisis, we could also see the emergence of a pervasive discursive articulation of ‘what’ terrorism is and ‘who’ are terrorists, which somehow created a “Hyperterrorist” reality and social identity of any targeted ‘subjects’ of suspicion – which is evident in certain media networks. I won’t deny the fact that terrorism is a global phenomenon in which a lot of countries face today. My point however is that the ambiguity of its reality is also instrumental in creating an exaggerated notion of it in order to infiltrate societies in the level of their consciousness. This is an important component perhaps in the idea of ‘War on Terror’ – warfare requires the invasion of people’s minds so that any socio-economic/political strategy can be justified swiftly and won’t be as obvious.

    • Kz on 04.February.2016 at 2314

    Thank you sir for this article 🙂

    • moi on 04.February.2016 at 1922

    But we should not be anxious about this (be)coming event like what the reaction of both the conservatives and the reactionaries. This what we call retroactive revolution will be the good news to bring liberation from the exploitative grip of Capitalism. The Capitalist apocalypse will be the redemption of human situation. THE END AND BEGINNING IS NEAR…

    • moi on 04.February.2016 at 1917

    Sir. I would argue that the relation of political economy of global capitalism has an intimate engagement in relation to the derailment of our fellow refugees. Like what the analysis of the left, the analysis of Zizek ( We Can’t Address the EU Refugee Crisis Without Confronting Global Capitalism),this is not our crisis but rather it is the crisis of the capitalism that plagues us. We are affected of/by it because we are inside or within in the epoch of global capitalism. The phenomenon that manifested in europe is a phenomenon of state of emergency that Capitalism is in crisis and to the worst extent, it is now declining and deteriorating the system of global capitalism. And we should expect this year 2016 that this crisis will be worsen and creates more upheaval side by side in europe even in asia. Retroactively speaking, we are now approaching the revolutionary time(s) of the past that awaits us in the future. Or let us expect another version of French revolution or rather an October Revolution that prophesied by our fellow leftist fathers… This is what we call THE REVOLUTION AT THE GATES..

    • Jonas Fiebrantz on 03.February.2016 at 0114

    Very interesting thoughts on the cause of the refugee crisis. I agree that is so often overlooked when people talk about these things.

    One comment I would make is regarding the “military-complex industry”. I think it is important to distinguish between a state’s military forces and the privatized arms industry.

    You mention that you would “prioritize and invest these huge amount of money in education and generating decent jobs” instead of military spending. I agree that this is a good thing for governments to do, however it doesn’t solve the problem of private arms industries.

    You say that countries “galvanize those private companies to have massive weapon production”, but I don’t believe this is something that states do (at least not on purpose). According to the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which was signed by 130 states including the US and many other major weapons exporting countries, governments have a responsibility to “establish and maintain a national [arms] export control system” and “prohibit the transfer [of weapons]” if it is known that they will be used illegally (according to the UN Charter, UDHR, Security Council resolutions, etc.). In other words, governments have committed themselves to trying to reduce the selling of “vast amounts of weaponry to cause this problem”, as your interviewee stated.

    The real issue seems to lie not with the ‘encouragement’ of illegal weapons trade, but in the ineffective measures taken to control and stop it. Governments are not actively seeking more conflict, but are just having trouble stopping their own privatized firms and citizens from getting involved in it. Rather than criticizing governments, I would argue that what we need to do is encourage their efforts and urge them to find better solutions. Maybe that is naive of me to say, but I am optimistic that most governments are just as eager to find peace and stability as we are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

OUR GLOBAL PEACE COMMUNITY

We are sent by Mennonite Church Canada Witness in partnership with our international community.