It is disturbing to read of attacks on Syrian Christian asylum seekers, by Muslim fellow asylum seekers in reception centres in Germany. I am sure the blame for these outbreaks is shared.
There is a bitter civil war in Syria and it would not be surprising that some of those fleeing the war would have had hard feelings towards some of their fellow countrymen and women. But if they are seeking asylum, these feelings should be left behind in Syria.
Some of the attacks on Syrian Christians are apparently being made by people who are not from Syria at all.
The chairman of the governing CDU parliamentary group, Volker Kauder, called on Muslim authorities in Germany to “clearly renounce attacks on Christians in the asylum homes”.
The call came after recorded incidents of anti-Christian attacks in a number of shelters.
In one case, reported by the German daily Die Welt newspaper, Muslim Chechens, who have nothing to do with Syria, assaulted Syrian Christians in a camp near Berlin.
The newspaper quotes a spokesperson for the country’s Central Council for Oriental Christians, Jakob Simon, who says that discrimination and blackmail against Christian refugees is now widespread.
“I’ve heard so many reports from Christian refugees who were attacked by conservative Muslims,” said Jacob, who added that recorded incidents were not the full story. “The number of unreported cases is much higher,” he insisted.
Perhaps he is exaggerating. But if asylum seekers are bringing these attitudes with them to Europe, they have a distance to go, to become fully integrated into modern European society.
It also raises the pragmatic, but difficult, question of whether some religious groups will find it easier than others to integrate into European society. Refugee law, quite properly, takes no account of this, but it could become a pragmatic challenge in the years ahead.
There has been a recommendation by the deputy head of Germany’s police union, Jorg Radek to house refugees separately.
“I think housing, separated according to religion makes perfect sense,” said Radek, who added that Germany’s police are now stretched to the limits of their capabilities by duties in registering the vast numbers of refugees together with ending disputes between those now residing in holding centres.
The call has been echoed at the political level, with Germany’s former interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich stating: “It is sad, but obviously necessary, that we require the separation of asylum seekers according to religion.”
This issue may also be faced by the Irish authorities when we receive asylum seekers.
HOW COULD THE CIVIL WARS BE ENDED?
The ideal solution is an end to the civil wars in both Syria and Iraq, which feed off one another.
Both Syria and Iraq have artificial boundaries, drawn for the convenience of France and Britain during the First World War, without regard to local preferences. Now that settlement has come apart. In fact it never worked very well because one group always dominated the others in both artificial countries.
A comprehensive agreed boundary revision, and the creation de facto of several new states may not be ideal, but it may be what is happening anyway .
How many more people will have to die before something along those lines if formally recognised?
The answer to that question is to be found in Teheran and Riyadh, rather than in Iraq or Syria.