Even after a French teenager cut the throat of an elderly fellow townsman, a retired priest, Pope Francis remained faithful to his strategy of de-sensationalising. Islam is no more violent than other religions, even Catholicism; violence, unfortunately, is a daily occurrence, starting off with domestic violence; radicalised teenagers are victims of unemployment, racism etc.; the inhumane law of profit is terrorism too – these are his main arguments. For a Pope who had invited all those willing to emigrate to the West to do so, it would have been inconsistency to state otherwise. From this point of view, we are obviously dealing with a “left-wing” Pope: many of today’s left-wingers see immigrants as the only “move” capable of changing what the proletariat had failed to change. For them, they are really ticking time bombs capable of undermining a society that is far too stable in its capitalist dynamic. Of course, they reject Islam, but only because it runs against the secularism and the marginalisation of religion they subscribe to. But they do not necessarily reject their violence. Consequently, immigrants have become an important “ideological asset.”
In what concerns the Vatican’s new policy, it combines solidarity with refugees who flee wars and religious discrimination with the care for the poor. We could even say that the current successive waves of immigrants are, for Western Catholics in search for noble causes, an unhoped-for opportunity to “serve their fellow men.” While the tactic is advantageous, the strategy is perilous. For several reasons.
Firstly, leaving any geopolitical considerations aside, Christians are today persecuted in many regions of the globe. Primarily in Muslim countries. While Muslims in the West obstinately and even furiously express their religious rights, their countries of origin are not only not offering the same rights to Christians but they are also pressuring them, in various way, to emigrate. In other words, the situation is of an unacceptable asymmetry.
Secondly, to see Islam solely as a noble competitor in religiousness means disregarding the difference. Catholicism changed after just two centuries of confrontations with secular groups, with a lot of blood spilled sometimes – like in the case of the French Revolution. Only now it is “domesticated,” devoid of political pretensions. That’s not the case for Islam. Our error of perspective is also due to the “freezing” of this internal conflict in the period of the decline of Muslim powers and of European colonialism. The modernisation of Muslim societies came about by imitating the West, not by “reforming” Islam.
Thirdly, the ecumenical ideal is based on the premise of a certain religious stabilisation. In other words, each religion respects the other as neighbours that want to live side by side. But religions, through their essence, are far more mobile, they seek to spread, to gain new followers, inevitably at the expense of other religions. Western Christians no longer see a danger in the Muslims’ fervour, but on the other hand Muslims are far more “cautious,” more careful not to have their religious privacy invaded. They feel more fragile – even the fury of some is rather a sign of weakness, of fear of becoming “contaminated.”
It is for these three reasons that Pope Francis’s strategy is hazardous. But it is also difficult to conceive another strategy that would not have even larger drawbacks. Many Europeans, especially in the former communist countries, are selfish and limited, they lack an elementary sense of political responsibility. The issue of refugees – many of whom are in fact simple immigrants fed up with the poverty back home – is not just the Germans’ or the Italians’ problem, it is an overall European problem. Not getting involved, like Romania chose to stay aloof, means not looking beyond tomorrow. Because the problem is not a cultural one – a point of view that represents only masked racism after all – but a mathematical one. A far too large wave is dangerous, any way we look at it. Because Pope Francis, like many left-wing politicians, sacrifices the security aspect far too easily. The French are saying for naught that they are in a war they will win. The danger is not losing it – who would think ISIS would win? – but leaving far too many innocent victims behind. European left-wing terrorism of the 1970s targeted “enemies,” at least in principle: magistrates, police officers, journalists etc. Islamic terrorism kills people randomly. A state cannot blame solely geopolitics or sad destiny when innocent people are slaughtered on the streets or in the churches. Nevertheless, the state’s responsibility is not just to intervene at the last moment, but also to cut evil at the root as far as possible. ISIS must disappear. Tolerance of such phenomena will only cause many other innocent victims.