Monday, November 09, 2009

Karl Barth on Refugees

Commenting in October 1942 on the refugee crisis facing Switzerland, Karl Barth had this to say:
"The refugees are our concern: not because they are good and valuable people, but because they are today the lowest, the most wretched people in the whole world and as such they knock on our doors, [and because their] inseparable companion is the Saviour. They are our concern: not although they are Jews, but precisely because they are Jews and as such are the Saviour's physical brothers...The refugees (whether they know it or not) are honouring us by seeing our land as a last refuge of justice and mercy, and by coming to it...We see in the refugees that which we have been miraculously spared of. It is certainly true today we are not doing all that well either. But again, it is also true that we are at least taken pretty good care of, and are taken such good care of that we are rich in comparison to these unhappy people. Can we bear this without wanting to help them with all our might."
This was at a time when the Swiss border was completely sealed off from Jewish refugees. Although many made it into Switzerland, over 100,000 refugees were rejected by the Swiss authorities during the Second World War. I won't comment on the current refugee situation in Australia, except to point to two excellent posts by Meredith Lake here and here.

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