In the bleak midwinter

In the latest of his excellent reports for the BBC on the refugee crisis in Europe, Feargal Keene focuses on the plight of children. A baby, only a month old, makes the hazardous crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. Little children, freezing cold and wet through, climb the muddy path up from the beach. Volunteers from many nations provide food, blankets and medical care for these tiny lives.

But Lesbos is only the start of their journey, And in Europe, it is winter. Across the continent, refugees - including many children and babies - huddle round camp fires at the borders, waiting to be admitted. But the signs are up everywhere. "No room....."

At this time of year, Christians sing carols about a baby born in a stable, because there was no room in the inn. A baby born to a migrant mother, in freezing conditions in the middle of winter. "Behold a silly tender babe, in freezing winter night, in homely manger trembling lies. Alas, a piteous sight", wrote Robert Southwell in the 16th century.

Indeed, a piteous sight. Though these days it would be a tent, not a stable. Along Europe's refugee routes, babies are born every day to migrant mothers. In a report produced in November 2015, Unicef describes the plight of these babies and their mothers:
Women who have recently given birth are less resilient to the stresses of the journey and risk being unable to continue breastfeeding, as families are swept along migration routes, through reception centers, and loaded onto buses and trains. Babies are born every day along the migration routes – in very unfavourable conditions – and carried along as newborns.  
Jesus started his life as a migrant, and continued it as a refugee. He fled with his parents to Egypt to escape the insane despotic tyrant Herod. But although he escaped, others did not. Prudentius, writing the 5th century, speaks with grief and anger of the little boys murdered by Herod:
Are these the first blood-offerings
to come before the Christ - a band
of babies playing on the altar-steps
with palms and coronets? 
What use this rash enormity?
What profit in this wasteful wrong?
So many deaths, and Christ alone
escapes from Herod's questing hand.
So many deaths.....Unicef reports that 30% of over 3,500 migrants who died in the Aegean in 2015 were children. In October alone, at least 90 children died, of whom one fifth were under two years old: twenty of those deaths were in one shipwreck on 28th October. Babies and small children are particularly at risk of drowning, because they can slip from their parents' arms in the turmoil of a shipwreck.

And the risk does not end at the shore. Unlike the Palestinian West Bank where Jesus was born, winter in much of Europe features freezing conditions, snow and ice. "In the bleak midwinter" was never an accurate picture of Jesus's birth: but it is all too real for babies and small children on the refugee trail. They have heightened risk of dying or becoming seriously ill from hypothermia or pneumonia.

Unicef reports that over 1 million children made asylum applications in Europe in 2015. Many more have yet to make applications. And every day, more arrive. Most of these children are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, fleeing the conflicts there: many of the older children are unaccompanied, and at risk of trafficking and abuse. They shiver with cold on the borders, and tramp wearily from country to country, while European countries argue about who should house them.   

Because Jesus was born a migrant and became a refugee, Christianity emphasises the importance of welcoming the "outcast and stranger". But the supposedly Christian countries of the West have no welcome for the people on their borders. Forgetting the demands of their religion, they refuse to open their doors to today's "outcasts and strangers". They condemn Muslims who commit violent acts in the name of their religion. But what they are doing is worse. There is nothing humane, let alone Christian, about letting children drown, or die of cold, hunger, exhaustion and illness. Today's Holy Innocents are the little ones washed up on the beach in Greece and buried in unmarked graves along the refugee trail.

There are more ways than one of committing murder.

Image is of the Tented Crib at Rochester Cathedral, England, Christmas 2015. Photographed by me with kind permission of the Dean and Chapter. 


  1. Mary was no migrant mother. Jesus was not born a refugee.

    Mary and Joseph were forced to travel, because they had to register for tax purposes (administered by the governor Quirinius, see Luke 2:4), and the taxman couldn't care less about their plight.

    Later, Jesus indeed did become a refugee, but not at birth; the vassal king Herod received intelligence information from the three Magi which he misinterpreted to mean that he was about to be facing an insurgency by a Messiah, and therefore decided to take preventive action. (see Matthew 2:16-18)

    1. Hmm. I would regard someone who was forced to travel by the taxman, only to find nowhere to stay when they reach their destination, as a migrant.

      I did not say that Jesus started his life as a refugee.

    2. Considering that there were not nation states at that time, that passports and authorisation to travel were not created before the late 19th century, the concept of refugee is difficult to locate in an historical context. You are far too dismissive of the analogy.

  2. Sorry but Fergal Keane is such a fake.
    His Uncle was a great observer of the human condition but he is obviously a beeb corporate drone.

    The capitalists are in the business of outsourcing reproduction today.
    End of.
    It's a sort of a repeat of overpopulation as a result of wage slavery but with a modern jet age twist.
    Fly them in or bomb then out.
    Just get them on the plantation pronto.

  3. Caliban and the witch interview.

    Anybody who accepts this mass movement as somehow humane does not understand the dynamics of capitalism or is a insider.
    It seeks to control all life.


    The peasant realizes that the church and capitalist has conspired against him.
    Francis , you are using Christianity as a weapon against us.
    A very dirty game.

    1. I am doing no such thing, Dork. Please don't make personal accusations on this blog. I will delete any comments that contain personal attacks on me or anyone else. Read the rules - they are on the ABOUT THIS BLOG page, tab at the top.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. Dork,

    This is my blog. If you want to post here, you do so by my rules. If you don't want to abide by those rules, you cannot post here.

    I have deleted your comment because it made further personal attacks on me.

  7. An excellent and appropriate post, Frances. What you may not know -- because it is no reported by the press -- is that the composition of the migrants entering Greece in December has changed significantly in nationality, age and gender. In the last month, 35% of the refugees have been children, 20% women and only 45% men. The pattern for January-November was around 28% children and 17% women. Also, the nationalities have changed, with many more Iraqis than before -- 26% as compared with 9%. The Syrians have dropped in both proportion and number, and are only 26% of the Decmeber flow.

    It's difficult to interpret this, in the absence of any efforts by the EU to do so. UNHCR suggests that it could be women and children joining their families already in Europe. The problem is that not only is the weather now terrible, but also the craft being used are cheaper and lower quality than previously. (This could well be the result of the EU policy of destroying all smugglers' boats.) So, the last month has seen the highest number of shipwrecks, drownings and deaths from hypothermia (246 dead, 149 missing) -- and over half of the migrants are children and women.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. To be perfectly honest, I have had enough of people like you. (Don't take it personally.) It is one of the reasons that I do not want to live in my own country (the UK) again -- the prevalence of ignorance, intolerance and plain nastiness. There is no moral or ethical problem about accepting refugees: there are practical problems, but with determination those can be ameliorated if not solved.

      It's a pity that there is no way to export all the intolerant bigots of the UK, but it seems that the country is lumbered with them.

    2. Hi, that post is probably borderline on being "deleted".

      I have lived in many countries and The traits you mentioned, "ignorance, intolerance and plain nastiness" are evident everywhere to a degree. In islamic cultures they are taken to an extreme degree. I have lived there too.

      But, leaving aside the religious aspect, the UK already has enormous problems in providing healthcare, schooling, care for the aged and reasonable priced accommodation. You may not have noticed, but although the UK is maybe classed as a developed rich country the reality is that it is full of poor indebted people.

      "13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK".

      We even have foodbanks.

      It would appear that the UK cannot solve the existing problems with the current population. And note that the UK has not absorbed anything like the number of "refugees" that Germany now houses in warehouses, vacant industrial property and sports halls. With all the ensuing social problems now emerging.

      There is no end in sight to the further millions of potential refugees.

      At some point surely we have to decide that our culture and our own population has a right to enjoy what has been achieved over centuries?

      But I would like to ask a couple of questions. As you are no longer in the UK, then where have you found a piece of paradise where "ignorance, intolerance and plain nastiness" are not to be found and just how many refugees have been openly accepted into that country and how many more will be accepted?

      I hope that this conversation can be carried on civilly without Frances having to delete it.

      Bob Walker

    3. Bob: there is no paradise on Earth. However, I can tell you that the attitude of the Greeks towards the refugees is remarkable. In a country that has had near economic collapse, the standard of living of nearly everybody has collapsed, they have found not only compassion for those in a desperate situation but also food, clothing, housing etc. This comes direct from Greek people and Greek charities and action organisations -- especially on the islands. Over 850,000 people arrived this year; it is unclear how many remain. The UK is not being asked to sacrifice itself for the sake of others: it is being asked to do its duty. There is plenty of money for the rich, plenty of money for Cameron's buddies and family, and there is some scope for accepting refugees.

      As for the potential millions of refugees, the solution is to stop financing wars and interference in the Middle East and elsewhere. The USA, UK, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have essentially caused the Syrian crisis: most certainly they have been financing ISIS, both diectly and indirectly.. It is about time that countries accepted responsibility for the refugees that they have created -- instead of expecting others (such as Greece and Italy) to shoulder the burden. There are indeed millions of potential refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. Tell the UK politicians to keep their prying little dirty hands out of other countries' business, and stop backing Saudi Arabia and its overt financing of terrorism alongside human rights atrocities.

    4. Bob,

      You are welcome to express reasonable views here, but please be aware that I cannot accept comments that abuse people on grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation or age. It is not Xenos's comment but yours that in my view sails too close to the wind. Please remove your first comment and re-post in a less offensive form.

    5. Hi Frances,

      Thank you for posting. I have a lot of respect for your views. Particularly regarding the banking sector.

      Firstly I have a technical issue in that I cannot delete or modify my post. So I guess you will have to do whatever is necessary.

      Here is a modified version.

      "The post does, as indeed was the intention, pull on the heart strings and develop sympathy towards the plight of the poor young children. However, once the focus is widened then we have the siblings, parents and extended family also clamoring on the gates of Europe. Many millions.

      These people come from a culturally different society from out own. Their political, legal and banking systems are completely different to ours. Indeed, our systems are not accepted by them. As, indeed, we would not accept to live under their systems. Surely we must endeavour to assist as much as possible, however the question is how far we want to allow our culture to be diluted and weakened by other cultures.

      Clearly the countries of Europe are very concerned over this issue.

      When, and how, do we say "enough is enough"?

      Bob Walker."


      After several attempts to type further, I think that it would be a little futile, as anything I say would ultimately challenge belief in god.

      So I'll leave the question as above.

      "How many culturally incompatible people should the European states be prepared to accept?"

      Bob Walker

    6. Xenos made a very clear and consise statement:

      "There is no moral or ethical problem about accepting refugees: there are practical problems, but with determination those can be ameliorated if not solved."

  9. Bob, migration will inevitably cause cultural change and indeed this has happened throughout history in the UK and everywhere else. What is different now (and I'm not talking about refugees - delete if too off topic) is that the rate of net migration to the UK is extremely high; population of a small city every year into a densely populated country (England - 413 people/sq-km, Uk - 270/sq-km, Greece - 85/sq-km). Quick change is noticeable and in northern towns where I'm from there has been a marked change in culture of many neighbourhoods in a generation - note I say change not degradation before I get jumped on!

    Whilst this may please some (cheap labour) others such as yourself see it as potentially tending towards lowering of living standards and a cultural upheaval in the making. I think is not sustainable to net increase population by >300k/annum - personally I'm concerned about further degradation of the environment but it's probably too late by now! I think this fuels anti-refugee sentiment and I believe if the net migration numbers were under a semblance of control (I'd like to see ZERO net migration) then there would be less political issues with increasing refugee numbers - note I can't prove this, it is a feeling/opinion.

    As to the refugee crisis there are no easy answers, but I've made my feelings clear on Twitter that I believe that Turkey is not so dangerous that parents should be risking their children in the winter seas to cross to Lesbos - Frances I respect your opposing views on that position. I'm not being heartless, I want the children to live even if that means them enduring some oppression in Turkey.

    I think Turkey should be aided and supported more(as they already are now to an extent) in helping the refugees there so they don't feel the need to cross, however the pull and promise of a better economic outlook in EU may be too strong and people may still want to cross the med to Greece. I do not blame them for wanting to do so as they just want the best outcome for themselves and their family - completely understandable.

    Syria itself; what a mess. I have only written to my MP twice in my life, once before the first Syria airstrike vote and once before the second. I urged my conservative mp on both occasions not to vote for airstrikes due to a lack of coherent end-game strategy, a messy 'theatre' (Russians etc.) and no proposed peacekeeping boots on the ground. The lack of airstrikes since the vote suggests the focus is more upon bombing in Iraq for the time being. My conservative mp voted with the whip as expected on both occasions.

    As for the Jesus link, I'd trust the historical sources on him about as much as a modern politician.. but then I'm a trained physicist/engineer not a historian/theologian so will stop right there.

    All the best and thanks for another thought provoking article,

    Martin T

    ps. A worldwide UBI seems like a nice idea to me, I've suggested a worldwide minimum wage in the past..

    1. Martin: Turkey is currently hosting in excess of 2 million refugees from Syria and Iraq, does not recognise them as refugees, does not allow them to work legally, and for the most part does not feed or house them. More are expected -- maybe another 2 million -- and Turkey is absolutely hostile to the presence of more Kurds (many from Syria and Iraq), does not accept the concept of refugees from Afghanistan and many other countries, and has a poor track record on human rights.

      Research of the experiences of those passing through Turkey indicates that their quality of life was so low they were desperate to leave. The same is true of Syrians in camps in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. The international protection of refugees is one of the few achievements of the UN in its entire history: do you wish to renounce that now? Turkey is not a safe country -- at least under its current administration -- and it is an outrage that you can even suggest that it is. Today, it was revealed by The Guardian that Turkish companies for more than one year have been manufacturing fake life-jackets to sell to Syrians -- assembled by Syrian child labour in Izmir. They have sold hundreds of thousands of these -- and it seems that many of the drowned victims recently were wearing life jackets (that do not float). Ask yourself how much sympathy and support the Syrians are getting in Turkey, just from one piece of evidence like this. They are desperate to leave. You do not have the moral or legal right to deny them that -- even if they die in the attempt.

  10. English people look at empire from the centre outwards.
    Some therefore see these migration flows as somehow natural.

    With the beginning of capitalism and its unnatural flux you had some Huguenot , German etc inflows.
    These were in the main capitalists escaping from religious / capitalistic mayhem of the time but were of small numbers.

    England first had large scale capitalistic migration when Irish serfs were washed up on Liverpool docks. (Previously during the Cromwellian invasion they were shipped of to the west Indies )
    So we can argue that global capitalism came home to England in the 19 the century.
    A sort of backdraft.
    The adoption of Manchester economics seemed to offer a solution as global food supplies entered overcrowded England.

    Almost always there is failure to ask why peasantry are washed up on English shores.
    Could it be centralized policy ?
    A outcome of usury ?

    This dynamic is very easy to understand.
    What happens is the periphery gets turned into a warzone and subsequently a ranch.
    Peasants in the periphery become serfs.
    They have no land , capital etc etc.
    The money is in England.
    They must then move to England to get the company tokens.
    The global ranches surplus is then shipped to the core of world usury .(Manchester economics )

    Repeat process again and again.

  11. The Return of Martin Guerre
    This is a good description of how peasant societies fiest began to break down.
    This period was also at the cusp of the Protestant reformation

    Men mercenaries returning over the mountains from Spain could adopt different characters (no photographs etc)

  12. Anonymous "John Wayne"

    I do not accept offensive and abusive comments on this post. This is clearly stated on the About This Blog page. Your comment has therefore been deleted.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. "Robert Browning"

    I do not accept racist and anti-semitic comments on this post. Your comment has therefore been deleted.

  15. Anonymous, I do not accept comments that are direct and offensive personal attacks on me or others. Your comment has therefore been deleted.

  16. "Robert Browning"

    I've already explained that I do not accept racist and anti-semitic comments on this post. Your further comments have therefore also been deleted. You are banned from posting here.

    Xenos, my apologies but your reply to Robert Browning was deleted along with his comments.

    1. Dear Frances, I had hoped that you would delete the offensive comment fairly soon. Mine was there merely as an interim riposte to the hate speech. My sympathy goes out to you for the sheer unpleasantness of having to manually delete wholesale nastiness.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. It seems intellectually dishonest to delete comments that do not conform to your worldview. If the arguments made are truly that reprehensible, it should be apparent to anyone with a brain. By deleting them, it looks like you have no effective counter argument. Sure, it's your blog and you can do and say whatever you want, but you do not actually win people over by making a statement and then calling any opposition to it "racist" or whatever. Honestly, the word gets thrown around so much it has already lost most of its impact.

    1. I have also discovered that this blog does not encourage opposing views.

      You have to have an air of "Christian Goodwill to all People" in order to avoid the Sword of Deletion severing your post from its tenuous location on the webpage.

      'tiz a pity, as Frances makes some very insightful posts on economics and banking. Which is where I will be concentrating my attention.

  18. It is very sad to see the Islamophobic and racist trolling that is going on here. Like most experts on migration, I congratulate Frances for her compassion and insight into the refugee plight. It is a pleasure to encounter someone so skilled in so many different ways, and who most certainly is not confined to banking comementary as the bigots here assert.

    If it's any consolation, Frances, I have experienced aggressive organised trolling against me in the not too distant past -- including threats of physical violence, identifying my home address. I no longer post under a real name for this reason.

    1. I guess that anybody who utters a single comment about foreigners or foreign culture would instantly be castigated by you. Which I find a bit sad.

      I, along with any many others, are concerned about the effects of foreign cultures coming to the UK and refusing absolutely to make any adjustment into our culture. Why is it all one way?

      Why do we now, in spite of having one the best legal systems on the planet, do we tolerate the existence of around 100 shariah courts dispensing justice according to the interpretation of a 1,500 year old book written in Arabic by an unqualified person? (Unqualified as in absolutely no UK legal qualifications whatsoever)

      Why do Islamists expect us to offer banking under islamic law?

      Why is the UK school system expected to fit exam times to ramadan?

      Why do they refuse to eat at UK restaurants and only shop at islam run establishments?

      Oh, but that is their religious belief and they have a right to it.

      So here's a challenge to you. What are you going to call me when I say that I object to eating halal food because of the inhumane way the animals are killed?

    2. As a professional advisor on immigration issues, I am obliged to take into consideration the impact on the local community and their feelings. There is a big difference between being sensitive to social problems, and tolerating hate speech, anti-semitism, racism of various kinds, and propaganda masquerading as facts.

      If you knew anything about the 20th century history of our country, you would know that there were no British restaurants (other than for the stinking rich) prior to Italian immigration and other migration inflows. You would also know that our country became so interwined with its colonial past and the cultures associated with it across the globe, to the extent that it is now sometimes difficult to identify cultural patterns that are actually native to the UK. Britain is a multicultural country, like it or not. Britain is a repository of global ideas, like it or not.

      In that context, the only way for a peaceful existence is through toleration of difference, and acceptance of different ways of living, worshipping, even perhaps of thinking. That has been the law since 1976. Those of you who know little of British history would destroy social peace, with your ignorant and foolish ideas about "who owns Britain". You think that you should control others, tell them how to behave, and evict families that in many cases have resided in the UK for over half a century. My response to this sort of arrogant intolerance is, we didn't fight the Nazis just for idiots like you to reinvent their ideas 70 years later. All of your complaints are trivial, yet the impact of voicing them is major. That is the conduct of an ignorant fool.

      To answer your last question: I do not call you anything for having opinions that concern your life. Personally, I probably agree with you. Yet it does not matter what my opinion is: others are entitled to their personal and cultural choices. It's called freedom.

    3. There really is nothing like adding in a bit of ad hominem in order to dismiss an argument. "idiot", "ignorant fool", "Nazi" plus a few supposed actions of mine which have been introduced, "control others", "tell them how to behave", "evict long term families".

      Interesting, because you state, "As a professional advisor on immigration issues, I am obliged to take into consideration the impact on the local community and their feelings".

      I have to wonder whether you address the local communities by calling them "idiots" and Nazis" for having feelings of concern? And that any concern is washed away as "trivial" and we are told "do not voice that". Our freedom of speech does seem to be a little curtailed under that rule.

      To put my own views into perspective, I have absolutely no problem accepting Indians, Chinese, Italians, Africans, Malaysians as part of my community. Indeed, most of my friends are not even UK citizens. I do not, in any way, feel threatened by them, they are strive to become and enjoy being part of the community. They do not insist on special privileges. And indeed, add some colour with their customs and culture.

      So why do I, and a lot of other people, have a little issue with Muslims?

      Unlike other nationalities, the Muslim world is a closed world. You cannot enter it unless you become Islam. And once in, the way out is almost impossible to tread. Indeed the prescribed punishment for even questioning the religion is death. There is no multi-multiculturalism permitted in that world. And probably never will be.

      I cannot argue against your sentence, "the only way for a peaceful existence is through toleration of difference, and acceptance of different ways of living, worshipping, even perhaps of thinking".

      This ideology only succeeds if everybody is prepared to accept it. What is plan B when one group refuses to do so?

      Thank you for pointing out that this has been the law since 1976. At least we have the freedom to introduce and modify laws. On the opposite side of the fence almost a third of the world's population derive their laws directly from a 1,400 year old text, which is fixed and cannot, ever, by definition be changed.

    4. Frances: if my comments are in breach of your rules, I can only apologise. It seems to me that allowing racists, misanthropes and bigots to post their opinions freely disqualifies them from getting any respect. Those opinions are ignorant and the people posting them are also such. The UK's obsession with political correctness concerning online "ad hominem attacks" is tedious and counterproductive, since it is a formality without meaning. When I have been threatened online with real-life violence, there has been no protection for me. Think about it.

    5. Frances, I have always found Malaysians welcoming, intelligent and open to discussion. Possibly the ones I have met were from the 39% mostly of Chinese descent. I do not know for definite, the religious topic never came up. They are one of my favourite nationalities.

      However, I now realise there is absolutely no point in engaging with Xenos and will refrain from doing so.

      The definition of bigot is, "a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race"


      Thanks for allowing would could have been an interesting discussion to continue this far.

    6. Xenos, I do understand what it is like to receive online threats and abuse simply for expressing an unpopular opinion. But there is no point in responding in kind. It simply plays into their hands. Let's keep it polite, please.

    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    9. Richard Parker

      I am really sorry you deleted your comment. Blogger emailed it to me, and I had intended to reply. Your comment was respectful, thoughtful and raised legitimate concerns which you have every right to express. This blog does not suppress debate: it merely tries to keep it polite and on topic. I would be really grateful if you would re-post your comment, or allow me to do so. Your views deserve to be heard.

    10. Hi,

      OK, we'll see where it leads.

      For the last ten years I have lived in a community which has a large percentage of Muslims. So I am the "immigrant" I suppose.

      I have to be honest, I have never experienced any animosity. None whatsoever.

      Ten years ago the women rarely wore head scarves and would engage in conversation we me. About five years ago a new imman arrived. Clearly he had somewhat stricter views and suddenly the men were wearing caps and increasingly robes, particularly on Fridays. The women went from jeans and makeup to headscarves, no make-up and dresses designed to hide the female shape.

      Now the full burka is not a rare sight. I can no longer expect any conversation from the women other than the bare minimum required to make a transaction.

      In just a few years one local imman can transform a community. He is, essentially, the Word of God. The power that any religion has over its adherents is immense and to an extent absolute.

      I am sure that you have spent some considerable time thinking about these issues. Any attempt to take away a man's faith requires that it is replaced with something else. Evolution is way too complicated when all one has to do is to believe in a god and paradise is on offer after this life of work and suffering. Particularly for a man, who can take on a couple of wives and rule over them.

      I think I have valid concerns about this.

      Apparently I have few legal rights to actually express them.

    11. Richard,

      I have indeed thought about this a lot. It is an extraordinarily difficult issue.

      In our tolerant society, we wish people to be able to believe whatever they like and practise any religion or none. But there is definitely a limit to this. People are not free to practise that religion in ways that deny the rights of others. And this creates real conflicts. For example, we don't allow people to mutilate their daughters, but for some people this interferes with their right to practise their particular brand of Islam requires it.

      The conflict between religious rules and secular law has been a problem for centuries: we have never managed to find a satisfactory balance between religious tolerance and the rule of law. Our rule of law says that men and women are of equal worth and have equal right to think, say and do whatever they wish within the legal framework that we have established. But fundamentalist religions do not agree with this. It's worth remembering that Islam is not the only religion that treats women as the property of men and seeks to curtail their freedom: fundamentalist Christianity does so too. I remember being horrified by a fundamentalist Christian minister who told a woman who was experiencing domestic abuse to "go home and submit". In his view, her husband was right to beat her because she was not subservient enough.

      The problem, it seems to me, is not religion per se but fundamentalism: rigid adherence to rules and, as you rightly point out, god-like worship of powerful men.

    12. Frances, that is a powerful and succinct post.

      Law will never win.

      Law can only offer adherence to the law or punishment in this life.

      Religion supersedes this multi-fold by guaranteeing eternal suffering or eternal heaven after life. And if you transgress in this life, death bed repentance will be ok as well.

      I am unfortunately convinced that the invention of religion has condemned he human race to strife and conflict until the last of the homo sapiens is left standing.

    13. I suppose it depends on your particular brand of religion. I've made no secret of my Christian faith, but it is the person of Jesus who fascinates me and I regard him as my guide, not the priests and ministers who set themselves up as his mouthpieces. I totally understand your rejection of religion. Far too many terrible things have been done in the name of Christ, or Mohammed, or Allah, or [insert name of god]. Judging by his repeated condemnation of the religious fundamentalists of his day, including their failure to follow even basic teachings of their religion such as welcoming strangers and caring for the destitute, Jesus would have much sympathy for your views.

    14. I believe in having a set of ethical and moral values. They are pretty much identical with those of Jesus or a lot of other religions, except that I do not need to have the threat of the retribution of a deity to enforce them. I have a conscience which does quite well.

      There are a few issues with the life of "The Prophet" that would indeed conflict with my own ethical values. He was an intelligent and wealthy power monger who wanted to have a subservient army, religion suited that purpose quite well. His last "wife" was just six years old, when he was in his fifties. I certainly have a big problem with that.

      If Jesus popped up on the planet today, he could quite possibly have a large following.

      If Mohammed popped up, he would be hounded across the globe as a warmongering sadistic pedophile.

    15. Indeed he would, now. The values of his time were very different. That, in a way, is the problem: for fundamentalists, the laws and customs of a bygone age are set in stone and the reasons for them forgotten. Observance becomes a matter of rote, not consideration: questioning them becomes apostasy, an attack on the religion itself. Hence my argument that it is fundamentalism, not religion per se, that is the problem.

      I think humans are hardwired to believe in something: it is how we make sense of things we don't understand, and it gives us an anchor in an uncertain and chaotic world. What that "something" is, varies hugely. You pointed out before that if you eliminate one religion, another pops up. That suggests that belief is innate.

      But religion (belief) gets hijacked for political ends. Mohammed's political aim was to unify the Arab races into a political force that could counter the might of the Christian empires of Byzantium and Rome. He used religion to do this, because that is what the Christians had done very successfully before him. It's an extremely powerful strategy. If nothing else, Mohammed was a military genius. In my view this is often overlooked.

      I would draw an ENORMOUS distinction between the geopolitics of religion and the personal faith of individuals.

    16. Frances, once again a very eloquent and insightful response. I can only agree with you.

      The increasing influence of the fundamentalists is, however, something which IMO is unstoppable. They offer an extremely strong and unwavering mountain on which the adherents can live out their lives, with no doubts about anything.

      Perfect, so easy.

      I get through every day with a constant barrage of doubts, worries and questions. But I cannot delegate them to some deity. They are all my own. In a way I sort of quite like them, my constant companions.

      But back to the original issue.

      If two groups have incompatible and irreconcilable differences, then what is Plan B?

      I am stuck for an answer.

    17. We in the West have built our civilisation on freedom, tolerance and compassion. Those values are being threatened, not just by fundamentalists who would have us change our legal framework to accommodate their beliefs, but also by our own response to their demands. That's why I wrote this post. If we respond to the fundamentalist threat by refusing to welcome those fleeing violence, by deporting or interning those we think threaten us, and by permitting only religions of which we approve to be practised freely, we undermine the moral principles on which we built our society. We become like those we fear. For me, that is too high a price to pay for safety. But I know others feel differently.

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  20. And what are you doing to help these immigrants? Typing inane comments that help nobody. Congratulations.

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  22. A reminder that the comments policy of this site is as follows:

    - Please be polite and refrain from personal attacks on me or anyone else
    - please keep to the subject of the post.

    I accept Anonymous comments provided that you sign your post with your real name.

    Please also be aware that as this is a public blog, comments containing racism, sexism, ageism, religious hatred, homophobia and foul language cannot be accepted.

    Comments that do not meet these conditions will be summarily deleted. Repeated attempts to post comments that break these rules will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I regard the recent sexual assaults in Germany as "off topic", as is my management of my personal Twitter account. You may not use comments here to circumvent the lock I have placed on my Twitter account, nor to evade any block I have placed on your own Twitter account.

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  24. "It's not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs" - Jesus Christ

    1. You've left out quite a lot of this story. Well, all of it, really.

      This is the appeal of the Canaanite Woman for Jesus to heal her sick daughter. Jesus initially refuses, as you note. But she doesn't give up....

      Jesus Christ: "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs".
      The Caananite Woman: "Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master's table."
      Jesus Christ: "O woman, your faith is great! It shall be done for you as you wish."

      And her daughter was healed at once.

    2. Sorry, should give the Bible reference for those who want to look it up. It's Matthew 15:26-28.

  25. The problem is that about 2/3 of the migrants are male. The social problems associated with this are well discussed in this Politico article.

    1. 55% (NOT 67%) are male over this year. Big deal. Apart from the fact that many men undertake the journey alone, in order to bring their wives and children later (something that the extreme right opposes), the single young men are perhaps more able to easily integrate into European societies. The religious fundamentalists remain in the Middle East to fight for ISIS.

    2. Incidentally, I just read this right wing trash that you have linked to. The idea that the gender of children is a problem is something that only far right Yanks could obsess over. Absolutely disgusting that this sort of propaganda is published in the mainstream US media. There is no debate about the gender of children amongst experts and policy makers -- contrary to the impression given in the propaganda piece.

  26. Xenos, where do you get your stats? This link suggests the percentage of male asylum applicants to the EU is rather higher than 55%.. I read more than 70% in first half of 2015 but I haven't gone through the raw data personally(yet!).

    Martin T

    1. UNHCR stats on arrivals, January 1 to Dec 31st 2015. (website ]

      It's 58% male if you include the arrivals through Italy (I am dealing only with Greece).

      All official stats on arrivals do not give the gender of children.

      The EU does not have any stats at all, since these are not asylum applications. All stats have to come from national police sources; the Greek police do not publish them (any more) but give them to UNHCR. There are some derivative data with Frontex, I think, but there is little point in reading them.

      You cannot access raw data online. It is extremely difficult to access data that have not been meddled with, but I think the UNHCR data are raw. There is a problem though with data compilation: some datasets use monthly data (end of month) and others use data compiled 15th of the month. Also, the data on gender and a lot of the data on nationality are given as monthly percentages and not as raw data.

      As for using stats on asylum as a proxy for arrivals, this is pure innumeracy and incompetence. First of all, there is a serious lag -- especially with such large numbers. Secondly, the characteristics of the previous inflows are not the same as those of the last year. Thirdly, there is no identity such that inflows=asylum applications. This is because many (and especially children) do not need to apply for asylum because they have family members already in the EU. Others fail to apply and/or disappear, and become illegal immigrants. There are also serious discrepancies in national datasets with their records. The UK, for example, is often 5-10 years out of date and hasn't a clue what is going on. In general terms, you can ignore asylum data (except Germany may be ok).

  27. Frances, I agree with you when you said, "I cannot accept comments that abuse people on grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin, religion," The categories you mention are targets all over the world. Over here in America I have written a book about how these groups are mistreated. I talk about five groups: not-white, not-male, not-Christian, not-heterosexual, and not-well-to-do. Our political, government, and economic systems are deliberately designed to discriminate against these groups and these systems work as designed.

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  29. Frances blames the victims of fundamentalism for acting on a fundamental survival programme.
    Accusing them of fundamentalism rather then logical reaction as they are trapped inside the plantation.

    We all know where the true fundamentalists reside.
    They are protected by dragons.


  31. Billy blogs latest "Europe future is bleak....." is complete labour theory of value nonsense.
    Plantation economics.

    He critics a author for failing to introduce unemployment in his model but he himself fails to bring in the capital question.

    The overriding concern for Europe in this age of capital (and not Labour) is energy consumption per person which is declining in Europe and accelerated by migration

    The truth is that under a national dividend universe the old and dying can be taken care of at home for 90% of the time.
    I have direct experience of this with the variation of running down savings rather then income.

    Also the experience of Ireland during the late 80s / early 90s period is very different from today.
    The declining population of that time increased per capita living standards.
    Of course it is a very different situation today with exponential declines in living standards.


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