09/11/2015, 00.00
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Fr. Samir: Syrians searching for "heart and rights" in Europe, not in the Gulf countries

For the Jesuit scholar of Islam, the refugees hope to find work and respect for human dignity, not exploitation and fundamentalism. The West is unable to respond to the crisis, out of selfishness and self-interest. Only dialogue and compromise will bring peace. The example of welcome of a German village.

Rome (AsiaNews) - "I think essentially Syrian refugees emigrate to the West", because in these countries they hope to find "more work and more openness of heart". And if it is true that the Gulf countries have closed their doors to refugees, it should also be emphasized that the refugees themselves "do not dream of going to other Muslim countries or wealthy Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates where, even if there is work, they are treated like unskilled laborers", notes Fr. Samir Khalil Samir S.J, speaking to AsiaNews.

The Jesuit scholar of Egyptian origin, former professor at St. Joseph University in Beirut and current rector pro tempore of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome explains the wave of migration that, in recent weeks, has massed on the borders of Europe. The priest recalls that "a politicized religious conflict is taking place between Sunnis and Shiites" that has exploded in all its magnitude Syria in Syria.

One of the main factors contributing to Islamic States victories in Syria and Iraq, is precisely the struggle within the Muslim world and " Sunnis long nourished hatred" of other factions of Islam. "In Syria, they took advantage of the fact that 70% of the population is Sunni - said Fr. Samir - Alawites 15%, Christian 9% and then a small percentage of Druze. The struggle within Islam has therefore extended to non-Muslims, affecting Yazidis, Christians and even the Kurds, who are Sunnis but from another cultural tradition. "

This is why, the researcher says, "the Syrians no longer dream of making their future home in Muslim countries or in rich Arab nations." In these countries "there is a class concept, which adds to the religious strictures" and "they treat immigrant workers like the Pakistanis and Indians as slaves, the same fate for Filipinos, not to mention Africans". Manual laborers are on the bottom rung of the social ladder, regardless of their faith, while engineers and technicians (including Christians) are treated with more respect.

However, this emigration originating from Syria "has a deeper and more prolonged nature", "it is not limited to a few months or a few years and then a return home. The refugees do not know if their home, their land, will still be waiting there for them one day - said the priest - while everyone knows that once stabilized in the West, you will never go back".

Fr. Samir speaks of a recent personal experience: "I spent two months in Germany, in Riedenburg (a village of a few thousand inhabitants in Bavaria, ed), where the local community has taken steps to accommodate the refugees. They are Muslim, mostly from Syria, some from Iran and Afghanistan or Somalia. The Syrians with whom I spoke told me they are treated with respect, the people [Christians] have established friendly relations with these immigrants inviting them to the house, opening the doors of their homes for special lunches or parties. All groups, both Sunni and Shiite, speak in positive terms about the relationship ... of being welcomed. The children have been integrated into the school life. They have all received German lessons to facilitate their integration, and receive room and board until they have a job”.

Returning to the question  of Arab nations, Fr. Samir said that "the demographic problem is a real aspect" and governments do not want to grant citizenship in order to "to keep immigrants in exploitative conditions for a limited period of time”.   Here Fr. Samir points to Qatar where workers toil for 12 hours under the scorching sun to build the stadiums of the World Cup in 2022. "There is no respect for the rights, there is no respect for the person, the model is that of the Islamic society of the seventh century which Isis wants to apply on a grand scale".

In the context of a dramatic situation, the West has not intervened because so far "its interests have not yet been directly affected" nor does it have a clear and common strategy for the region. "The situation is delicate - said Fr. Samir - because Isis is now a common reality in these territories, in Syria and Iraq it is in the midst of the people, it is not an army but a terrorist movement that has mixed up with the people. If they want to fight they will have to do so body to body, not carpet bombing, and the West is not willing to do this. " Moreover, European governments see no particular risks "if they continue to kill each other in these countries, but this attitude undermines the concept of protection of the weakest. For the West, the principle remains the defense of its self-interest which in these areas translates into the word oil".

"In any case - the Jesuit concludes – the solution can never be a military one, because weapons can only be a provisional answers. There is no project of peace, at the moment, because no one wants to put aside their expansionist ambitions or personal interests. It is similar to what is happening between Israel and Palestine where we are unable to reach a serious compromise, a solution between the parties. And this solution can only be found in dialogue, not in the power and strength of that are expressed by a fundamentalist ideology". (DS)

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