This is something I wrote in 2015 and published elsewhere. It was a response to calls from some right wing politicians in Europe to only accept Christian refugees. It seems more appropriate than ever now.
(Image is a painting of an auto-de-fe in the town of San Bartolomeo – source: Wikimedia Commons)
Some right wing politicians across Europe, including in the UK, have suggested that only Christian, and definitely not Muslim, refugees should be allowed in. There is now speculation in some newspapers of refugees converting to Christianity to make it more likely that they will be accepted in Western countries. It was John Locke who said that religious conversion must come from inspiration, it cannot be forced. You can, through threat of violence or withholding of help, force someone to bend the knee, mouth the words, or ape the actions but true faith comes from within.
Five hundred years ago (or so) the Spanish Crown expelled Jews from Spain, except those who converted to Christianity. Of course, true faith cannot be coerced so many of those “converting” continued to follow the Jewish faith in secret. The Spanish Crown created the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition to root out and punish these “secret Jews”.
So, if we insist on refugees being Christian, what are we going to do? Will we set up a tribunal of our own to assess the veracity of a refugee’s claim to be Christian and not Muslim (let alone accepting that refugees from the middle East don’t fit easily into those binary categories)? Will the agents of this tribunal keep tabs on refugees to ensure they are not “secret Muslims”? Will we have auto-de-fe in major cities where those refugees found guilty of a secret Islamic faith are exposed and expelled from the country?
The full implications of such a simple statement as “Christian refugees only” are a horror and that doesn’t even take into account the impact that a “Muslims not welcome” message would have on the existing Muslim population. Refugees are neither Christians nor Muslims, let alone Yazidis or atheists. They are human beings and need to be treated as such.