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Killing an Olive Tree: Part 2 Weaponizing the Weak

By March 10, 2020June 30th, 2020EU, immigrants, immigration, migration, The Weekly

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” — Albert Einstein

“In a sea of human beings, it is difficult, at times even impossible, to see the human as being.” Aysha Taryam

“The story of humanity is essentially the story of human movement. In the near future, people will move even more, particularly if, as some predict, climate change sparks mass migration on an unprecedented scale. The sooner we recognize the inevitability of this movement, the sooner we can try to manage it.” Patrick Kingsley

“…all the refugees want is a future without war.” Syrian Refugee on the Turkish-Greek Border

“Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1

“The story of humanity is essentially the story of human movement.” That statement by Patrick Kingsley is indelibly stuck in my mind. The veracity of its reality is simply undeniable. It would be easy for me to go on a historical diatribe on the reality of human movement, but I won’t. Whatever your knowledge of human history is, I think that if you stop for a moment and consider it, you will reach that same conclusion… that the history of mankind is a history of movement.

Okay, indulge me for a moment. I just want to put this current mass movement of humans into a modern context for us to understand. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, the largest migration in history was the so-called Great Atlantic Migration from Europe to North America, the first major wave of which began in the 1840’s with mass movements from Ireland and Germany. In the 1880’s a second and larger wave developed from Eastern and Southern Europe. Between 1880 and 1910, some 17 million Europeans entered the United States. The total number of Europeans reaching the United States amounted to 37 million between 1820 and 1980.

If you scratched any one of us, you would quickly find an immigrant history in our past. I say this because our collective amnesia is embarrassing to us when it is all put into a historical context. Killing olive trees is our story. Whether it is an embarrassing tale of neglect and violence or compassion and hospitality is up to us. Exactly, how can the olive farmer and the refugee thrive in a dramatically shifting world together, respecting the sacredness of generational stewardship and the suffering of those who are forced from their homes into a brave new world?

It gets worse! Having worked among the refugees and asylum seekers over the past decade, the reality that these people are among the most vulnerable in the world today is undeniably evident. They are displaced normally through no apparent fault of their own, except that they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time. They move to new lands with usually little understanding of the greater laws and customs in place. They normally know little of the language of either the land they are passing through or of the language of the place where they are going. Their lives are at the complete discretion of the people who occupy the land in which they are hoping to settle.

These vulnerable people are neither invited or necessarily wanted by the indigenous peoples of the land they hope to call home. Their presence is more often than not, considered a disruption to the welfare of the land to where they arrive.  Refugees are among the most vulnerable people in the world and they just became weaponized!


What is causing these current crises?

Unfortunately, it is the same old song and dance. The war in Syria remains the culprit for these latest mass migrations. Recent events have caused a stirring between Turkey and Syria, as recently 36 Turkish soldiers were killed in a major attack by Syrian troops backed by Russian aircraft.

Turkish President Erdogan, angered by the lack of support from the NATO, effectively said that if you are not going to give us a hand, then we will just have to allow these 4 million refugees who are trying to get to Europe to pass our borders. “European countries must support Turkey in Syria if they want a solution to their concerns on migration, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned.” On Feb. 28, the Turkish government announced Ankara would cease controlling its land and sea borders with Europe and open the passage for migrants wishing to cross. The majority are Afghans, with scores of Syrians, Iranians, Palestinians, Moroccans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and migrants from various East African countries.

There is a campaign within Turkey to not only allow the refugees to leave, but to encourage them to seek out a better home for themselves in Europe. President Erdogan’s actions appear to be in violation of a 2016 agreement to not allow these refugees to pass in exchange for $6 billion. His position is that the $6 billion has run out. In a word? Weaponization. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan just turned the masses of vulnerable refugees, almost 4 million of them in Turkey into a weapon. In essence, his words were tantamount to his saying if NATO does not help me in my struggle against the Syrians, I will unleash these millions of vulnerable people to wreak havoc on your nations. President Erdogan just turned the weak into a bomb that he is willing to drop at his own whim. The world just took a turn for the worse.

On the Greek side, the Greek government has said that they will not allow these refugees to seek asylum within Greek borders or even to cross Greek territory to other European lands. They have responded to the massive wave of refugees with fences, tear-gas and forced repelling, by both land and sea. The primary factor for keeping large numbers from arriving in Greece is the winter conditions of the Adriatic Sea. Once the seas calm down, the numbers will certainly increase.

The European Union has pretty much positioned itself in support of the Greeks, calling it the southern flank of Europe. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would provide Greece with “all the support needed” as it struggles with an influx of migrants allowed to cross from neighboring Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that “millions” of migrants would soon head for Europe. The EU just released a tranche of €700 million to assist the Greeks in holding the border closed.

This ploy by President Erdogan has uncharacteristically just been turned on its head. In his attempt to force the Europeans to come to his aid, thinking that he held all the cards in this dangerous game, he has discovered that the EU is not in the mood to succumb to his antics and threats.  Meanwhile, President Erdogan has returned to the table with his new friend, President Putin in hopes of salvaging his reputation and castigating those European leaders who have not played to the confusing tune that he has been playing.

As an analyst, it appears that President Erdogan’s behavior is that of a politician whose last days are not so far around the corner. He is trying to buy up all the goodwill that he can find. Weaponizing refugees is a last resort kind of move that has the potential to leave his legacy in ruins.

The sufferings that his recent decisions have caused are all being done in front of the entire world. The only thing that is keeping this from rapidly spiraling out of control is the huge distraction of the Coronavirus. The rest of the world’s bandwidth is pretty much focused on one thing. In many ways, the suffering of millions of refugees and the salvation of a somewhat machiavellian leader are being extended by the same tragic sickness, the Coronavirus.


Living in the West, it is easy to simply watch the world devolve into misery with little to no resolve to action. This is a mistake of enormous proportions. First, it is counter to everything that God made men and women to be. We as humans are called to look out for one another, to protect the vulnerable, feed the hungry, defend the defenseless, clothe the naked and shelter those who have no covering. 

The two-punch dilemma of the weaponization of refugees and the rapid and deadly spread of the Coronavirus is a plight that will test the moral and spiritual fiber of all of us. Will we sink into the cocoon of our own safety and simply ignore the hurting and suffering which is being caused by self-seeking and nefarious leaders around the world? Or will we stand for those who cannot stand, fight for those who cannot fight, pray for those who do not pray?

This is a pivotal time in the history of the world. Has it claimed the lives, in sheer numbers, of other critical crossroads to which humans have come? No. Could it? Yes! My point? Why sit around and wait for it to reach that critical juncture before we do anything about it? Why not serve now? Why not pray now? Why not reach out and help the weak now, wherever you are? Why not make a difference in the history of humanity now?

It is easy to sit back and think that none of this will ever come to my home, to the homes of my neighbors or friends. But it is imperative that we see that the world is connected through technology, transportation, education and languages like never before. The slightest whisper of a child’s voice can resonate around the world in a matter of seconds. Mark Twain once said,  “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth even puts on its shoes.” This is the kind of world in which we live. How shall we live in a world such as this? I guarantee you, none of us will escape the effects of these occurrences around the world.

My guess is that your world has already been impacted. Your retirement stocks may have taken a nose-dive this past week and your personal wealth has diminished by upwards of 15%. You may have cancelled a business trip, a vacation or a visit to a family member because of fears of the Coronavirus. This will become the norm soon before it becomes the exception again. We will all be effected.


I am going to fall back on my own action recommendation this week, on all that I know to do in a world that is spinning out of control. I pray. I recommend the same to you. A. J. Gordon is quoted as having said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.” My singular recommendation for first steps is to pray.

My second recommendation? Do not fear. In the book of Deuteronomy 31:8 Moses writes,  “He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” We can rest in that promise. His care and love for you and me is eternal. We can allow that reality to fix our hearts on Him and trust Him in a day of uncertainty and confusion.

The follow-up.

A good place to see the updates on the spread of the Coronavirus…

The Good News…

The feed-back.

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