I remember seeing my first full glance at Planet Earth back in the 1960’s. It looked like a Big Blue Marble when seen from outer space. From that vantage point, no one could see any boundaries or borders…or people migrating from one part of the planet to the other as they have throughout centuries upon centuries.
As a student of European and Church History, I find it fascinating to study how borders and boundaries have come into being and constantly keep changing. At first, most of the world was populated by nomadic tribes, who appear to have roamed freely from one place to another until they encountered other tribes. Then they had to decide whether to form an alliance with their new neighbors, or to fight them until one side surrendered or decided to just move on to another place. Over time, tribes joined together to form kingdoms or empires, commonwealths or countries.
The first European Super Power was the Greeks. Their empire was so extensive that it is hard to believe how it could have held together for so long. Their fall gave the Romans a chance to expand, and they governed their conquered territories with the strategy of Pax Romana. They would allow the people under their rule certain freedoms and privileges as long as they were willing to pay tribute to the Emperor.
After the fall of the Roman Empire came next Super Power, the Turks. They moved into Eastern Europe, and got as far as the borders of what eventually became the Austrian Empire. The Turks also moved across Africa and entered into Spain, and there is still a Turkish influence in parts of that Western European Country.
During our recent trip to Eastern Europe, our guides still talked about the influence of the Greeks and Romans and Turks, and how they shaped and formed the countries that we visited. Throughout the rise and fall of these empires, borders changed many times over. And during the 20th century, as the result of two World Wars, borders were drawn and redrawn depending on the alliances made before, during and after those wars. Even up until the 1990’s, borders were changing, especially with the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yogoslavia.
Now most border disputes in Europe are being resolved through the European Union and the United Nations. Those are the major powers now in the region, and they will have to deal with the current refugee crisis as hundreds of thousands of refugees, even into the millions, are on the move throughout Eastern Europe.
Every day on television we see borders that are open one day and closed the next, as countries try to deal with the flood of refugees passing through their lands. How these countries, the European Union, and the United Nations deal with the crisis will depend a lot on border control and documentation of the refugees. I search the daily news looking for maps that explain just what borders are still open and which are closed.
I pray for those crossing earthly boundaries and borders as they try to escape the horrors of war and destruction that they are leaving behind. I pray for the leaders of the European countries as they struggle to deal with one of the greatest humanitarian crisis that they have had to face. I pray for the leaders of the world that we can look past borders and boundaries to see the plight of those who are forced to flee their homelands. There seems to be no easy solution to this situation, yet my hope is that we will find a humane and compassionate way of dealing with all who are affected by this crisis. Perhaps the major world religions can play a part by bringing relief to those in need.
Tomorrow’s Blog: How can People of Faith, Christians, Muslims and Jews, come together to bring hope to this refugee crisis