If you have read anything about the rise of the Islamic State, you know that ISIS is crushing anyone who rejects its drive to build a new multinational caliphate rooted in its approach to Islam.
Thus, hundreds of thousands of people are either dead or fleeing. Who are they?
The answer is pretty obvious: They are the people who rejected the reign of ISIS. And who might that be? The answer is complex, but one fact is simple. It's impossible to talk about this refugee crisis without talking about the religion angle, because the refugees are either members of minority religions in the region, including thousands of displaced Christians, or centrist Muslims or members of Muslim-related sects that are anathema to ISIS leaders.
Now, the religion angle has jumped even higher in the story with the appeal by Pope Francis for every Catholic parish, school, monastery and social ministry in Europe to take in at least one refugee family. If you know anything about the Bible, you probably have a good idea what verses the pope is going to quote on this question.
But Europe is tense, not just because of the sheer number of refugees, but because of faith questions related to them.
So why, I ask, did The New York Times team basically ignore the religion content of this story in its major piece on the pope's challenge? The results are especially strange when contrasted with the corresponding international-desk story in The Washington Post. Here is the key passage in the Times piece:
On Sunday, Pope Francis called upon Catholic parishes and religious communities to take in refugees. And Germany has called for a quota system to distribute the migrant population evenly throughout Europe. But the European Union remains deeply divided over what should be done, a debate that has strained relations and threatened the 28-nation bloc’s proud policy of open borders.
Far-right politicians, mostly quiet so far, found their voice on Sunday with Marine Le Pen of France, the National Front leader, complaining that a widely dispersed photograph of a drowned Syrian child that had shocked the world was being used to make Europeans “feel guilty.”
And that is basically that, believe it or not. What about rising numbers of Muslims in Europe? What about the Christians in ancient communions who are seeking shelter?
Meanwhile, right at the top of the Post piece, there is this summary. This is long, but important:
The pope, who has thrust himself into polarizing debates over climate change and free-market economics, has again entered the fray, this time over how Europe should handle its largest wave of refugees since the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The majority of those coming are Muslims from Syria, Iraq and other nations, and Francis weighed in as anti-migrant politicians, including senior European leaders, were wielding religion as a weapon.
Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, where Roman Catholicism is the largest religion, last week proclaimed that what he called Europe’s Christian identity is under threat because “those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture.”
Slovakia has declared that it will grant asylum only to Christians. “We don’t have any mosques in Slovakia, so how can Muslims be integrated if they are not going to like it here?” Ivan Netik, a spokesman for Slovakia’s interior ministry, told the BBC last month.
Francis, a leader already known for mending the sometimes wobbly bridges between Catholicism and other faiths, delivered a direct challenge to such thinking.
“Facing the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees -- fleeing death by war and famine, and journeying towards the hope of life -- the Gospel calls, asking of us to be close to the smallest and forsaken. To give them a concrete hope,” he said. “And not just to tell them: ‘Have courage, be patient!’ ”
Now, one does not need to agree with the pope's vision or the blunt words of his opponents to see the relevance of the religion content in this debate. The Post team all but led with this part of this life-and-death puzzle. Can anyone argue against that decision?
Here at GetReligion we have, since Day 1 (literally), talked about the presence of religion "ghosts" in major stories -- religion angles in major stories that are overlooked, for some strange reason, by many mainstream journalists that cover them.
This is so much more than a ghost. How do reporters look at this epic, tragic, wrenching story and not see see the various religion elements in it?