We recently moved back to Budapest, Hungary, where I have lived for going on 9 years (which is also one reason I have not been blogging much lately). The first thing we noticed when we came back was the unusually tight housing market. Usually there have been lots of places to rent in Budapest, but this time it was hard to find and prices were much higher than in previous years even after inflation. Then about a week after we arrived we started hearing about the thousands of refugees pouring in from Syria and other places in the Middle East. One of the major international train stations in Budapest had become a virtual refugee camp, including families with babies and small children basically living there. According to reports, many of them had WALKED from Syria to Hungary. Try that on Google maps. It says it’s about 2,600 km from Syria (depending obviously on which part) to Budapest, and 539 hours to walk. That’s almost two months walking 10 hours a day.
The infrastructure of Hungary is simply not equipped to handle those kinds of numbers, but since they were entering the European Union through Hungary, the Hungarians were supposed to process them before allowing them to travel to other countries in the European Schengen Zone. So the government basically shut down the train stations and made a lot of people mad, including Hungarians who used those stations as a major transportation hub. Last week I saw things I have never seen in Budapest, like two military helicopters circling overhead above the city and convoys of dozens upon dozens of police vehicles (we counted over 50 on a single major thoroughfare in the city).
While for many people here life goes on as normal, many refugees took it upon themselves to start walking to Austria and Germany (a piece of cake compared to Syria I suppose). It turns out that the German government had extended a generous invitation to refugees from the Middle East which led to the current influx. For years people have asked me about Muslims in Hungary, to which I always responded that there weren’t very many because the Muslims were all going to Eastern Europe. That’s still the case, but they’ve never crossed through by the thousands on foot before that I have heard of.
Our missions group helped distribute soup to hundreds of refugees this weekend, and also provided tents and hot water boiled in electric kettles to allow mothers to bathe their babies since so many of them have no facilities for such. I appreciated my warm shower this morning more than usual.
One wonders as to what this all means. Many of these refugees are Muslims fleeing from other Muslims who are instituting the strictest form of Sharia Law. What affect will that have on Muslims who are coming to Europe to find a better life? What now that Europe has for the most part forsaken its historical Christian heritage in favor of a shallow and materialistic form of secularism? And how will Europe’s Christians respond? For some time now I have had the thought that one day we will all be involved in ministry to Muslims whether we want to or not. That day may be coming sooner than I had imagined. It might be time to brush up on my apologetics to Muslims.