Another major shipwreck off the coast of Turkey on Sunday resulted in the drowning of at least 25 migrants in the Aegean Sea, as boatloads of Middle Eastern migrants continue to embark daily from Turkey in an attempt to reach Europe.
Just last week, Pope Francis told a group of French Christians that Europe’s migrant crisis constitutes a veritable “Arab invasion,” referring to the million-plus mostly Muslim migrants that arrived on Europe’s shores last year and continue to flood the old continent from the south and the east.
The Pope, in fact, placed the inundation of Muslim migrants in the context of invasions that Europe has suffered in the past, immediately adding: “How many invasions has Europe suffered in its history!”
Indeed, Europe—as Roman Empire and as Christendom—underwent nearly non-stop invasions from the earliest centuries up through the modern age. From the Huns to the Vandals, from the Visigoths to the Moors and the Ottoman Turks, Europe has always been a coveted prize for prospective invaders.
The Pope offered a sanguine read on this history, noting how Europe has somehow always succeeded in overcoming these invasions with its identity intact, even having benefitted from the conflicts.
Often, however, the invasions have cost Europe dearly. Muslims first invaded Spain less than a century after Mohammed’s death, and managed to control greater or lesser portions of the Iberian Peninsula for more than seven centuries, until Muhammad XII, the Emir of Granada, finally handed over the last Muslim-controlled city in the Iberian Peninsula in 1491, the year before Columbus discovered America.
The Siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turk Suleiman the Magnificent in 1529 ultimately ended in failure, but cost countless lives and marked the deepest incursion of Muslim forces into the heart of Europe. Unfazed by the defeat, the Ottomans continued hammering at Europe’s flanks for another two centuries.
In 1571, another Pope—Pius V—gathered a coalition of Christian states to resist the Ottoman onslaught. The Pope personally blessed the fleets and urged Christians everywhere to pray for the victory of the European forces. The Christian victory at the Battle of Lepanto, commemorated on October 7 by the Catholic feast of Our Lady of Victory, signaled the end of Turkish supremacy in the Mediterranean.
Of course today’s migrant crisis in Europe—the 21st-century “Arab invasion”—is very different from earlier attempts to conquer the Christian continent. Most of today’s migrants and refugees come unarmed, with little intention of direct conquest. Others, however, still view Europe as a prize, and its increasingly Muslim population as a foothold from which to continue Islamic expansionism.
Not long after last November’s jihadist attacks on Paris, a 23-year-old Muslim migrant named Ahmad openly told journalists that “by 2025 all of France will become Muslim.”
“Look,” he said, referring to the Paris massacre, “it wasn’t us foreigners who did this. They were born there, kids like these (indicating local Muslim children) who grew up and learned things about ISIS and about Islam. And they did this.”
Pope Francis has declared that Europe’s rediscovery of its Christian roots is essential to its identity, and to its ability to deal with present and future crises. As an amorphous, post-Christian amalgamation of cultures and interests, it is easy prey to invaders with a sense of their own identity and a determined purpose behind it.
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