Over the past few weeks, in the midst of Europe largest political and humanitarian crisis since World War 2, the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness have been actively involved in helping migrants and refugees stuck at the railways stations or crossing through the country. Devotees have distributed about 5,000 plates of hot meal, and 1.5 tons of fruits and other food items, while maintaining their usual program of feeding 2,000 marginalized Hungarians every day.
With the Tranzit Zones at the Budapest railway stations now closed, devotees shifted to transporting truckload of fruits, baby food, yoghurt and water to the Western borders of Hungary, where thousands of alysium-seekers gather before entering Austria every day.
ISKCON congregational members gives out bananas at the country's border
With the European public completely divided over how to treat refugees, whether Europeans should welcome them or be afraid of them, likewise, devotees in Hungary have also expressed their concerns about the issue. In the following interview Sivarama Swami addresses some of them.
ISKCON News: Where is the limit of helping refugees and migrants considering the safety of a country?
Sivarama Swami: The government is always obliged to maintain safety among its own citizens, as it is among refugees. Because some Hungarians are murderers and thieves, that does not mean all Hungarians are criminals or social risks. The same rule applies to refugees. Even though some might misbehave, I don’t think refugees represent any more of a security risk than Hungarians.
However the safe transit of refugees through Hungary is not just Hungary’s problem, it is Europe’s problem — as it is obviously an overwhelming challenge for a small and poor country.
Sivarama Swami talking to Syrian people at Budapest Keleti Railway Station
ISKCON News: What is our opinion about putting up a fence on Hungary’s Southern border?
Sivarama Swami: Borders are already artificial, since God did not create the world with them. But if you already accept that borders exist and people need to pass through them in an orderly way, then there is no harm in putting up a fence to maintain that order. The question is whether the present flow of refugees will be managed better by a fence, or not. That we will see.
ISKCON News: How should devotee relate to refugees?
Sivarama Swami: Bhagavad-Gita says “pandita-sama-darshina”, religious people see all human beings equally and relates to them according to qualification.
Considering that educated Hungarians are leaving Hungary by droves, it would be wise to consider whether the educated refugees can fill the vacant positions that Hungarians are leaving behind.
In other words, don’t stigmatize people, but see what individuals have to contribute to the country.
Aya was an elementary school teacher in Aleppo, Syria. Once their home was destroyed, she and her husband and their two sons had to flee.
ISKCON News: While helping them or distributing food, should ISKCON devotees be concerned about contracting some contagious disease from the refugees?
Sivarama Swami: No. We are always travelling to India and have yet to get some contagious disease. But here in Hungary we have repeated problems with tick borne encephalitis what to speak of allergy, that effects 10% of Hungarians.
ISKCON News: What kind of help can we offer to the migrants?
Sivarama Swami: We distribute food and chant Hare Krishna. The former is to fill their stomachs the latter to pacify their soul. It means a lot of work, on top of what we are already doing for Hungarians. Like the Hungarian government, we feel the strain, but its our dharma, or duty.
The migrant crisis is not just a problem, it is a symptom of a greater problem. It is one of many symptoms, as are the wars that caused the crisis and the varied reactions in Europe to the crisis.
Exhausted refugee children sleeping on the railway station floor.
ISKCON News: What do you mean by “greater problem”?
Sivarama Swami: Ignorance of who we really are and who is the owner of everything. The root problem is that people think they are the body, Shiite, Sunni, Muslim, Christian, Syrian, Hungarian, German and American. But these are false designations. We are spirit soul. We are all spiritually equal although externally appearing different.
Like borders and fences, national identities are also false conceptions of “this is mine.”
Nothing is ours everything belongs to God.
So if you want to solve the migrant crisis, and the other problems that will come from that, then people need to be educated to understand they are not this body and that God is the proprietor and we only have a right to a certain quota of his creation, not more.
And everyone has a right to a quota.
That is what we are doing on the streets, in our centers, in our college: educating people.
Unless the world decides to accept that it will go from one crisis to another.
Devotees cheer refugee children up with their chanting.[ budapest ] [ crisis ] [ europe ] [ hungary ] [ migrant ] [ refugee ] [ sivarama-swami ] [ syria ]