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Clash of Cultures

by
Forerunner, "Prophecy Watch," November 2002

Without much exaggeration, one could say that the history of the world is the story of the movements of peoples over the face of the earth. As a migrating group made contact with an established people, conflict usually flared. The winner of such conflicts remained on the disputed land, and the loser moved farther into the frontier.

These kinds of events are not relegated to the gray record of antiquity. In fact, some of the greatest migrations in history have occurred within the last few centuries. Millions of "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" streamed across the Atlantic and the Pacific to the United States in search of a better life in the New World. Equal numbers—perhaps more—abandoned the crowded cities of Asia to seek economic opportunities all across the globe. Countless refugees fled oppressive and tyrannical regimes on just about every continent, looking for political freedom among the world's democracies.

At any time, a small but significant percentage of the earth's population is on the move. The United Nations (UN) estimates that there are 185 million migrants among the earth's population.1 Whereas in earlier times whole tribes removed to new lands on the frontier, often to escape the depredations of a stronger group, modern migrations tend to be movements of individuals or families from poor countries to the world's most prosperous nations, regardless of distance. The motivations for today's migrations, then, are primarily personal and economic.

However, the effect remains the same. No matter what the motivations, the incursion of migrants into an established society creates friction. Whether it is Asians into British Columbia, Latin Americans into the United States, or Muslims into Europe, the cultural and/or religious differences cause conflict. The clash of cultures can be so sharp and fierce that it sparks struggles that only harsh measures can quench.

Battleground Europe

Immigration has long been a front-burner issue in the United States, which proudly calls itself "a nation of immigrants" and "a melting pot." In its relatively short history, it has successfully dealt with influxes of various European immigrants from Germans to Irish to Slavs. Its current problems with Hispanic and Asian immigrants have proven to be more lasting and challenging than previous groups, particularly because of a combination of multicultural thinking among Americans and a reluctance to integrate among the newcomers. In addition, distinct racial and cultural differences make it far harder for these non-European peoples to fit in with the American mainstream.

The United States is not alone in suffering immigration woes. Along with the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, among a few other countries, the nations of Europe are net receivers of immigrants. In fact, immigration accounted for 89 percent of Europe's population growth during the 1990s, even though most of the European nations have "closed-door" policies on their books.2 In 2001, the population increased a measly 0.4 percent across the continent, but a whopping three-quarters of it came through immigration.3

Forecasters believe that the influx of foreigners will continue. In August 2002, the British government released a report calculating that the nation's population would increase by 15 million immigrants over the next forty years.4 Other nations, such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, and the Netherlands, are predicting similar increases of immigrant populations.

A large proportion of this increase is Muslim. The UN says that Europe's Muslim population has doubled over the past decade from eight to sixteen million, and it is predicted to continue to rise at the rate of one million per year.5 This contrasts sharply with the negative birth rates of many of the native European ethnic groups. Across the European Union (EU), the birth rate hovers around 1.5 children per woman.6

Even though at this point the percentages are small, the Muslim impact on Europe is significant. Until recently, European nations were considered homogenous. Their citizens' national character, traits, culture, and history were well known and well defined. Many European governments are concerned because the people are beginning to feel that they are losing their identities.

The Netherlands is a case in point. About one million of its 16 million population—about six percent—is Muslim. However, within its three largest cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague, Islamic immigrants, mostly Turks and Moroccans, equal the native Dutch population.7 Stephen Baker of Business Week writes, "Globalization is turning once-close-knit European towns and cities into cosmopolitan hives of people in transit."8

The problem is that many of these "people in transit" do not move on but disappear into the local Islamic ghetto that can be found in nearly every urban area in Europe. Because of this, many Europeans of all political stripes are calling for profound changes in immigration policies within individual nations and the EU. Most want to stem the tide of asylum seekers and deal more rigorously with the associated social problems, welfare and crime.

Tough New Laws

Advocates of immigration often cite the fact that immigrants often fill the jobs most of the natives will no longer consider doing: low-wage, menial, physical labor positions. Though this is true to a point, the fact remains that unemployment among immigrants is always high, and if the state offers benefits to illegals, many of them opt to remain unemployed because the benefits allow them to live better in their adopted country than they could working in their country of origin.

Denmark is one European nation that has taken a hard stance against immigrants, passing earlier this summer what is considered to be the toughest immigration law in the EU. It has made it harder to claim refugee status, cut back on financial aid to newcomers, made foreigners wait seven years for permanent resident status, and disallowed immigrants to bring in potential spouses under the age of 24. The Danish center-right government took this action after it became apparent that, though only five percent of the population is Third-World immigrants, nearly forty percent of welfare spending winds up in their pockets.9

Bertel Haarder, Denmark's new immigration minister, speaks plainly about the problem: "Unemployment is a catastrophe, integration is a catastrophe, and crime is a catastrophe. We are fed up with forced marriages and the systematic use of the right of family reunification to get families to Denmark at the expense of the young. For a Nordic mind, this is a huge offense to freedom, human dignity, and self-determination, and something we Danes simply cannot accept."10

The Netherlands followed suit in August. Hilbrand Nawijn, the Dutch immigration minister, announced a hard-line plan to take effect in early 2003 that would dictate that asylum seekers be detained in converted army barracks for up to two months and then expelled from the country immediately if their applications are denied. Companies will be fined up to about $2,000 for each illegal immigrant they hire. Social security payments will be cut by as much as ninety percent. Newcomers who do not complete Dutch language and citizenship classes will be penalized. Conditions will be stiffened to prevent refugees from bringing in relatives. All immigrants will have to carry identity papers at all times.11

These are not isolated actions. Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Greece have all enacted or plan to enact more stringent rules and laws to curb immigration. Their haste to pass such laws derives from the fear that another wave of immigration will break on them when the EU expands eastward in 2004. A study by the German Migration Council estimates that five million new immigrants will move into Western Europe by 2020 and that nearly a million are already waiting for the gates to open.12 Most of these wish to go to Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy.

European nations might tolerate such newcomers were it not for the parallel rise in crime. Denmark reports that 76.5 percent of convicted rapists are Muslim.13 Ninety percent of street crime in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, is committed by immigrants.14 In Italy, 64 percent of drug arrests in 2001 involved foreigners.15 Spain saw crime rise by 10.5 percent in the past year,16 and 89 percent of those arrested and jailed in the first three months of 2002 were foreigners.17 In London, street crime has risen a frightening 49 percent over 2001.18

Some of these immigrant crimes have a religious dimension. In Belgium in early April 2002, an anti-Ariel Sharon march turned violent when North African activists tried to march into a mostly Jewish area. Similar Muslim-on-Jew riots and crimes have surfaced in England, Germany, Denmark, and France. In some European nations, Muslims already outnumber Jews, a fact that bodes ill for the peace of their communities.

King of the South

Students of Bible prophecy have often wondered about the role of the "king of the South" in the end time. Daniel 11 describes the back-and-forth fighting and intrigue between the Seleucid Empire based in Syria—the king of the North—and the Ptolemaic Empire of Egypt—the king of the South. Obviously, during the time of their conflict, these nations were north and south of Jerusalem, respectively, and their battlegrounds were often in the land of Israel.

Neither of these two empires exists any longer. However, verse 40 speaks of "the time of the end," meaning the period just before the return of Jesus Christ. Which nations, then, are the kings of the North and the South?

Because the Roman Empire swallowed up both of the older empires, it could at one time have been said to be both. However, Diocletian split the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western halves in AD 284, and in 324, Constantine established the eastern capital at Byzantium, renamed Constantinople (now Istanbul). The Western Empire fell in 476, to be succeeded down the centuries by several resurrections of a Holy Roman Empire.

The Eastern Empire, however, proved more enduring, lasting until 1453 when the Turks under Mahmed II took the weak and tired city of Constantinople after a 53-day siege. Once again, there were rival kings of North and South, though this event merely formalized an ongoing struggle between Christian Europe and Muslim Middle East. This situation remains intact today: Even now, we are witnessing the bitter and violent conflict between the Western and Islamic civilizations.

Notice Daniel 11:40: "At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through." Notice that the king of the North invades and conquers "countries," suggesting that the king of the South is composed of several nations, much like the modern Middle East.

The King James Version uses "push at him" instead of "attack him," and this is to be preferred, as the Hebrew verb means "to thrust." It could be a military attack, but it could equally be an economic, religious, or cultural assault. Whatever it is, the king of the North reacts to it swiftly and forcefully.

We should also note verses 41-42. In them, God directs our attention to the area targeted by the king of the North: "the Glorious Land"—the land of Israel—Edom, Moab, Ammon (all three part of modern Jordan), and Egypt. It is clear that, if this prophecy speaks of our day, the king of the South is represented by the Arab peoples of the Middle East.

Could we be seeing this prophecy beginning to come to pass? Perhaps the waves of predominantly Muslim immigrants into Europe have woken the emerging colossus of the North to some of the troubles the clash of cultures can cause. If these problems should be combined with terrorist attacks on European soil of the magnitude of the September 11 bombings, an armed response would seem to be unavoidable.

However, the leader, the person who is the king of the North, is still lacking. No strong man has stood up in Europe to take the lead in solving some of these problems. The stage, though, is being set for such a ruler to galvanize both the leadership and citizenry of Europe to unite to fight against the enemies of their civilization (see Revelation 17:9-14).

Though it is probably not the catalyst, Europe's immigration woes could provide some of the fuel for the coming conflagration. This is an area on which Christians should keep a watchful eye (Mark 13:32-37).


Endnotes

1 Thomasson, Emma, "Human Traffic," Reuters Magazine, September-October 2002, p. 12.
2 Ibid., p 14.
3 Spinant, Daniela, "Europe's Dilemma on Immigration," EUobserver.com, August 8, 2002.
4 Liddle, Rod, "There Are Too Many People in Britain . . .," The Guardian, August 21, 2002.
5 Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose, "Migrants Blamed for Shift to Right," The Age, April 24, 2002.
6 Spinant, ibid.
7 Fray, Peter, "The New Infidels," The Sydney Morning Herald, May 11, 2002.
8 Baker, Stephen, "Crime and Politics," Business Week, March 18, 2002.
9 Pipes, Daniel, and Hedegaard, Lars, "Something Rotten in Denmark?" New York Post, August 27, 2002.
10 Osborn, Andrew, "Danes Justify Harshest Asylum Laws in Europe," The Guardian, June 29, 2002.
11 Osborn, Andrew, "Dutch Minister Unveils Tough Measures Against Illegal Immigrants," The Guardian, August 17, 2002.
12 Connolly, Kate, "5m Eye the West as EU Borders Expand," The Guardian, June 27, 2002.
13 Pipes and Hedegaard, ibid.
14 Osborn, Andrew, "Netherlands Embroiled in New Race Row," The Guardian, August 8, 2002.
15 Baker, ibid.
16 Ibid.
17 Ford, Peter, "Across Europe, the Far Right Rises," The Christian Science Monitor, May 15, 2002.
18 Baker, ibid.




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