Christiana von Habsburg-Löthringen
Born of German father and Italian mother, married for nearly 50 years, has 3 Children and 10 grandchildren. With her husband is a member of the Regnum Christi Movement; she is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and has been very involved for the past 20 years in the education of women. Christiana currently lives in Hungary where she assists her husband in his commitment as Ambassador for the Sovereign Order of Malta, especially in their work for the refugees.
Writing on the situation in Europe from a woman’s point of view at this very precise historic moment, is an interesting task as our society is facing an unexpected challenge: A “human invasion” of refugees from the Middle East who are fleeing terrorism, war, bombs, the destruction of their homes and the misery of refugee camps, is invading our Continent. They arrive in a steady flow of up to 6000 -7000 per day, a never ending unstoppable stream. Borders and even fences cannot stop them, like water of a powerful river, they look for new ways and entrances and find them – filling into a totally unprepared and overwhelmed Europe.
Politicians of the European Union’s border countries – Hungary and Croatia – have to cope with this avalanche on their own and they do so bravely, while the rest of Europe is looking on... in a rare display of political helplessness.
We are witnessing the moment where the ideology of always speaking and acting “politically correct” – rather than speaking the truth and using common sense – has come to a crumbling end. Here Europe is facing a dramatic truth that demands using your senses and acting quickly with honest commitment. Europe’s political leaders have to accept a situation they did never expect and for which they have no solution – very unusual for all these western “global players” so sure of having the future of the world firmly in their hands.
Now we all know and believe, that nothing in this world happens without God allowing it – can it be that we are witnessing a plan of God unfolding, that could finally be a blessing for Europe?
I have this feeling, since I got to know the refugees personally here in Hungary, caring for them through many days and nights while they were camping under the Budapest Keleti Railway station. We were all waiting for Europe to decide whether we can let them travel on or not – therefore this “camp” of approx. 1000-2000 people was our action center for several days.
As my husband is the Ambassador for the Sovereign Order of Malta to Hungary, we were intensely involved with our Charity Service that was in place and acting from the very start, providing food and water and mainly medical care around the clock, 24 hours a day, including weekends. As we have more than 1000 volunteers and the experience of 25 years activities in Hungary, work moves on swiftly and untiringly.
The first thing that struck me as unexpected, was the positive reaction of the public towards the refugees: First of all that of the Hungarian population who showered us with donations of food, drink and clothing, so much so, that it was nearly too much – and this helped us to concentrate more and more only on the medical care. But then also unknown strangers, foreign tourists in a hurry looking for their trains, stopping because these refugees were in their way. They saw them, looked at them and then came to us asking: “What can I do? I want to help! What do they need most?” It was beautiful to see how the sight of these people moved their hearts and awakened their spontaneous will to help. So their hearts are still alive? Are still sensitive to the sight of need? Not yet suffocated by our western materialistic egoism? This means that there is hope. Could charity be Europe’s salvation? In fact also the European politicians are very surprised by the unexpected welcoming attitude of their people – does this not very much look like God’s secret plan is starting to work?
And then the refugees themselves: If you only watch the happenings on TV, these overwhelming masses of many thousands in one big rush – they will frighten you and you will see the urgency of somehow stopping this inundation. This is very true and this is one side of the story, where an answer needs to be found soon – the responsibility for this answer lies in the hands of our politicians. But once you get in touch with the refugees personally, you discover the other side of the story: A beautiful story of strong, brave, warm hearted mostly young people, with large families from Syria, Afghanistan and Irak, who have travelled and walked hundreds, thousands of kilometres often without shoes, through Iran, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia, braving hardship and dangers, looking for a safe country without war and terrorism in the hope of a better future. They never complain, they do not ask for anything, you have to go up to them and ask if they need something, are they alright? Do they maybe need a doctor? They thank you for every tiny help with immense politeness. If you give them one smile, 10 warm smiles are the answer, if you show them affection and give a hug to a mother or caress their children, they hug you back saying: “You are my family!” They are always ready for a laugh with their great sense of humour, in spite of their situation of a totally unforeseeable future. Once I had finished caring for a pair of large Afghan feet, had finished bandaging them and said to the young man: “Now please put on your shoes carefully!” I got a big laugh back: “No shoes Madam…!” Of course the next day we had provided a big box full of gym shoes for all his Clan!
What impressed me most of all though is the love they have for their children, the tenderness they treat them with, the hugs and cuddles they get from their fathers holding them in their arms. And they are so proud of their children! For them each child is a blessing from heaven – they say so and they live it. You can notice this in all of their families. It is the love and affection these children receive, that makes them grow into strong and self assured men and women.
One tiny baby was born during one of these nights under the station, the father waved to us to come and see – and the mother showed it to us, lifting the scarf from the little basket slowly with such pride in her face... like a queen presenting her crown jewels! Do we see this anywhere in Europe still? I am a baby lover, so of course I admired all those beautiful children – and so often one of these pretty young mothers laid her hand on her tummy with a sweet secretive smile – indicating to me blissfully that there is another one on the way. Love for Life lived to the full in a situation where they do not know where tonight they will sleep, what tomorrow will bring them!
And these women: They are so proud, so full of dignity, so self assured in their role at the heart of the family! They do not look suppressed or frustrated at all, they look fulfilled and full of strength – keeping their flock together energetically and letting the men do the outside tasks: Queuing for food, discussing the travel procedure, and dealing with the hard task of protecting their family while planning an unforeseeable future.
What makes them all so strong and full of life is obviously also their faith: They believe in God and they adore Him. You notice it immediately when you are together with them, Muslims or Christians alike: If you tell them that God will help them in their difficulties, that you will pray for them, if you only point to heaven or fold your hands smiling when wishing them a safe journey, their eyes shine up – they nod with a smile, they understand you, we speak a common language. We have something strong that binds us together, a “spiritual wavelength” that makes us equal – brothers and sisters!
This is why I am meanwhile convinced that all of this is happening for the salvation of Europe: Do we not see how far our continent has moved away from God? Do we not witness the destruction of the souls of children forced upon them by new school instructions we seemingly cannot prevent? And what about the thousands killed every day before they are born? Do we not shiver at the arrogance with which the Creator is rejected in public life? Or totally ignored? Do we not sometimes wonder how long He will tolerate this? And now this huge wave of refugees is spilling all over the Continent. Unexpected, unforeseeable, unmanageable! Could it be that His Mother intervened for us? That She begged Him to give Europe one last chance? One last chance to dig out its long forgotten Christian roots? To rediscover its heart? Could it be that in the future we might no longer be a minority in fighting for the protection of life, in campaigning for the family, in promoting the true image of womanhood, the true importance and beauty of motherhood? Could it be that in these newcomers we will find companions of the same thinking, sharing our values in spite of the differences in culture or religion? If instead of being afraid of them we became friends?
The answer of the Hungarian Bishops to the Holy Father’s appeal was to call for a day of prayer for peace in the Middle East and for the safety of the refugees – a day of prayer that was held all over the country. Maybe we can, we should also all pray together for God’s plan to unfold unhindered and to be fulfilled completely – for the salvation of Europe through a true conversion of our society, a true conversion of us all!