The Duty 01 -r-L' League And Of Individuals
By DON LUIGI STURZO Mr. James G. MacDonald's letter to the secretary of the League of Nations announcing his resignation as high commissioner for German refugees, and the subsequent report of the committee on international assistance has awakened many to the very grave problem of political refugees in general.
Not only are there the recent refugees from Germany and the Saar, mostly Jews but including Christians of Jewish descent and political dissidents both Catholic and socialist, who, numbering some hundredthousand, have fled from the Reich to escape persecution, the concentration camp, starvation or death; but there are also the refugees from Armenia, Irak, Russia and Italy : over a million men and women who for years have been wandering the world, often in lamentable conditions of health, means of livelihood, tranquillity, and moral peace.
There is also the barbarous, inhuman exchange of Greek and Turkish "citizens" which followed the war of 1922-23, or of other immediate "consequences" of the Great War, but in this article we can deal only with refugees.
Inadequate Assistance The League of Nations so far has given a certain assistance to refugees from Russia and Armenia, through the Nansen Office, the provision of special passports, and other useful measures. And we must reckon as useful measures, in spite of all, those adopted in favour of the "Assyrians," and the institution of a high commissioner for refugees from Germany.
Such measures were useful so far as they go, but they do not go far enough; they extend neither to all categories of refugees (those from Italy have so far received no consideration, not even the grant of passports) nor to all cases.
The recent proposals for the reorganisation of the Nansen Office and the high commissariat for German refugees, made to the Council of the League by the Committee of International Assistance are assuredly not of a nature to ensure either relief for present needs or the continuation of a work which will not cease to be necessary as long as there are dictatorships and tyrannical governments that refuse to tolerate either political dissidents or diversity of race.
" Condemned to Death" To look for funds to the two Nobel prizes (as the committee has suggested) is too little, and is almost ridiculous.
The Jews have had the support of the rich Jewish houses throughout the world, and yet this is not enough, but the other unfortunate refugees are often in the sorest straits.
In France many Russians and Italians have been dismissed by their employers owing to the recent law on unemployment, and are now starving.
Jean Delage wrote an article in the Echo de Paris of December 21 entitled ,'The Russian Emigrd Condemned to Death," which was truly heartrending.
., For most of them," he said, " the situation is so hopeless that we can say without exaggeration that these poor emigrds are men condemned to death."
We cannot expect the League of Nations to turn itself into a benevolent institution for all the woes of the world, but we have the right to ask firgt of all that in the field of international law it should regularise the position of so many unfortunates and enable them to settle down, honestly and openly, in hospitable countries.
Secondly, we ask that through the League all civilised states should combine their economic resources to provide for the urgent needs of such unfortunates. Thus a considerable sum could be collected, without any state coming into direct contact with the emigres or earning the ill-will of the states from which they have fled.
Finally, an effort should be made to coordinate private undertakings (without invading their domain or sterilising their most necessary functions), simply in order that efforts and resources should not be scattered.
Appeal to Christians
What we must emphasise above all is the Christian duty of charity and assistance to people lacking human aid and comfort, uprooted from their homes and countries, cut NJ from their family or professional relations, and driven to find new careers in foreign lands.
Undoubtedly among such a mass of unfortunates there will be undesirables, but Christian charity must assist even undesirables (this does not mean that the police of the various countries must relax their necessary vigilance or fail to take opportune measures!)
We must realise, as the governments of the countries from which they come, inflamed by political hatred or racial prejudice, fail to realise, that here are men like ourselves, often Christians like ourselves, requiring our help and succour.
Laying Bare the Tyranny
At the same time public opinion should show no indulgence towards governments behaving in such a tyrannical and inhuman manlier; let it lay bare their injustices, denounce their unwholesome theories, shatter the atmosphere of myth that surrounds them, and ascertain by enquiry and really reliable reports the facts of oppression and persecution.
Justice and charity will not return to the world in relations between States and their citizens and between State and State if morality and religion are not made the foundations of the whole of life, as the eternal expressions of human brotherhood and divine sonship.
Why do Christians so often adopt an attitude towards these their brothers, discredited, sunk in tribulations and wretchedness (and in many cases doomed to a slow death), not of the Good Samaritan but of the Priest and Levite who passed by on the other side?
It was not for nothing that Jesus in the gospel contrasted the action of the two ecclesiastics with that of the layman; it was as though he wished to show that divine worship will never be acceptable unless it is accompanied by mercy and charity to our brethren in distress,