Rush of Syrian refugees to Spain

By October 23, 2015
(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

Spain (CAM) — As a first step in addressing Europe’s refugee crisis, European Union (EU) leaders on Sept. 22 assigned 15,000 mainly Syrian refugees to Spain, with still greater batches to follow in subsequent years. Some in Spain fear the wave of Syrian refugees will bring more Muslim influence to a country where radical Islam has made inroads, but one Spanish ministry is eagerly welcoming them.

The refugees are Spain’s share of an initial distribution of 120,000 refugees across Europe. Having established churches in the southern province of Andalusia and in Morocco, which lies nearly nine miles from Spain’s southernmost point across the Strait of Gibraltar, the director of a ministry supported by Christian Aid Mission sees the EU plan as an unprecedented opportunity. In Ceuta, a Spanish enclave on Morocco’s northern tip, he already has substantial experience with Syrian refugees; he’s been proclaiming Christ to them for three years.

“Our experience is that they come to the Lord fast,” said the director, identified only as Antonio for security reasons. “They say, ‘We are here because Islam [jihadists such as the Islamic State] put us here and broke our family and broke our country,’ and they open very fast. There are house churches among Syrians.”

With 6,000 refugees arriving at European countries every day, more than 500,000 have flooded the continent’s borders this year, according to United Nations figures. While that figure may pale compared with the more than 4 million refugees that have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, the refugees have created political crises in Europe as infrastructures fray and cultures clash.

Only Germany and France have been assigned more refugees than Spain, which for decades has seen Muslim immigrants from Morocco grow into a kind of religious target group for competing radical Islamists from abroad–kindling Catholic-Muslim tensions in the autonomous region of Andalusia, named from the Arabic “Al-Andalus” caliphate of Muslim conquerors that ruled from 711 to 1492.

Analysts point to the revelation by Spain’s National Intelligence Center (CNI) in 2011 that Islamic-ruled countries from the Middle East and North Africa have channeled millions of dollars to radical Islamists in efforts to compete for Spain’s nearly 1.9 million Muslims, of which 800,000 are Moroccans. Saudi Arabia heads a list that includes Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, according to the CNI. Saudi Arabia funded a $30 million Islamic Cultural Center in Malaga, as well as mosques in Marbella and Fuengirola, for the purposes of promoting its repressive Wahhabi brand of Islam, according to the CNI.

Furthermore, imams in more than 100 mosques in Spain preach Islamic extremist doctrine, according to the Spanish daily ABC. Salafism, an Islamic extremist movement based on restoring the original traditions of Islam, has increased its presence in Spain, according to the newspaper.

As the Syrians and other refugees arrive, Spain’s Islamic centers also will be keen to welcome them, the ministry director said. Islamic extremists such as the Salafists aim to re-conquer Spain for Islam, Antonio said.

“It’s evident: in every place they go, they build a big mosque with a big minaret to say, ‘We are here,'” said Antonio. “Saudi Arabians are sending imams and money. They’re buying many things. They’re sending missionaries. They pay for a place, and they take control of the Muslims of the area.”

While extremist sects such as Salafism and Wahhabism tend to be separatist and discourage integration into Western society, Antonio said that, overall, Muslims quietly adapt when they are a small minority. As they become a majority through population growth, migration, and conversion, they seek to exercise more influence through government and influential networks, he said.

With deep love for Muslims in relationships he has developed in Morocco and in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta along Morocco’s northern-most border, Antonio can hardly be labeled an Islamophobe, even if some might read that into his description of Islamist wishes that he’s detected.

“They want Spain,” he said, citing Islamist wishes to retake Cordoba, with its Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba–an architectural wonder that is more than 11 centuries old, and Granada, with its mighty Alhambra, a former Islamic palace and fortress complex. “They say, ‘This is my country, and we want it back.'”

Antonio said those who make first contact with the arriving Syrians will have the most impact.

“We’re encouraging the church to be the first to contact them and have an impact with them with the gospel,” he said. “I am beginning to work with 100 Syrian families just in Jerez, but I’m working with other believers to do the same. They say, ‘I don’t know how to work with Syrians.’ I said, ‘It doesn’t matter: you receive them, and I’m ready to work all year to train you so you can work with the Syrians.'”

About 30 volunteer workers help Antonio in the outreach in Jerez, and the same number of volunteers work in each of the other Spanish cities where his ministry has planted some of its nearly 70 house churches, including Seville, Malaga, Jaen, and Cordoba. In the three churches that he pastors, four or five people at each church receive Christ each week, he said.

His experience with Muslims includes proclaiming Christ and training leaders in Morocco, which has resulted in 100 small fellowships. Whereas in Morocco he takes care not to speak against Islam, in Spain he refrains from speaking against the dominant Roman Catholic Church, where surveys have repeatedly shown few practice their religion, and even those who do are rarely familiar with the Bible or Christ’s salvation.

“In the past, the missionaries didn’t do a good job in southern Spain; they began to fight against Catholicism,” Antonio said. “In the Bible, I don’t see Paul fighting against other religions. I only share the gospel. I share about Jesus, His love, how it changed my life, how He impacted my family and relatives. When you talk about this, they change.”

His ministry team establishes relationships with people by identifying their needs, which in southern Spain’s weak economy often means distributing food, visiting people in hospitals, and helping with other medical needs. Through EU networks, the ministry has ample access to food supplies, so Antonio said his main need is financial assistance for transportation, Bibles, and tracts.

“Gas is four times higher in Spain than what it is in the United States,” he said. “My main need is this, because it’s expensive to spread the gospel. People call me from Jaen, and I cannot go, because how am I going to pay for everything? It’s not possible.”

His ministry also hopes to renovate a building to start a Christian school for U.S. families at nearby Rota military base, which ultimately would render his ministry completely self-sustaining. Until then, he primarily seeks funds to purchase the Word of God in Arabic, Spanish, and English, and the wheels to get its message to otherwise unreached people before radical Islam reaches them.

Click here to support efforts to reach Syrian refugees in Spain,

5 Comments

  • Barbara says:

    Around 15 years ago, I had a Muslim college teacher who declared that “they would take Spain back for Allah”. He would stop the class to go and pray. He had married an American woman and I’ve often wondered what happened to her when he returned home. He spouted that women were honored and treasured in their religion. He didn’t fool anyone in the class. We were studying other cultures. I wrote a paper on a man who converted to Christ, and he did not like it!!!
    I’ll continue praying for Spain.

  • Don says:

    Several years ago I came to Spain from the U.S. and fell so much in love with the country that I bought a villa on Ibiza and through Spain’s Golden Visa I have become a legal resident of Spain. I have contributed a lot to the economy of Spain. I love Spain and the people of Spain so much that I brought my family here to live in the hopes they will be safe but now I am beginning to think twice about what I did with the influx of Muslim refugees to Spain and now with the terrorist attack on Paris. I feel Spain must crack down on the influx of Muslim refugees and stop anymore from coming in. The government must thoroughly check out those that are already here and the Imams and their Mosques must be watched closely. I will tell you now that if Spain has one terrorist attack on it’s soil or any one in my family is harassed by a Muslim then I will leave Spain and take my family and everything I brought to Spain including my bank accounts that helps to contribute to Spain’s economy back to the U.S. I refuse to live under the threat that some of these refugees may have become radicalized by ISIS or Al Qaeda . Has Spain forgotten the horrible tragedy off the 2004 Madrid train bombings where the explosions killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800. The Spanish government needs to remember this as they let in even one more refugee.

  • Don and Barbara

    you racism is so deep rooted that you can not hear your own words and how awful they sound, spouting racist opinions. The US created ISIS and is bombing the Syrians. You may think your money can buy you anything in Europe and that you are superior to all muslims but I don’t believe that is true.

    I would certainly be happy if you got out of Spain take your US dolllars and go we don’t need narrow minded hypocrits like you. I will be sharing your post as an example of deeprooted US superiority complex and red neck attitudes. It would be funny if your country wasn’t fucking the world.

    • solvermn says:

      Friend of refugees
      your comments are part of the reason there is so much hostility among the common people to Muslims moving to Western nations. A lot more gratitude and less complaining would go a long way toward ending that hostility. There are over 30 Islam dominated nations, still multiple millions of Muslims leave their culture to live in the west instead of going to another Islamic nation. Why ? Is it the money or perhaps that even with all the suspicion and hostility toward them, in “Christian” nations; Muslims are treated better than in the lands of their birth. A little bit of “Thank you for opening your home to us” would really go a long way. Lastly No matter how you are treated here it is far better than how Christians are terated in Islamic nations.

  • Blue says:

    If Spain turns into a woman-hating fundamentalist country, then count me out as well.

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