I’m not going to claim to know everything about the refugee situation here and in America. I’m not even going to claim that I am friends with any refugees. I have taken so long to write this post because I have been settling in on my own thoughts on the subject. But after reading too many offensive posts from both sides of the argument in America, I need to say something.
Living only an hour away from a major entry point, I know a decent number of refugees (particularly in comparison to the number of people I know in general). There were the 4 young men we talked to all night on our 3rd night in Kaufbeuren. We would wave to each other when I walked home from Aldi and they were playing football behind the school, or when William crossed paths with them on his way to and from Neugablonz. We haven’t seen them in over a month, and I can only hope that they were moved to a different city and not sent back to Syria.
There is the man who is not from Syria, but from Pakistan. He has not seen his family for several years. If he were to go home, he would be killed for refusing to join the Taliban. He has been threatened to be sent home many times, but thanks to help from a church (yes, a Christian church helping Muslim refugees – what a concept!), he is now able to stay in Kaufbeuren and go to school freely.
These refugees have not seen their families since they left their home country, and fear every day for their safety. They want to learn German and find jobs and create a life for themselves, but the government does not allow them to do so until they have a proper visa, which can take several months or longer.
There is the man from Syria sitting next to me in my German class, who is here for his second round so that he can solidly attain a B1 level of German. He has had a visa for over a year. He is different from the others; he can go to school, work, and freely live his life here in Germany.
It is easy to feel bitter about the visa struggles that William and I have had when we are able to support ourselves, while the refugees receive a stipend from the government. But the truth is that most of them would trade places with us in a heartbeat.
And what of the debates in America?
Germany is the size of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and has a population of over 80 million. That is a population density of 583/sq mi. The USA has a population density of 90.6/sq mi. Germany is 6.4 times more dense. I do not accept that there is no room for refugees.
William and I like to joke that all we need to do is set them down along highway 12 in Montana. We drove that road for an hour without even seeing a cow or a fence. You could employ them building a settlement (maybe give them some cows and chicken) and send in an English teacher. They are eager to start their life over, we just need to give them the tools.
Now I’m not saying that is a perfect solution, but the point is that we have the space. We just need to use it.
I also do not accept that there is no money. Anyone, people or government, can find money for what they value. I never accepted that my schools had laptops for 5th graders, iPads for 7th graders, and Smartboards that the teachers didn’t use, but couldn’t buy books or desks and students had to pay to take overcrowded art classes. The money was there, the community just decided to give it in the form of unnecessary technology instead of as thing the students needed.
The government values spending extraordinary amounts of money on the military (relative to other countries), politicians’ salaries, and tax breaks for wealthy corporations. What if we gave just a fraction of that money to people who have nothing and are not safe in their home country?
But what about the dangers? Please. Paris did not happen because of the refugees. The refugees are running from the same people that did this. Yes, there is a risk that terrorists could slip in with the refugees, but there is also the risk that they already live in America or Germany or France, or that they will get into the country with a visa.
And what of the violence that happens every day that is not considered terrorism? What of the people who are shot down in the street? What of the school and movie theater shootings done by American citizens? What of the daily car crashes that take lives? We encounter danger every day. Are we going to refuse to help people in need because of that?
But above all, before we can help anyone, refugees or American citizens, we need to get passed this hate. This problem is not Christian vs. Muslin (we are both called to love our neighbors). It is not atheism vs. religion (there are good and bad people in both groups; we are human and believing in God or not does not automatically make you a good person). It is not democrats vs. republicans. This is love versus hate. Plain and simple. You can be on the side of love, or on the side of hate.
I have picked my side, and I don’t care what your demographics are. If you can’t be on my side because I am Catholic, or because I don’t belong to your political party, or because I am related to Muslims, then I am really sorry.
By putting up walls among ourselves instead of working together, we just feed the hate of the other side.