In a show of the sort of impeccable leadership that is expected of a steward of a sizable proportion of the world’s wealth, the German leadership has expressed a preparedness to accept up to 800,000 asylum seekers this year. This is in the face of an unprecedented migration of mostly war displaced refugees who are seeking safe haven in Europe.
In a decisive policy move, the government of Chancellor Angela Markel announced that Syrian refugees who enter Germany would be permitted to seek asylum protection irrespective of where they entered the European Union from—a policy shift from the normal asylum application process.
I here submit that history, and indeed providence, will judge the nation and people of Germany honorably for this altruistic act of kindness towards the helpless and the infirm. In fact, with this singular gesture of humane compassion, Germany may have demonstrably erased its past history of being branded as intolerance and unwelcoming to strangers.
During this largest movement of people since the Second World war, Germany stands out in Europe, and indeed the entire world, as a beacon of hope for a suffering mass of humanity who long for sanctuary. And the country has reached out to these needy refugees with bold confidence—from a position of strength.
What we are seeing here is an unwitting branding of Germany as a core compassionate country—one that confidently accepts the weighty responsibility of global leadership.
It would seem that Germany’s new Willkommenskultur or ‘Welcome Culture’ is being embraced nationwide. Although there still remains small clusters of a vocal ultra-rightwing holdouts that still insist on holding onto the old ways of shunning foreigners.
The whole world is indeed watching and taking notes—with muted admiration, as Germany leads Europe with compassion amidst a colossal migration crisis that is proving to test the very foundation of Europe’s common union.
I was quite intrigued to read, in a news story, about a village called Elchingen, in the German state of Bavaria, where a group of local native created an organization called the ‘Friends of Asylum Seekers’.
I have to admit, this is not the sort of story one normally expect to read about small German town and villages. It was a charming story that strengthened my faith in the noble quality of the human spirit. I hope this inspiring gesture of kindness and compassion endures the test of the German psyche.
It is in Germany after all, just a year ago, that vicious racist group such as the Pegida movement unleashed the Continent’s most brutal, hate-fueled, assaults on refugees—which included arson attacks on refugee centers. Let’s not be naive, the sentiments that these groups espouse is still entrenched in the psyche of a small but vocal segment of the German population. However, it’s probably more entrenched in eastern Germany, which has remained somewhat unwelcoming to foreigners.
Political commentators can recall that it was equally in Germany where, in the 1990s—when a surge of refugees flooded into Germany from the former communist bloc countries to escape the scourge of the Balkan war, that the government took a harsh position against them. The then Chancellor Helmut Kohl echoed the popular sentiment of Germans at the time, when he stated bluntly that Germany was “not an immigrant country”. In other words those hoping to take refuge in Germany were not welcomed.
But is seems that a new, more compassionate Germany is emerging—a 21st Century Germany. A new opportunity for Germany to redefine itself came after a weekend that an influx of 20,000 mostly Middle Eastern migrants and asylum seekers entered Germany from Hungary. The staggering number of new arrivals necessitated the government of Germany reassure its citizens that it was quite capable of handling the crisis.
In a demonstration of this new welcoming spirit of the German State, Chancellor Angela Markel—in a hastily organized news conference in Berlin, stated unambiguously, “I am happy that Germany has become a country that many people outside Germany now associate with hope.” This is a telling remark that speaks volumes of an emerging German global brand.
Indeed, Germany is embracing this challenge of welcoming hundreds of thousands of the world’s huddled masses with the sort of optimism and confidence that used to be aptly exhibited by only a superpower nation.
Amidst the compassionate optimism, all Germans agree that their country cannot, and must not, shoulder the burden of this crisis all alone. Many of the country’s political leaders are now turning to Brussels to evolve an equitable system of shared responsibility amongst the EU 28 nations States.
It seems to me that Germany’s recent move to temporarily close its border to the horde of asylum-seekers is aimed at compelling reluctant European leaders to accede to a quota system of redistributing refugees across the European Union.