Wednesday, September 16, 2015

You don't have to live like a refugee...

It's good to be back after our long weekend.  We had a great time in Austria and, of course, swimming in a pool full of beer was the highlight of our trip!  One thing that came up, though, was the recent massive influx of refugees from Syria.  They have been flooding into Hungary, Austria, and Germany.  As a result of the thousands of people showing up in Europe, measures are being taken to stem the tide a bit.  Yesterday in the newspaper, Bill saw the headline that Austria and Germany have started to close their borders.

Closing the borders is probably a good idea.  Many people in Europe want to help the displaced Syrians fleeing their country, but some of the cities are being overwhelmed by the influx of people.  Moreover, there is a significant security risk in allowing an unabated flow of refugees to come to Europe.  Most of the people coming in are likely good people running for their lives.  But we can't forget that there is also a risk of terrorists being mixed in with the crowd.  If I were someone up to no good, I think I might take full advantage of the situation at hand right now.  The local authorities are understandably concerned.

Our landlady came by yesterday and talked to Bill about the situation.  A lot is being done to help the Syrian people rushing from their homeland.  As a matter of fact, old US military facilities in Heidelberg are being repurposed and providing shelter to refugees.  There's also an empty IBM building located in a town near where we live that may be made into housing for people from Syria.

The heightened security will be an inconvenience to those who are used to being able to cross the borders at will.  On the other hand, the new security measures will provide work... perhaps to people who need work.  There are people out of work in Germany.

I have noticed that older Germans are pretty wary about this influx of people from the Middle East.  Germany already has a pretty significant Turkish population, which some people don't seem to like much.  While Muslims are certainly allowed to practice their faith, they aren't allowed to disrupt the local culture, which I think it a good thing.  Mosques in Germany are not enormous and, in fact, if you don't look closely, you might not even notice them.  Of course, there are huge cathedrals here, everywhere you look.  When I visited Turkey in 1996, I saw many minarets and mosques everywhere, but no church steeples.

Older folks seem to be afraid that all of the people coming from the Middle East will affect the way the country runs.  To be honest, I can't really blame them.  I saw how a big influx of Mormons to my mother's hometown has changed the local culture in many ways, big and small.  While I'm not sure Germans would stand for sharia law or massive mosques being built, I can see how some people are nervous that their homeland might change.  One man said he was afraid it would turn Germany into a "slum", which I thought was kind of an unfortunate comment.  On the other hand, the man has lived long enough to see what can happen.  He is himself from Greece and has lived in Canada and Germany, but those countries were more like his own.

Maybe the influx of refugees from Syria will bring about some positive changes.  Aspects of Syrian culture could even enrich Germany.  No doubt, there will be things that will come of the arrival of migrants... good and bad.  It's like war.  Many people think war is all bad, but I disagree.  War is a part of life and while it is ultimately destructive, there are good things that can come out of war.  New understanding and cultural education.  Babies born.  Introduction to different mindsets...

We'll see what the coming weeks bring.  Hopefully, there will be no terrorism.  

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