Note: This post has nothing to do with education. I felt compelled to write it in light of recent events in Europe.
Today, I am German. I don’t live in Germany and I am not a German citizen. My family has no trace of any German heritage. Although I do like the occasional bratwurst and beer and I admire German engineering, I am not overly enamoured with the German stereotype of being the dour and efficient taskmasters of Europe. In fact, I live in Canada, and my passport proudly bears the Canadian coat of arms.
As the world is finally comprehending the vast human tragedy of the Syrian refugee crisis, Germany has been more Canadian than Canada – at least based on what I believe my country should represent. Germany led by its leader Angela Merkel has been the only major western country consistently asking “How can we help these people?”. In contrast, other leaders have been asking, “How can we keep them out?” or “How can we send them back?”. Chancellor Merkel has courageously stood up to be counted. In the face of Germans waving placards accusing her of being the people’s traitor, Angela Merkel said, “There can be no tolerance of those who question the dignity of other people. There is no tolerance of those who are not ready to help, where, for legal and humanitarian reasons, help is due.” Germany walks that talk: it has taken in over 800,000 asylum seekers. Will Hutton of The Guardian commented, “Angela Merkel’s humane stance on immigration is a lesson to us all.” Unlike most political leaders, Chancellor Merkel truly views the situation as a humanitarian crisis, instead of a political one, with the key question being “How can we help our fellow human beings?”.
Other major countries, including Canada and the UK, should be ashamed of our relative inaction. My Prime Minister asserts that we have the most generous refugee policy in the world. Mr. Harper, let’s place political will and action behind that statement. Steven Harper can look to the actions of his Progressive Conservative predecessors in the Vietnamese boat people crisis for precedent and inspiration. As for now, I consider myself a proud German.