Putting migration into perspective

There is no greater reward than making a friend out of an enemy

To the Expositor:

On November 15, 2010, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, reminded her party, the ruling Christian Democratic Union, of their Judeo-Christian tradition. She stated that “we don’t have too much Islam in Germany, we have too little Christianity.”

Germany, smaller than Montana, has over 83 million inhabitants on a landmass of just over 357,000 square kilometres. There are 230 people per square kilometre. Canada, the world’s second largest landmass on the globe, after Russia and before the United States of America, has a landmass of almost 10 million kilometres and there are just over three inhabitants per square kilometre.

As individuals we are almost helpless to get involved in the current refugee crisis. Should we be worried about terrorism? Perhaps, but this is about their terror, not ours.

There has to be no greater reward than making a friend out of an enemy. We have an opportunity here. This was done when the Marshall Plan gave Germany a chance to rise from the ashes of the Second World War. Still, we ourselves have observed that memories of injustices and atrocities are long and yearly we officially remember the fallen during those great wars and privately, we mourn them. What makes us think that the people who are in current war zones won’t remember the history of their suffering? Don’t want retribution? Unlike Christians who ought to adhere to the credo of Christ to turn the other cheek, others march to a different drummer: they want their satisfaction in the law of retaliation: an eye for an eye. This is Old Testament stuff, something most Christians don’t seem to know. This is decidedly un-Christian. That’s the way I remember it.

War is big business and therefore has to be sold to normally peaceful citizens by circuitous means, but you don’t have to twist our arms too much. A suitable pretext, tweaking our emotions, is never far away. The shot that started the First World War reverberated around the world: a mere month after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in July of 1914 by a Serb at Sarajewo, Austria declared war on Serbia and the world descended into chaos. The air then was as ripe for a major conflagration as it is today. It takes outrage, like the sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania, still shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories, to fire up the masses. The reprisals after the First World War set the stage for the second one.

The benefits to this continent by immigrants are irrefutably etched into history. No one can stop the progress of man’s evolution, his migrations and explorations whether they are born out of a thirst for freedom, knowledge or profit. However, man’s insatiable greed must be tempered by responsibilities. Nowadays, at all levels of human endeavour, much is made of our freedoms and rights but little about our responsibilities towards each other and the earth we call home.

Again, as in the past, a wave of new energetic and courageous immigrants could be Canada’s gain. The model of how to get ahead against all odds has always been formulated by immigrants. Does it not strike people as amazing that most people of the world speak English when we still can’t deal with two official languages? If allowed to work, they will roll up their sleeves and prosper. To such people the goal of peace and freedom of speech is worth dying for. They leave behind much more than the ruins of mortar and stone and their professions: their old or infirm parents and family members who cannot embark on such a harrowing odyssey. When my own parents fled oppression, they never saw nor spoke to their elderly parents again. This was a sacrifice made for us, their children and it couldn’t have been easy.

The landscapes are forever changing and this is part of our evolution and by virtue of our inherent belligerence it is perhaps also our destiny that we keep massacring each other for some despot’s warped aspirations.

Once the sentiments of pity and compassion have been supplanted by the stark realities of so many refugees, how will Germans reward Mrs. Merkel? Will they turf her out? The world will view this from a safe distance and shrug. Nobody loves super achievers; they make us feel inadequate. For those who wonder where Christ is in this predominantly Christian country called Canada, it appears that Christ has taken up residence in Germany: love they neighbour as thyself.

Helga Reilly