The recent turmoil in Syria and Iraq has created a wave of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries. Over 2 million have settled in Turkey already. Jordan and Lebanon have taken in more than one million each. A new wave has now reached Hungary on their way to Germany which plans to accept 800,000 for this year.
A country’s decision to accept refugees depends on many factors, the most important of which involve conscience, culture, economics and politics. In the end, the refugees accepted are expected to turn out to be an asset rather than a liability. The decision requires boldness and vision because it is about the future being assessed at the present. However, the way a country accepts refugees says a lot about the characters of its people and its leaders.
Right now, the heavy burdens carried by Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey demonstrate great courage and admirable conscience, especially in view of their unimpressive economic status:
Population (millions): Lebanon 4.5, Jordan 6.5, Turkey 75.0.
GDP (per capita): Lebanon $9,928, Jordan $5,214, Turkey $10,972
At the most critical moment, Germany answers the call to accept 800,000 refugees for this year. Being the world’s 4th largest economy with a population of 81 million and a per capita GDP of $46,270, Germany has ample resources to accept more. However, it is not the economic factors that count. Many developed countries still sit on the sideline. Their excuses mostly revolve around not enough money, not enough jobs, and national security worries.
Germany’s willingness to take all those risks is admirable because she is not an Arab country first of all. She also has a recent dark history of racism and Jewish extermination. After her surrender in World War II and reunification 45 years later, Germany has achieved full redemption by admitting her past mistakes under Hitler, apologizing to the victimized countries, and paying compensation. Seeking redemption or asking for forgiveness is not easy for a proud nation that has risen from the ashes of war to become an economic powerhouse, but this is exactly what makes a country great.
Germany poses a big contrast to Japan which suffered the same fate. So far, successive Japanese leaders have failed to fully admit and apologize for their aggressions and cruelties in World War II. They consider themselves the victim of the two atomic bombs dropped by the US. On the other hand, Germany has refused to play victim of the million tons of conventional bombs dropped by the Allies on German cities. Worse, the Japanese government has consistently denied or played down their atrocities by re-writing Japanese textbooks. As a result, the new generation in Japan finds its own history conflicting with world history about Japanese behaviors prior to and during World War II. This is the big emotional burden created by the previous generation for failing to own up to their responsibilities and mistakes.
Thus the world has seen two vanquished then risen powers, one having fully redeemed herself and one having failed to do so. Germany has earned the goodwill and admiration of other countries. She has done well by doing good. The new German generation does not have to carry the burden of grave mistakes committed by the previous one. Chances are the Arab refugees being accepted will become good and grateful German citizens. Because most of them are young and able, they will add fresh blood and new talents to the aging German society. In the end, Germany will prove that the benefits of her actions outweigh all the risks.