This story from the Daily Caller is a bit off the beaten path, but I found it fascinating enough to want to share it here. Given the current debate in Europe over how to handle mass migration and the flood of primarily Syrian refugees, this is a story which might contribute to that conversation. It’s particularly pertinent because it involves both Germany and Austria, two nations who have reacted to the swelling numbers of new arrivals in very different ways.
This particular tale has to do with Aras Bacho, a 19-year-old Yazidi Christian refugee from Syria who is now living in Germany. (It should also be noted that Bacho writes columns for a local Huffington Post edition in Germany.) Seeing the divisive nature of the debate over immigrants in nearby Austria, he wrote an “open letter” to the people of Austria to share his thoughts about how they should be treating their new guests. (Emphasis added)
“Austrians and refugees should go on joint excursions and learn together. This makes the newcomer smarter, and can see how an Austrian lives and discuss with him,” he began.
Bacho continued his note outlining ways in which refugees can become neighbors and friends with Austrians, and then suggests Austrians should donate money to refugees out of obligation.
The taxes Austrians pay, which in part go to governmental efforts that handle refugees, are not enough, according to Bacho. Austrians should be giving additional money to refugees to support them on top of taxes, because Jesus tells them to.
“‘If necessary, give them your house and all your money,’” Bacho writes, quoting the Bible. “As you can see, not all Christians abide by these guidelines,” he added.
Bacho goes on to insist that Austrians have to take refugees into their own homes and that integration only works if it’s a two-way street.
I suppose we should at least offer a tip of the hat to young Mr. Bacho for supporting Christian values and keeping up with his Bible studies. And I think his heart is in the right place when he suggests more conversations between the groups, making it easier for the immigrants to learn both the language and customs of their new country. But beyond that, the overall tone of this letter is probably not going to win him many converts in Austria. The attitude on display is not uncommon from far too many other stories we’ve heard out of Europe since the refugee crisis began and definitely could use a bit of softening.
First of all, the Austrians already pay money into support for the refugees in their country in the form of taxes. Others donate above and beyond that through charitable organizations. But it’s not a requirement and not everyone can afford it. Even if they can, they are still under no obligation to do so, even if you want to lecture them with Bible quotes.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in this missive, however, comes with Bacho’s interpretation of integration. As Inigo Montoya famously said, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. The Austrians don’t have to integrate. They’re already Austrian. If you’re moving to their country, you’re the one who needs to learn the language, the customs and ensure that you integrate with them.
And give them your house and all your money? Yes, I realize it’s a lesson from scripture, but in the real world, you’d have to be approaching sainthood to literally do it. Prodding people about the amount they are giving to you is more likely to annoy them than prompt them to give even more. What this really boils down to is an apparent lack of gratitude for the enormous burden that most of Europe has already taken on. Austria is already on the verge of basically slamming their doors on any further immigration. Letters such as this will probably only hasten the process.