The pride, or shame, of Europe are not what these days are about. Not even the people on the march. It’s our lives and freedom that are at stake.
Refugees are coming, no matter what. They will risk their lives in search of a better life (or life at all), and many will make it, no matter how many obstacles we put in their way. They will board airtight lorries as well as rickety boats, climb through barbed wire, cross the sea, and walk hundreds of kilometres in flip flops, if need be, carrying their children on their backs. I am sure they would also climb walls, duck under spring guns, and cross mine fields if it came to that. It still would’t be worse than what they’ve already been through.
The question is, what happens to them once they are settled. Will they fall prey to hate preachers, become radicals, and threaten the stability of the continent?
Or will they actually get a chance of integrating themselves into our society, become convinced that our way of living and the values we keep preaching are indeed better? Will we show them that those values – freedom, equality, human rights, the best possible life for the greatest number – mean something, or are they just hollow phrases that we throw overboard the minute they come under threat?
This is the moment to show the world we won’t. We need to live these values, now more than ever, and that includes welcoming those arriving every day now, finding food and shelter for them and giving them a perspective. Let’s teach them our languages, and our culture, because it’s something worth being taught, not something we desperately cling to out of fear. Out of self-preservation, if not out of kindness. Let’s also learn from them what there is to be learned. I’m sure it’s a lot.
If we fail in that – which right now it doesn’t look like we will – we fail as a society, but the change will still happen. In fact, it will happen much more drastically, and the result will look much bleaker.