CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 10 November 2018

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An unseen generosity

I met Alamid while I was in Germany. He told me he was a refugee from Syria. Their house had been partly destroyed by barrel bombs dropped by the armies of Bashar al-Assad, the Russian-supported Syrian dictator.

Alamid, together with his family and an uncle, is among the hundreds of non-combatant families bombed out of home who has lost all of his possessions. They survive the bombs by taking shelter in basements.

His 25-yar-old male cousin, Jambal, volunteered to go out into the danger zone to get food and water, but he was caught by people from the Islamic State.

Alamid later learned that he was taken to a camp and forced to wear a suicide vest, blowing himself up at an army checkpoint. Otherwise his entire family would have been killed. This is a regular tactic used by the Islamic State.

Their forces grabbed any one they could catch in the ruins of the town where Alamid lived. They took away the women and girls they caught to another town and sold them into sex slavery.

The young girls are like commodities sold in exchange for money, guns or ammunition.

When Jamal did not return, Alamid and his family feared the worst and they hid for weeks, surviving on the meagre supplies that they had stored up.

After a counterattack by rebel forces, the Islamic State withdrew and Alamid and his family survived.

Alamid told his story to a generous Germany family that welcomed him into their home. He was given a room and is in the process of learning to speak and write German. They have treated him like a member of their family.

Thousands of German families are doing similar things. Communities are taking in refugees and, without media attention or fanfare, they care for and protect them. This generosity is largely unknown to the world.

It is happening all over Germany and puts those few who drive refugees out to shame. A German lady working with Caritas Germany told me, “The German people will prevail over the neo-Nazis,” an anti-refugee and anti-migrant party that won a considerable number of seats in a recent regional election.

Alamid talked about the terrible fears and suffering that the people in Syria endure. Some families feared they would be captured by the Islamic State, so as entire families they made suicide pacts.

They surrounded themselves with explosives so they were ready to blow themselves up and die together if they are in danger, rather than suffer rape and murder.

The Islamic State troops rape mothers and girls in front of their husbands, fathers or brothers and then shoot them. For some families, mass suicide is the only solution they can think of.

A 90-year-old German woman said during a parish meeting, “We were all refugees after the war, with nothing to eat and nowhere to go. Our houses were all destroyed. We know what it feels like to be like them.”

The love, care and compassion that is being shown is exemplary. Filipinos living in Germany have expressed their support for the refugees and shared their own happy experiences of welcome to Germany as migrant workers. Many are settled, well-employed and married.

A charity worker told me that she doesn’t believe the accusation of sexual assault in Cologne at the New Year was as widespread as reported. She also doubts if it happened at all.

It is now emerging that it may have been a right-wing neo-Nazi plot to disparage the refugees and turn public opinion against them. If it was such a plot, then it worked.

Hard-hearted politicians and anti-migrant groups are the dark side of human nature, the side that wants to keep their place on the planet entirely for themselves.

Many of these anti-migrant power brokers live in a false fear spread by racist groups that whip up mobs to attack buildings housing refugees.

They do not understand the hardship and suffering these people have already endured. Families send their youth on the migrant trail to save them from being forced into the Islamic State.

A video has been seen showing as many as 50 children, some as young a 10, being brainwashed to make them killers.

Above all, what is needed in this situation is compassion, understanding and knowledge. We need to respect the dignity of the people, reach out and help to end the terrible suffering of those caught on the Greek border.

It is not our job to add to their hardship, but our challenge is to give them freedom and a chance for a better life.

            • Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org