Fear is a more powerful force than I once realised.
I was prompted yesterday to come outside the realms of my usual blog to inspect a theme which drives the creation of nuclear weapons.
I was deeply moved by stories of Yazidi women, children being held up for five hours at airports and people who have already suffered terribly, being held in detention centres like criminals. Many of them running from desperate situations to lands that they were told promised hope, liberty and equality. Not if you are a refugee in this era I guess.
Great Britain and the USA have a long history of welcoming the afflicted. After the end of the 2nd World War for example, many Jews and other persecuted minorities were eventually allowed refuge in these lands. The acknowledgment of the wrongs committed against them, and faith, fuelled politicians to compassion and allowed persecuted peoples entry into countries.
On a work trip to Berlin a year ago, I went on a bus tour of the city with a guide who painted a historic picture of how the city developed for us tourists to understand the foundations on which the country was built. She said; 'After the persecution of the Protestants in France, Germany benefitted a lot from French immigrants moving to Berlin, they learnt from French culture, culinary differences, and skills. This brought in a new level of innovation to Germany and allowed the country to grow stronger and more diverse in its workforce.'
Germany has the strongest economy in Europe, and it attributes this, in part, to a history of welcoming new immigrants. Their skills and experiences have enhanced German society, and economy, for the better.
I have a German friend whose parents are originally from a part of the former Soviet Union, they arrived in Germany with very little but have become incredibly successful in their trade. I myself am from a migrant family, where my father had reached the pinnacle of his career in our country of origin, Burkina Faso, and was invited for an interview here in the UK for a job that he very much excelled at and spent the majority of his career in.
History has shown time and again that in the long term, immigrants are a net benefit to society. So what is stopping countries from welcoming them now you may ask?
One word. F-E-A-R.
Fear is the main thing that has made towns, states or regions vote against welcoming people into their countries, perhaps because they look, act and think differently to them. The surprising thing is that many of these people have had little interaction with immigrants in their lifetime.
Fear is what kept apartheid going for so long. Fear of the unknown and how integration may change society and culture. Fear is what led us, in the UK, to vote 'leave' in the EU referendum and ultimately fear is what is increasing waiting times for refugees locked in detention centres (some are children!) after already overcoming an ordeal in their own countries.
Fear is not a gift we have been given and we do not have to accept fear as the status quo. Let's look deep into history, learn from it and see the true legacy that free movement of peoples' brings us. Let us not allow ourselves to be dominated by fear. Let's look past our own biases and divisions, to the truth that unity has brought the strongest countries in the world success and victory time and again. The U.S., U.K, and Germany are the strongest cases for immigration strengthening a society.
It is not the fault of one politician alone. If we allow fear take up residence in our minds and hearts, we have lost half the battle. I for one choose freedom instead of fear.