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'Selfish' Germany's Warm Welcome to 800,000 Refugees

395px-Angela_Merkel_Juli_2010_-_3zu4Measuring a mere 137,000 square miles, Germany is not even as big as the U.S. state of Montana (147,000 sq. mi.).

Germany is home to 81 million people, compared with Montana’s one million. Yet this year alone, Germany, a “very selfish country,” according to Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly, will welcome 800,000 asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq and Africa, twice the number of illegal immigrants expected to slip into the United, where 322 million people occupy 3,8 million square miles.

“We welcome these refugees because this is morally and politically right,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a conservative whose name O’Reilly only mentions, if ever, with a snigger, and whom the America’s largest newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, has never deemed worthy of an in-depth profile in its opinion pages.

In classic American journalism, this East German pastor’s daughter staring down Vladimir Putin in his aggressive Ukraine policies, trying to keep the European Union united in the face of Greece’s despicable financial delinquency, and now dealing with a migration crisis comparable to the one that changed Europe forever 1,500 years ago would have been the running story for years.

But then when it comes to reporting foreign affairs, today’s American journalism differs greatly from the standards I was taught as a young Associated Press reporter back in the late nineteen-fifties.

In those days, mindless derision or haughty disregard of friendly foreign countries and their leaders were considered anathema in our craft. Today they are the norm.

Like their European neighbors, Germans stare aghast across the Atlantic where Donald Trump is rising in the polls with his proposal of building a wall along the Mexican border to keep illegal aliens out; Germans have unfortunate memories of The Wall built to prevent people from leaving the Communist-governed part of their country.

Now two-thirds of those “selfish” Germans are following Chancellor Merkel’s appeal to show mercy to those men, women and children risking their lives while running away from the horrors of the Islamic State whose murderous rise is not the consequence of German actions but primarily of America’s abandonment of Iraq and foolish “Arab Spring” utopianism.

Germany is running out of tents and buildings to accommodate these victims of a regime every bit as objectionable as National Socialism and Communism. Yes, tiny neo-Nazi groups do firebomb houses set aside for these asylum seekers, primarily in regions of the former Communist East Germany where for technical reasons residents were never exposed to the portrayal of democratic standards on West German television.

But according to opinion polls, two-thirds of all Germans favor their country’s acceptance of the current wave of asylum seekers. By the hundreds of thousands, volunteers come out showing their compassion in moving ways, by donating money, feeding and housing these strangers, and shielding them against fiendish attackers.

Clearly, this nation so often accused of abandoning its Christian roots displays a remarkable resilience of its internalized Christianity. Whatever Bill O’Reilly might opine, Christ’s admonition, “Love Thy neighbor,” is far from dead in Germany. That said, the worry that Germany’s already large Muslim community will grow even further with the arrival of probably millions of Afghans, Arabs and Africans is real and justified.

While many of the refugees are Christians, many more are Muslims fleeing from the atrocities inflicted on them by fellow Muslims. Who knows how many ISIl operatives enter Germany in the guise of asylum seekers? Who knows if the children or grandchildren of Muslims persecuted by other Muslims will not eventually change the Christian character of Germany by insisting on her adherence to Sharia law?

Then again, the ISIl crisis in the Middle East and Africa could also well turn out to be a trap for Islam in Germany, where many more Muslims are converting to Christianity every year than nominal Christians to Islam, according to Thomas Schirrmacher, chairman of the theological commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.

Not that the large state-related Protestant churches excel in evangelizing among immigrants, but individual clergymen and smaller denominations do. Pastor Gottfried Martens of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) in Berlin has accepted more than 600 Persians and Afghans into his small congregation and baptized 400 in the last two years. In Leipzig, the SELK’s Trinity parish has taken in so many ex-Muslims that it had to move is services to a large sanctuary of the state-related Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony.

In Berlin’s largely Muslim Neukölln district, a congregation founded by Sister Rosemarie Götz, a Protestant deaconess, grew from 20 to 130 members in three years, mostly because of Persian converts. “We keep growing all the time,” says Sister Rosemarie, “even though some leave us because of job opportunities in other cities.”

A Roman Catholic archbishop confided to Thomas Schirrmacher that he personally baptizes an average of 50 former Muslims every month. Many priests and pastors do the same discretely without reporting it to liberal church leaders who deem any reference to Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) as politically incorrect as reminders to the biblical truth that God is the lord of history operating on an infinitely larger time scale than humans.

All this, like so many other stunning developments in Europe, is never reported in the American media, not even in conservative or Christian publications preferring to ignore Europe or whinny prematurely about its demise. They were offered this story over and over again. Nobody, except Christianity Today, was interested.

It’s of course cheaper not to station correspondents with language skills in Germany and the rest of Continental Europe, and have Washington know-alls badmouth the Old World instead, usually with stereotypical references to its Nazi past and its allegedly “Social Democrat” presence.

By the way, Chancellor Merkel is a Christian Democrat.

Photo credit: “Angela Merkel Juli 2010 – 3zu4” by Armin Linnartz. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Commons.

Uwe Siemon-Netto, the former religious affairs editor of United Press International, has been an international journalist for 54 years, covering North America, Vietnam, the Middle East and Europe for German publications. Dr. Siemon-Netto is the founder and director emeritus of the League of Faithful Masks and Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life in Irvine, California.

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