Willkommenskultur [welcoming culture] has just been declared the official Wort des Jahres [Word of the Year] in Austria. It sums up the aspirations of those in Austria and Germany who want to create a welcoming atmosphere for migrants, both institutionally and individually. Based on my own experience as a foreigner in Germany, I believe that Germans as individuals are often more welcoming and open than they give their society credit for, but the current challenge is immense.
I asked friends about their personal encounters with refugees and their experience as volunteers. I received many responses, but one stood out, and I want to share it. Our friend Martin and his family live in a small village (fewer than 4,000 inhabitants) in a rural region of southern Germany. Here’s his story:*
TIME has just announced its Person of the Year for 2015:
“For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is TIME’s Person of the Year.”
Each year, the magazine profiles a person (or sometimes a group, idea or object) that “for better or for worse has done the most to influence the events of the year.” I think it’s a great choice. I assume the accompanying inspirational message about civil courage and leadership is meant primarily for TIME’s American readership, but it’s nice to think it might provide a bit of moral support to my friends and former neighbors in Germany.