In the past days Germany has been living under a cotton could. Far from being connected to weather, this image well describes the climate in the country. We lived through days of terror, days of casualties and death. Life has changed in Munich, Cologne and Berlin. Life goes on as always under the cloud, but it’s strangely blurred, marked by a slower pace.
People continue going to coffee shops, but cappuccino cups make less noise than usual, even conversations are quieter. People continue taking the train, but watchfully control the suitcase on the opposite seat, as well as their “awkward” travel companions. People continue driving their cars, but they are less impatient, and fewer drivers are honking their horns. Other things have suddenly become more important than German punctuality.
For example, in the aftermath of the Munich shooting, that left ten dead, for security reasons public transport was shut down. Many people were literally unable to return to their homes. How did Munich’s welcoming population react? They launched the #offenetuer (eng. “open door”) hashtag on Twitter and opened their homes, offering strangers a meal and a bed for the night. They opened their doors and their hearts. Many churches, mosques and hotels did the same on that night. A laudable gesture!
After several newscasts and special programs, one of the main TV channels changed its palimpsest again. In the traditional show “Wort zum Sonntag” (ital. Sunday word), the Cardinal of Munich Reinhard Marx, one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors, took the floor.
He appealed to coexistence, urged the government to step up efforts to protect its citizens and underlined in clear terms: as Christians we don’t want fear to take over our lives.
His words accurately reflect the feelings of a large part of the non-Christian population; coupled by a widespread spirit of defiance: now more than ever! A hand-written poster near one of the sites of the murder in Bavaria reads:
“You will not have my hatred!”
Will it be the same when the victim is a son, a friend or a spouse?
The recent attacks show that we could all happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong moment. Even now, during the World Youth Day, security is an underlying theme. Thus perplexity made it way through the cotton layer. Reaching a balance between security and freedom, between defending oneself and showing openness is not as easy task. Whether we like to admit it or not,
the refugee question is again a heated issue . The warmth of welcome has withered; but hardliners fortunately did not prevail – as happened in other European Countries.
In the meantime, also volunteers are asking: will we manage? And how? The debate is sadly governed by emotions, not knowing how to listen or exchange ideas: “Control all the refugees!” – one side shouts. “No to generalised suspicions!”, the other replies. Indeed, but not going so far as a general absolution.
The German Episcopal Conference has taken a clear stand. It expressly appointed its own delegate responsible for the refugee question, demanded clear asylum procedures, and promoted a culture of solidarity. “No to religious hatred”, was the appeal after the brutal murder of the priest in France. Such good judgement exposes the Church to new enemies, as happened in the past with negative reactions on social media. The bishops have also said that some of the refugees’ expectations are too high, and that Germany’s reception cannot be extended to all the needy persons in the world.
What will happen when the cotton cloud will dissolve? I believe that the German people are capable of working hard when they want something badly. Like in the European football championship. This time they even managed to defeat the Italian team. As an exception.
(*) Deputy editor-in-chief KNA (Catholic News Agency – Germany)