Football stadium in Germany shows it support for refugees.
Over the past few months we have been repeatedly asking ourselves the question: “what do we stand for?”. The repetitive, somewhat annoying ad which has been a regular on television screens was intended to spark a national conversation regarding what values we shared as New Zealanders.
Perhaps foolishly, I assumed a shared value we all have as New Zealanders is compassion. Compassion for our family and friends, our fellow countrymen and our wider global community. When the world calls, New Zealand stands ready. This was true of our country when world war broke out in 1939. The good fight was pursued against a dangerously divisive regime which by 1945 had murdered perhaps more than six million European Jews. After the war New Zealand, naturally, accepted large numbers of Polish refugees into the country to live, work and rebuild their lives.
One such refugee to arrive in New Zealand following the devastations of a world war was a Ms. Ruth Lazar. She would later marry a Mr. George Key, and they would bare a son – John Key.
That’s a memo to Mike Hosking, the sadly bigoted callers I regrettably decided to listen to today on Newstalk ZB and the National Party. Without the compassion of the New Zealand government and its people following the second world war there would be no Prime Minister John Key.
Now New Zealand, under Prime Minister John Key, has committed itself to the war against emerging terror group Islamic State. Fair enough, some will argue. It will take an international response to defeat the Islamic state. But surely part of this duty, in us as a country joining this war, is to make sure that those citizens displaced by war (much like John Key’s mother in the 1940s) are safe. This is something Germany is doing despite not being involved in the Middle East at this time – they’ve recently welcomed 800,000 asylum seekers.
Then there inevitably comes the question of cost. Funnily enough, those who a pro-war in Syria, but not pro-helping those unfairly displaced by it, never stop to ask what the cost of us deploying New Zealand soldiers into the Middle East is. However, when the question of refugees comes up, money is automatically a factor.
Personally, I believe the issue of human life is above any sort of debate on money. This is not an ordinary case of refugees fleeing war – this is a full on crisis, and we should act accordingly. But the reality is a prosperous country like New Zealand allows for the amnesty of well fewer than 1,000 refugees a year. We can afford to double that, especially if we believe we can help fund a war.
Then there comes the question of what happens to these people once they arrive here. People seem to have created this idea in their heads that those seeking asylum are all unskilled and uneducated people from a dessert. The reality is they’re not that different from you and I. Among the refugees are health professionals, teachers and business owners. The ones ONE News spoke to tonight spoke of their comfortable, middle-class lives back in Syria before war broke out. There is no question that the majority of these people would be beneficial to New Zealand society. And even if they are frail, or old, it is our humanitarian duty as a international nation which is co-operating in a war in the Middle East to help them.
Let’s open up our arms again, New Zealand, and be a shining example of what the rest of the world should be doing.