Refugee crises are invariably wicked problems. Every country wants to control its own borders. No country just wants to open the gates completely wide. After all, what good would it do to let countries be completely swamped? No one benefits when anarchy is spread everywhere.
On the other hand, most countries want to help, particularly their neighbours. But that is not always easy to do.
What we need is calm and compassionate consideration and temperate with rationality. That is not an easy task.
Turning our backs on the refugees is not the answer for most of us. Most of us don’t want to be Pharisees. We don’t want to turn our back on the poor soul mired in the mud or lying on the ground. But how can we help? Destroying our lives and those of our loved ones is also not the answer. What is the answer? The first thing that is sure, is the answer is not simple. Miriam Toews was right. Kindness is complicated. As a result we will make mistakes.
Melissa Martin in her Winnipeg Free Press article said she did not believe that the way we deal with difficult refugee problems is inevitable. we must make choices. Yet Poland has shown to us what is possible if we work together. Big problems can be solved. Only with teamwork would it be possible for a small country to do what Poland has done in accepting 2.5 million refugees.
People on all sides tend to oversimplify problems and their solutions. As she said,
“News, often, has an unfortunate way of flattening places and events into a narrow focus without nuance, without texture. In one such narrative, Poland becomes all good; in another, its treatment of largely Muslim asylum-seekers caught on the border, it’s all bad.
The reality is, of course, is that it’s neither. Yes, it’s in Poland where a border dispute has forced people to suffer in limbo, but it’s also in Poland where activists and aid groups risk everything to get food and warm clothes to the people huddled at the Belarusian border. Some have been caught by police and taken before a judge; still, their brave and ferociously loving work continues.”
Poland has shown us clouds from both sides. They have shown us the best of people, but have also shown a dark side. I remember when my own Member of Parliament—presumably a good Mennonite—showed us what the Pharisees were like. When people from Central and South America were trying to enter Canada because they feared what Trump and his cronies would do to them, and fled here across a frozen Red River, he told us to fear these refugees and complained that our Prime Minister was opening the borders wide. That was very different from the Poles that Martin described in her article. People living near the border sneaked into the woods to hang bundles of aid in the trees even though they were threatened by the police. One of them told the New York Times, “no one will die in my forest.” There was the Good Samaritan—the good neighbour. My pious member of Parliament looked down on the hapless people freezing in the cold, and urged us to do the same. on the other hand, Martin described how volunteers in Emerson in the winter of 2017 when there was an unprecedented wave of people walking across the border north into Canada from the US tried to make sure no one froze to death. More good neighbours.
As Melissa Martin said,
“The bad in the world, and in people, speaks in cruelty and destruction. But if you want to see the good in people, you will find it in the same place, and from there you can see the foundations of bridges that are waiting to be built. The lesson of Poland’s refugee crisis — not two, but one — is that the good is ever-present, waiting for an invitation to happen.”
Each of us can choose to be a Pharisee or a Samaritan. And we may have the chance to make that choice more than once. One time we can be a Samaritan and the next a Pharisee. It’s all up to us.