M. Jackson Group Update – September 2015 – Supporting Refugees

This month’s article is again from Ken Pope’s listserv. It seems like a really good example of altruism at a societal level. It can happen.  His post in its entirety is as follows:
The *Washington Post* includes an article: “5 inspiring ways Germans are supporting refugees” by Rick Noack.

Here are some excerpts:

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Much has been written about the dark side of how Europe is dealing with the influx of refugees. But in Germany, individuals are finding innovative ways to welcome those who have fled their countries.

1. Germans are cooking with refugees

One reason for the tensions in eastern Germany is that many people “know only a few or no foreigners; they are scared because they have no idea what to expect from the influx of refugees,” political scientist Werner Patzelt explained to The Washington Post, referring to anti-refugee and anti-Islam protests in the eastern part of the country.


2. Welcoming refugees goes viral

Social media has played an ambiguous role in how Germans have dealt with the refugees in recent months: Platforms such as Facebook have been used to organize pro-refugee events, but some people have used the relative anonymity of the Internet to stir up hatred. Media outlets have been flooded with comments that often crossed the line between criticism and hate speech, which is a serious crime in Germany.


However, there has also been an opposing trend: Using the Hashtag #WelcomeChallenge, people have organized mass donations.

In online videos, Germans have taken to social networks to explain what they have done for refugees and to urge their friends to do the same.

“We all can do something,” German movie director Michael Simon de Normier was quoted as saying by the German newspaper Der Westen in a video.

“What’s important is to send a signal. It’s all about (creating) a welcoming culture.”

In a Facebook group that has 10,000 members, Germans try to match up requests for donations and services with volunteers. This campaign and others appear to have been a success so far: Many reception centers and groups say they are receiving so many donations that they cannot accept all of them.

In some villages and cities, refugees have been welcomed by residents who awaited them at reception centers. For instance, in the city of Hof, as many as 3,000 people greeted new arrivals last week.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, refugees were welcomed with flowers.

3. Some Germans are accepting refugees as their roommates

Although they could earn money by renting their spare room on Airbnb or other platforms, some Germans are inviting refugees to stay in their homes for free.

On a Web site that’s similar to standard accommodation Web sites, those interested in participating share their offerings.

One of those who benefited from this idea is a 19-year-old Syrian named Salah, who found shared accommodations in the western German city of Darmstadt within days. His roommates made the decision to host him because they wanted to help refugees but also wanted to learn more about a different culture. “At the latest, when we got to know him, we were sure that we’d feel comfortable with him,” one of the hosts, Lukas, told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Hosting refugees privately has become more popular as officials become increasingly unable to provide adequate apartment or reception center spots.


4. Young entrepreneurs created a smartphone app that welcomes refugees

Dresden has seen a wave of anti-immigration protests and has been the center of the so-called Pegida movement, which attracted as many as 20,000 weekly protesters this year but has since shrunk.

After months of negative headlines coming out of the city and neighboring villages, arson attacks on refugee housing projects and violence between police officers and right-wing extremists, a group of young entrepreneurs decided to show that there are many people who support the refugees.

They created an app that allows refugees to access crucial local services and information. The app answers basic questions such as: What’s the address of the local authority responsible for immigration matters? How does one submit in the necessary paperwork?

5. Refugees are allowed to take college courses for free

About 60 German colleges, including elite institutions such as the University of Munich, are allowing refugees to attend courses as guest students for free.

The schools are even paying for transportation and offering scholarships for books, as WorldViews reported earlier.


“Migration is a task for all of society, and universities must do their part,” the president of the University of Hildesheim, Wolfgang-Uwe Friedrich, told Handelsblatt.

Meanwhile, a Berlin-based student has founded an online university specifically dedicated to refugees interested in pursuing their studies. Many young Syrians, in particular, were forced to interrupt their education and are looking for ways to pursue their studies in Germany. The university advertises its programs with the slogan: “Internationally accredited degrees. For everyone. Anytime. Everywhere. For free,” and is being financed by private sponsors.

“So what is the catch? There is no catch,” the organizers wrote on their Web site. “Then why are we doing this ? We are doing this because the time has come for us as humans to realize that the only way for us to live peacefully and prosper is by aiding each other to find our own ways in life.”

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The article is online at:

Ken Pope


“May I become at all times, both now and forever,
a protector for those without protection
a guide for those who have lost their way
a ship for those with oceans to cross
a bridge for those with rivers to cross
a sanctuary for those in danger
a lamp for those who need light
a place of refuge for those needing shelter
and a servant to all those in need.”
–Shantideva, 8th Century Buddhist at Nalanda University in Bihar, India

Take care,