Dolores Richter, a member of the ZEGG community, is part of a group in Bad Belzig exploring deep listening with refugees.
I live in a town which has hosted many asylum seekers. We see each other every day in the food store, in the street. There are more every day. We got to know when the buses come and gathered musicians, baked cakes and made music for their arrival. We want to let them know that they are welcome. The social worker in the refugee home was open to this but also challenged. Some days later she said: I would like you to come back for the next bus. But will you? If not all the people will ask where are all those friendly people who welcomed us?
This is how many invitations and meetings started. We start with word and name games, sometimes with German, sometimes with Syrian words. Thus everybody comes into the situation stumbling over a language that they don´t know, which is humourous and acts as an icebreaker.
In conversations with Syrians we are asked: How is it for you as Germans that so many refugees are coming?
I feel gratitude for this question. I have many answers. But the first one is that I am sad when I think of what you have been through and why you had to leave your home country. In this moment there is silence. They look at me and we all are close to tears. We share this moment of consciously feeling what cannot be put in words. Everything they say afterwards is: Thank you.
As so many people are looking for refuge in our country, I feel, more than anything else, compassion for their fate. What I can do here in the place where I live, is make contact. A small contribution of welcome that may help to make integration possible. I don´t do this only for the refugees, I also do it for myself. I always come back very moved from these sessions. What I have only known before through the news, becomes reality. The refugees get faces and names, relations emerge. A 19 year old whom I asked for his name and home is very shy. Then he says that I am the first German woman he has spoken with. It feels good to be this woman.
Then there is also the level of uneasiness, and worry. The things that happen in the world and are brought closer through the refugees, make us feel very clearly how explosive the world situation is. I realize there is a layer in myself that wants to shut down, set borders, secure a safe terrain. These days I perceive our freedom as unbelievably, preciously good. It is important to deal with the fear – seeing this freedom under threat – as well as with the compassion.
If I don´t deal with the fears in myself, I am all too ready to project them on to others. The ‘others‘ are all those who openly demand security and borders. Am I able to feel empathy with everyone – even with those parts of the population and myself that are against refugees? Or is this the end of my empathy?
There is a silent agreement in certain circles that seems to demand that those who want a culture of welcoming should be against those who are against such a culture. But will this not again create new polarisations, just like building fences?
Empathy does not mean having the same opinion. But I feel if we who stand for a culture of welcoming meet our fears open and consciously, then the layer of limitation that always cuts us off from our internal world melts away, thereby defeating hostility.
What I can bring into relation in myself, can heal. Does the integration of refugees not also mean that we perceive the differences in our inner country, giving them space in ourselves, instead of rejecting them in the outside world?
We are required to put our long developed spiritual knowledge into practise in society; bridging our inner and outer worlds and evolving our humanity.