Saturday, May 26, 2018

THESE WAYS GIVE WELCOME TO REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS, BUILD COMMUNITY



Currently, many peoples in Europe and the United States feel threatened by waves of immigration. It’s good to learn from history that such movements of peoples have resulted greater community.

An example from West Africa. Before 1900, difficulties of travel kept large-scale movements of people to a minimum. In recent decades, formerly insulated communities (Mendeland, Temneland and so on) are experiencing arrivals of “strangers”. (Fulah people are showing up in Mendeland, for example). They come by road and by rail. The largest West African cities like Conakry, Abidjan and Monrovia host people of many languages and customary backgrounds. 

Such cities, towns and villages function best by inclusion of the stranger, making a place for them, welcoming them. When conflict occurs between groups old and new, life and livelihood are more difficult, and higher quality community is thwarted.

Currently, many Europeans, Africans and Americans face waves of newcomers. A large percentage of the natives feel their communities are threatened. Anti-foreigner movements arise. The concerns of nativists are understandable.

There’s an old ethic that applies: “Love your neighbor.” What does the maxim means in our times in respect to immigrants. Provide your new neighbors with tools they need, give them responsibility and see the life of your community improve. This is the process. More flexible and improving towns, cities, states and nations are the result.

Three stories of how it works:

In agriculture. Currently, I live in a city that’s surrounded by fertile farmland. Immigrants from Mexico do a lot of the fieldwork.  Just last week I drove past a field in which a large group of farm-workers, presumably mainly immigrants, had gathered around a tractor-trailer vehicle to get instructions for the day‘s work from a native-born farm manager. This is a story of people working together to produce a bountiful harvest. Everyone gains: the farmer, the farmhands, the final consumer.

In health care. That same week a family member needed urgent care. The receptionist and medical assistant were Hispanics--notably conversant in English. I projected that in a few years the nurse-practitioner position might be filled by an Hispanic. The newbies will work up the occupational scale.

In marketing. Two days ago, the family needed fruit. We visited a free-standing produce market, well-stocked with locally raised fruits and vegetables. The sales staff was entirely Hispanic. The clerks were familiar with the produce as well as sales and returns procedures. This mini-slice of our community offered a shopping  experience that matched standards to which we are accustomed.

What we “receiving” societies in Europe and the U.S. need is the courage to love their new neighbors--foreigners and immigrants. Not just to “accept” but to share power. They'll get energy back to build a higher quality society of the future.

Love thy neighbor, especially thy new neighbor. We'll be rewarded. The ethic works.

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