BBC News reports that nearly half a million migrants have arrived in Germany so far this year, as those fleeing war-torn countries scatter not only into neighboring lands, but even into northern Europe and the United Kingdom.
Thomas Klammt, coordinator of international churches for the German Baptist Union, talks about the challenges and opportunities of the migrant crisis in the Middle East and Europe, in a new online video interview with EthicsDaily.com.
“First of all, it’s a crisis in the countries where those people are coming from,” Klammt says from his office near Berlin. He cites Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, among others.
“The crisis is there, in fact, and that’s why people have to run away and try to find any way of staying alive or finding a place to stay.”
Klammt says an even larger refugee crisis is occurring in countries like Lebanon and Turkey, which border the highly unstable Syria.
Millions, not thousands, of refugees have flocked to those countries. (Watch our video interview with Alia Aboud in Lebanon about the impact of the Syrian civil war on Lebanon.)
Germany is currently taking more refugees than any other member country of the European Union.
About three years ago, Klammt says Germany took in about 50,000 migrants. This year, the number is on track to reach 800,000.
Klammt describes an “openness” in Germany amid the human deluge.
“I’m surprised, astonished and also a little bit proud of my country being very open and welcoming at the moment,” he says. “It was not always the case.”
“I’m thankful to be here at this point in time,” he says, adding that Germans are donating clothes, furniture and other resources.
Baptist churches in Germany, Klammt says, recognize that they are part of the larger community, and they want to work for the betterment of all.
“We find that we have a lot to offer because church really offers fellowship and offers a room where you can stay and come to church, of course, but also have a coffee afterward and find somebody who talks to you and tries to understand you and is welcoming,” he says.
In terms of donations, Klammt says the German Baptist Union actually recommends that money be sent to the locations of the greatest need: Lebanon and Turkey, for example.
“This is now a huge issue at the moment, but it will stay for long,” he says, adding that months and years of integration work await.
“This is also opportunity for them [migrants] to hear the gospel and come to our church and find a loving God in us and in our church.”
Watch the interview with Klammt at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/thomas-klammt
Learn more about the German Baptist Union at Baptisten.de
Watch other EthicsDaily.com video interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily