This is what I want to say to all of you: thank you for coming to Germany! When I think of all of you who came to my country in last year or before that, I feel deeply thankful. There are two reasons for my thankfulness.
The first one is related to our history. My nation has been partly or fully responsible for starting two huge wars and killing millions of people because of their political views, their sexual orientation or because of their race like Jews, Romans and others. 70 years ago we were the most hated nation on planet Earth. Both of my Grandfathers were involved in these wars. I do not know if they killed people whose grandchildren now come back to us – i.e. from former Yugoslavia.
And then many people in my nation asked God to forgive us and asked other nations to forgive us and did what we could do to repair some of the damage. And we received mercy from God and from people. We could rebuild our nation, we could also rebuild trust. There might be some of you who came to our nation simply because it is rich. That´s ok. But I believe that most of you chose Germany because you trusted that we would treat you well. This brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for coming to us.
I know that this is not your first choice. Many of you have lost everything you owned, people you love and some of you even lost their health. I cannot really imagine what it is like, or feel it the right way. I wish that you did not have to come here;. not for our sake, but for yours. I wish you could have kept your homes, your loved ones, your jobs, and your future.
In the meantime, I ask you to not feel sorry for us that we now “have to” handle this situation. Yes it is a challenge to suddenly have 1 Million recently arrived people in our country, but we chose to say “Yes, we can do it!” challenges are like weights for a weight lifter. 25 years ago we were blessed with the reunification of our nation – and with the huge challenges that came along with it.
Since then we haven´t had any real problems. And for most of us that was boring. We are a nation of problem solvers who get bored if there are no problems to solve. People, young people were searching for a meaning, and suddenly one million of you came to our country. So with you there were naturally a lot of challenges: housing, organization, food, clothes, work places, and language courses: tons of them, and thousands of opportunities to solve problems.
Two Berlin students solved a huge part of the problem of university education by starting Kiron University. Others developed “what’s Germany”; an app for language learning. Grandmas started knitting clubs to provide warm scarves. All over Germany people are solving little and big problems.
Sometimes we solve problems for you, and that is good. Sometimes we solve problems together with you – which is even better. Many of us have become more active, more political and more alive. Like the seventy- year old woman who only wanted to bring some soap to a refugee place. There was a person to help who asked her if she would like to take care of one newly arriving family; so she agreed. She told me with eyes sparkling with joy how she is learning to use whatsapp and translation programs and how she enjoys to show the kids and parents where things are in their little town.
Yes, there are people who are unhappy and afraid of all of the newcomers and the changes they bring. Most Germans love security – and some perceive changes as a threat. But to many of us you brought a lot of enrichment, more joy, and more challenges that make us more alive. We learn about new cultures, meet wonderful people and learn new words. My favorite Word in Arabic is “Farasha” which means a butterfly. It reminds me of the saying “It is the end, says the caterpillar. It is the beginning says the butterfly.” It is my hope that – after all you have gone through we can work together to make it a new beginning. Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for making us more alive. Thank you for coming to Germany.