Embracing Diversity – Academia and the Refugee Crisis

In my home country Belgium – like the rest of Europe – there is currently a big debate on giving shelter to refugees. The biggest political party in Belgium, the NVA, is advocating a policy to close the borders and evict illegal immigrants. Refugees are not seen as human beings. They are supposedly threatening ‘Belgian culture.’

However, in the entire discourse nobody has ever defined ‘Belgian culture.’ Are these refugees going to take away our fries and Belgian waffles? Or are they planning to overthrow our Christian values (although the majority of Belgians – understandably – does not attend church services any more)? In my mind, Belgian culture is a social construct. You happen to be born within the artificial borders of one of the smallest countries in the world.

Politicians are creating an unrealistic straw man of refugees: uneducated criminals that come here to take over our culture and steal our jobs. Every society has criminals. Some refugees might have a criminal record, but the same holds true for many Belgians. But does this mean that you have to close the borders for all refugees?

Working in academia exposes you to many different cultures. Over the years, I have worked with people from numerous countries (see the list below) and from different religions and ideologies. When talking with someone, we would always find some common interest. It makes you realize that they are all interesting people regardless of where they come from. I urge the politicians to talk with refugees and see them for what they really are: fellow human beings.

Grup Picture.jpeg

My current research group with people from Belgium, Latvia, United States, Sweden, Poland, Austria, China and Iran.

 

The List of Nationalities

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Ethopia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Guatemala
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Latvia
  • Mexico
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Tanzania
  • Turkey
  • United States
  • Uruguay

 

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