Live Together


Live Together

The refugee problem imposes a heavy burden on society, laden with social tensions and dilemmas. Can we use the principles of good governance and integrity to take the right decisions?

Acting morally right is taking a decision which is in accordance to our values like humanity, security, hospitality, sharing honestly, solidarity and freedom. The moral validity of a decision depends on the consequences for ourselves and for others and takes into account the rights, interests and wishes of all those involved. Take for example a municipality that promises its citizens a house. The arrival of a group of refugees from Syria leads to a dilemma: do we need to present our citizens a longer waiting time, yes or no?

The taking in of refugees is accompanied by emotions. Sometimes there is fear of the unknown or serious concern about the future of our civilisation. Often there is also involvement with the fate of strangers who, after a bloody war, now fearful and desperate, long for security and recognition of their personality. How are we going deal with the accumulation of emotions, feelings and wishes?

Investigation and dialogue

First we take each other serious and together look for the arguments behind the emotions. Secondly we investigate which arguments advocate pro or contra a decision. Values bear our decisions. The naming of principles and values offers space for a dialogue. We recognize and acknowledge each other’s principles. The common investigation of a dilemma provides peace and reflection. It also shows the possible damage that occurs by our decision for those who are involved. Knowing the damage gives the possibility to compensate. Using the example of housing allocation: you can explain to citizens and refugees why one of them has to wait. To make the waiting time acceptable the municipality can offer certainty about the new date of getting the house and, eventually, make a promise to contribute to the costs of furniture. If the refugee has to wait, the municipality can arrange an alternative or present an education programme.

There are more dilemmas. Like the establishment of refugee’s centres; whether or not to send people back; making use of the knowledge and skills of citizens from Syria and from other countries. Let’s be honest: refugees also provide opportunities. A nice example are the refugees who work as volunteers in care homes.

In Europe we are proud of our values. Tolerance, justice, security, generosity, openness and health brought good governance. Many people from other countries share our values, although those are yet not rooted in their political, cultural, religious culture and rule of law. The forced encounter between them and us provides the opportunity to exchange ideas and convictions strengthening international justice and making openness and tolerance normal. Good governance and integrity are tough issues. But every step we take decreases the risk for new wars and the inhuman whims of dictators. The dilemma whether or not to apprehend the current leaders in the Middle East is inextricably linked with our daily dilemmas and those of the refugees in our countries.

Firmness and interpretability

Dilemmas request our firmness and that of our governments to take decisions and explain them openly and transparently. As said, damage often is inevitable and painful. Offering compensation can decrease those disadvantages and provide consensus. Serious dilemmas deserve sobriety and passion. Taking everyone’s arguments seriously strengthens our self-esteem and makes integrity applicable in our daily practice.

Henk Bruning