Four years after the world's largest refugee crisis since World War II began at its doorstep, Europe finally seems to be changing its attitude toward Syrian refugees.
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have seen an influx of millions of refugees fleeing their conflict shattered homeland. While Europe has been quick to criticize any mismanagement of the situation by regional governments, it has remained negligent in accepting refugees to alleviate the crisis.
However, the growing number of tragic incidents reported widely in the international media surrounding refugees desperate attempts to reach Europe seem to have struck a chord with the European people. Now, both government leaders and grassroots movements are uniting to welcome Syrians with open arms.
This past Sunday, some 20,000 people marched through the streets of Vienna to criticize the ill treatment of refugees. They held banners saying "Refugees Welcome" and "I don't want Europe to become a mass grave" – a reference to the 71 dead refugees found in a truck earlier in the week.
Leaders of the protest accused the government of "political failure" and "inhumane treatment," according to The Guardian.
"We’ve had enough – enough of the deaths, the suffering and the persecution," said the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn.
Following the news that Germany would accept 800,000 refugees this year, more than 10 times the number accepted last year, football fans raised signs in support of the decision. German club Borussia Dortmund even invited 220 refugees to one of its games.
Just a day before more than 1,000 refugees were set to arrive in Munich by train on Tuesday, local police announced on Twitter that they were overwhelmed by donations from local residents. They couldn't even accept further contributions because they had so much.
"We are overwhelmed by the many donations Munich people have made for the refugees at the main station. Please don't bring any more things" (Translation according to "The Local")
Thousands also gathered in Dresden chanting, "Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here," according to Quartz. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has also begun urging other European countries to accept larger numbers of refugees.
After a Facebook group was started by author Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, more than 11,000 people in Iceland responded by saying they were personally willing to host refugees in their homes.
Bjorgvinsdottir started the group as an open letter to the country's welfare minister, writing that she wanted to show the level of public support for refugees.
She went on to write eloquently, "They are our future spouses, best friends, the next soul mate, a drummer for our children’s band, the next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finishes the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, a fireman and television host. . . . People of whom we'll never be able to say in the future: 'Your life is worth less than my life,'" according to The Independent.
Of course, even with these positive showings of support, millions of Syrians and other refugees around the world remain displaced. Many European countries continue to promote xenophobic policies, forgetting that just a few decades ago their continent was overrun with conflict and refugees as well.
But let us hope these recent signs of acceptance will take root and spread themselves across the entire continent.