No room in the inn for the outsider this Christmas

Today morning the German government agreed on tougher lockdown measures in an attempt to curb the rising number of Covid-19 infections. Germany has been in “lockdown light” since a number of weeks with regulations for physical distancing, the number of people allowed in shops and supermarkets, the closing of restaurants etc. All these measures have not helped curb the rising number of infections. Here in the Munich area, Ikea shops have been packed as usual, long queues at the till at supermarkets and the stipulated distance of 1,5m is rarely kept. As I have mentioned often, we have been living in semi-quarantine since months and every time I went grocery shopping, I have had to request at least one person to keep the 1,5m distance. But I digress.
At the outset I want to state that I think stricter measures are required and if people are not obeying the rules then something has to be done. The fact that the majority of people who are obeying these rules are suffering because of those who don’t is the topic for another post.
I am in complete agreement with rules that help bring the numbers down; with reducing the number of social contacts to prevent the health care system from collapsing under the number of rising infections.
I have no problem with the government regulating the number of people who can meet to celebrate Christmas. What I do have a problem with is when the government publishes a paper that states who you are allowed to celebrate Christmas with. The German government has decided that only family members are allowed to celebrate together and this is irrespective of whether the family members live in different states or in the same city. The politicians have agreed that Christmas is to be celebrated within the family circle and outsiders are not welcome. The rules passed by Angela Merkel and her ministers state:

‘During the Christmas period, from December 24th to 26th, the states can relax this rule slightly – by allowing a household to invite four people who belong to the “immediate family circle” (plus children over 14 who are not counted in the total) to join them – even if this is more than two households.
According to the final paper, “immediate family” includes: “spouses, partners and partners in a non-marital partnership as well as siblings, sibling’s children and their respective household members” ‘

The politicians have stated many times that the relaxation of the rules during Christmas is to ensure that no one is alone or lonely at Christmas. Obviously this consideration does not apply to those living in Germany who have no family of their own. There is no empathy (let alone understanding) e.g. for the foreign students who are homesick but cannot fly home due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. They are to remain lonely and are probably to blame for having decided to leave their countries and study abroad. There is no consideration for the elderly neighbour living alone and whose children cannot come to visit due to stricter Covid restrictions in their city – he/she has to spend a lonely Christmas because he/she does not belong to the “immediate family circle” of the family next doors who would otherwise have loved to have him/her over. No – the government has decided who belongs to family and it is only “blood family” that counts.
For someone like me who works with, believes and strives to live and breathe inclusion and diversity, these measures leave a very bitter taste in my mouth. For someone like me who has experienced time and again that friends have stood by me, spoken up for me, supported me, comforted me when I was being used and abused by family and “extended family” while my “immediate family circle” either looked away or joined forces with the abuser; these new regulations show me clearly that Germany is not a place for people whose friends are the family that they choose.
For me one of the key messages of Christmas is the message of welcoming the stranger in our midst, of making room in the inn, of reaching out to the lonely and lost. Germany’s lockdown measures and regulations of keeping Christmas within the “immediate family circle” are in total contrast to this message. It makes it even clearer to me that it is time for me to move on and go live in a country where the stranger is welcomed, where one is considered family not because of blood or marriage but because one is accepted and loved.

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