Interview with the writer Rafik Schami

He fled from Syria to Germany more than 30 years ago. Now he is helping compatriots who are living in refugee camps. Interview with the writer Rafik Schami:

dpa/Wolfram Steinberg - Rafik Schami

Mr Schami, you once wrote: “Whenever I wake up, I always think of Damascus.” In recent years countless numbers of people have again been forced to flee from Syria. You are committed to helping them. Do the ‘new’ refugees share similar feelings?

Exile is always closely related to each individual’s fate. I have never met two people who experience their situation in exile in the same way. Even so, there are still some very clear parallels: all Syrians share the experience that their country and their culture are being destroyed. The majority of them would prefer to return home today rather than tomorrow. They also share their feelings of sadness, because so many beautiful cities now lie in ruins, and because so many people have had to die.


How are you actually helping Syrian refugees?

By continuously and tirelessly raising public awareness for the plight of the refugees. The world forgets very quickly, and complacency is the refugees’ greatest enemy. Together with friends, I have founded the association Schams in Tübingen. We are helping children and young people in the refugee camps, especially in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. We can help to make life a little less hard for them by organising charity events, collecting donations and campaigning. We work together with local organisations to ensure that young refugees receive education, psychological support, food and medicines. But money is just one aspect. Compassion is the most important thing.


In Germany many people have founded initiatives to help people who have sought refuge here. What is your experience of this involvement? What does it mean to you?  

Help for refugees in each and every form is an expression of solidarity, proof that human beings are brothers and sisters. Each hand that offers help, each pullover that protects from the cold, is excellent. Nobody should think that their contribution is too small. Germans are better than their reputation; they help with every means possible. Language is a key to the new country, and this makes support in learning German particularly important. But expectations should not be too high, because speedy help doesn’t always lead to speedy success. Generosity always has to go hand-in-hand with patience.