They caught a perpetrator and perhaps prevented an attack: three men in Leipzig are the first Syrian heroes in Germany. It was something the country urgently needed, thinks DW's Fabian von der Mark.
Germany faced a massive, twofold threat. First of all, the country was at risk of being hit by a devastating bomb attack. Second, the fear of terrorists disguised as refugees could have stoked even more xenophobia. Both disasters were averted by the three men who showed that Syrian refugees are grateful friends.
The deed in itself is remarkable. Three Syrians realized that they were hosting a terror suspect in their apartment. They rejected his attempts to bribe them, even though they were strapped for cash. They defied the hatred of the terror they had fled and decided not to take the law into their own hands. Instead, they overpowered the suspect and tied him up in way that would be permissible under German laws. Then, they reported him to the police and did not let communication problems prevent them from getting their message across. One of the Syrian refugees ended up going to the police station. He showed authorities a mobile phone photograph of the suspect and made it clear how urgent the matter was.
The Syrian heroes stand for much more
The heroes of Leipzig stand for thousands of Syrians who translated the manhunt details and shared them on social networks. They have clearly shown how important peace and safety are in Germany. They have shown how wrong it is to throw suspicion on all refugees, foreigners or Muslims. Their actions have distanced them from violence and terrorism more than any peace march or speech. They have taken responsibility and shown courage - those are two pillars of an active civil society.
A hero needs gratitude and recognition
The Syrians from Leipzig have been praised on the internet and in newspapers, but that is not enough. Last year, when three men overpowered a gunman on a train running between Amsterdam and Paris, they were awarded the highest medal of bravery the next day by French President Francois Hollande. A public ceremony has been ruled out in the Leipzig case as the heroes fear "Islamic State" retribution. But the least that can be done is to personally thank them and show gratitude for having averted a great disaster in Germany. The German president, the chancellor or at least the interior minister should meet with them. While we're at it, the leaders might want to talk about an appropriate award.
Not all Syrian refugees are heroes, nor are all policemen. But anyone who acts like a hero deserves to be treated like one. Society needs enduring hero stories. When such stories are told in bars and locker rooms, they can become much more. They can become part of the collective consciousness - and may even change it.
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