American victim of Cologne sex attacks recounts how she was rescued by Syrian refugees

At the core of Christianity is the commandment to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” so you’d think that in a country with so many loudly professing Christians, there really wouldn’t be any debate about whether America should welcome refugees.

Indeed, when it came to clarifying who should be described as a neighbor, Jesus chose to illustrate this teaching through a parable that cast a Samaritan — considered by most Jews at that time as an enemy — as the exemplar of the principle of universal love.

The teaching doesn’t go: love your neighbors after they’ve been vetted by the FBI, so long as you’re sure they’re Christian, and so long as you own a gun to protect yourself.

After the mass sex attacks in Cologne helped fuel a new round of anti-refugee hysteria, a Good Samaritan story has emerged in which a 27-year-old American woman recounts how she was saved that night by the intervention of strangers — a group of men who turned out to be Syrian refugees.

The New York Times reports: Caught up in a melee of drunken revelers outside the Cologne train station on New Year’s Eve, Caitlin Duncan, a neuroscience student from Seattle, was terrified. She had somehow gotten separated from her German boyfriend, who had both their cellphones and her wallet. Ms. Duncan, 27, said that she was quickly surrounded and groped by several young men: One snatched her hat from her head, another tried to kiss her face and neck.

Like many of the hundreds of women who later said they had been assaulted in the crowd, Ms. Duncan sought help from the police, but said the officers were too busy trying to clear the square. But unlike other victims, whose complaints of attacks by foreigners of North African and Arab descent have ignited new debate about Germany’s ability to absorb migrants, Ms. Duncan said she was rescued by a group of Syrian asylum seekers.

Amid the swirl of criminal chaos, it seems, there were also acts of chivalry.

As the crowd swelled and grew more unruly, Ms. Duncan said, a stranger came up and asked if she needed help. Both of them spoke broken German, so the stranger summoned a friend who spoke English. He was Hesham Ahmad Mohammad, from Aleppo, Syria, who had met up in Cologne for the holiday with six or seven other Syrian refugees scattered around Germany.

The men offered Ms. Duncan money for a taxi to her boyfriend’s parents’ home: “the only address I knew,” she said. They would happily have called her boyfriend, Sebastian Samer, but Ms. Duncan had relied on speed-dial and could not remember the number. “I know there’s a lot of 7s,” she thought, “but that’s not helping me right now.”

She persuaded the men to form a kind of cordon around her so they could move through the crowd. She described her boyfriend to them, and they eventually found him inside the station. She cried. “I was just so relieved,” she recalled later.

Mr. Ahmad Mohammad, a former primary-school teacher, said he had left Aleppo, a scene of tremendous fighting in the Syrian civil war, in 2014 for Turkey, and had arrived in Germany via the Balkans and Austria in September. He said he had left his wife and two sons in a village near the Syrian-Turkish border and was living in a small town near Cologne with two other Syrians, studying German as he awaited asylum.

He said in a telephone interview on Friday that he and his friends had also felt unsafe on New Year’s, and blamed “bad boys” who were “drinking, and I think taking marijuana or something. They lost their minds.” Now, they worry that Germans and other Europeans are drawing conclusions that will make it harder for new arrivals. [Continue reading…]

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