Quiz question: What are Germany’s four national minorities? Hardly anyone knows the answer without looking it up, but the fact that officially recognised minorities exist at all (Sinti and Roma, Danes, Frisians and Sorbs) came as a surprise to scholarship holders from seven Arabic countries.
How do national, ethnic and religious minorities live in pluralistic democratic Germany? And how are they perceived by the majority society? What protection mechanisms are there? And what to do if there is trouble because a mosque is set to be built next to a Christian church?
All these questions were addressed during two and a half intense days in Berlin and Brandenburg. One of the highlights was the excursion day during which Rabbi Daniel Alter answered the 24 scholars’ questions about the differences and similarities between Judaism and Islam with incredible expertise and speed.
The fact that the beautiful Sehitlik Mosque at Columbiadamm is a small bit of Turkey in the middle of Neukölln came as a great surprise to all. And why are Christians granting muslim refugees asylum in churches even though they are thereby breaking the law? “Asyl in der Kirche Berlin e.V.” (the “Society for Asylum in church inc. Berlin”) gave extensive answers.
After a day full of insights into different religious communities in Berlin, we travelled to Werneuchen in Brandenburg. There, the scholars took part in a day-long simulation game on the building of a mosque, learning about the conflict lines that can appear in issues related to minority-majority society, as well as experiencing approaches to finding solutions.
At the end, one thing was clear: a plural society is varied and colourful but requires work.
Facts + Figures
Arabic scholarship holders from the IPS programme (International Parliamentary Scholarship)
- Knowledge about national, ethnic and religious minorities in Germany
- Application of minorities policy
- Self-organisation and demands by minorities
- Dealing with conflict
Referat Internationale Austauschprogramme des Deutschen Bundestages (Department for International Exchange Programmes in the Bundestag)
Berlin and Brandenburg