Opinion: Believers respecting believers | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 27.09.2015
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Opinion: Believers respecting believers

Despite massive fears of Islam and Islamization, Germans have received the wave of mostly Muslim refugees in a friendly manner. A more prominent role for Christianity could prove helpful, says DW's Klaus Krämer.

Who would have thought it: Germans enthusiastically applauding refugees arriving from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. An atmosphere of hospitality, warmth, and joy prevails in overfilled train stations. The country has impressed the world with its countless volunteers and huge willingness to give.

A great influx of migrants, of all things, has set Germans' suppressed feelings free. Compassion, mercy and charity come out on top in the center of Christian Europe. Widespread positive images overshadow news of burning refugee shelters.

And what's more, over two-thirds of people in Germany approve of opening borders to men, women and children who have been persecuted, abused and who have risked their lives. This is one of the rare moments in which one can feel pleased about the country.

The Germans and their fears

For time being, one of Germans' greatest fears seems to have vanished despite the many arrivals: an ethic of responsibility has overshadowed concerns that the majority of the refugees come from a completely different ethnic and religious background. Yet at the same time, fear of Islam and Islamization has been eating at Germans more and more over recent years. A representative survey shows that 49 percent of Germans presently worry about this religion.

What will happen if the people who have escaped hardship, war and suffering are distributed throughout the country? After all, at least 800,000 people are expected to arrive from the Middle East, Africa and the western Balkans this year. What will go on in Germans' minds when basic needs have been taken care of? What happens if cultural and religious differences, especially ones related to Muslims, come to the fore in everyday life, like in kindergarten, school, neighborhood life, or at work?

Fear of Islam or religion in general?

Psychologists and sociologists lay the blame for the fears on Germans themselves, as they see the 4.5 million Muslims living in the country as a powerful, monolithic bloc that is alien and impenetrable. The Muslims' visible knowledge of their religion - and their strict practice of it in many cases - comes across to Germans as odd and unsettling.

None of this comes as a surprise, as the abandonment of traditions in formerly Christian Europe has been moving at a face pace. Practicing a religion has become an exception.

For about 50 years now, Christians have been leaving their community parishes in masses. Catholics have broken a negative record after 200,000 members of the religion officially left the church last year - and things do not look better for Protestants.

Only 10 percent of Catholics and barely 4 percent of Protestants attend church services. It is no surprise that church leaders and scholars complain about the drastic decline of spirituality in the population.

That's why Chancellor Angela Merkel has even asked Germans to get in touch with in Christianity again. She thinks it is necessary that Christians speak with more confidence about their Christian values and expand their knowledge of their own religion.

The value of a Christian standpoint

The reason is obvious: if you don't have your own standpoint, then you don't have a standard of measure to judge another religious standpoint. Subsequently, one cannot establish dialogue on par with another religion. The people who have found salvation in Christian Europe now encounter mostly secularized Germans who lack religious knowledge and orientation.

Remnants of Christian values are still part of our society. That is what the past weeks have shown. Will it suffice in dealing with the integrative challenges of this wave of mass migration? Much needs to done, such as conveying values like freedom, tolerance, democracy, human rights and the regulation of church and state. In the eyes of Muslims, German dialogue partners will gain credibility if they practice a religion and thus, have a standpoint. And it would help allay their fear of a strange religion.

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