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Report: nearly one in two Muslims in Germany aids refugees

March 27, 2017

The report released by the Bertelsmann Stiftung has described the Muslim volunteers as "important bridge-builders." It further revealed that one out of every five Germans provided assistance to refugees in 2016.

Deutsch lernen Unterricht Flüchtlinge
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/U. Zucchi

According to the study released by the German foundation on Monday, 44 percent of Muslims were socially engaged for refugees in 2016, providing assistance through activities such as German language courses, clothing donations and assistance navigating bureaucratic language.

The results of the study, entitled "Engagement for Refugees - a religious thing?: The role of religion in Refugee aid," also counter what the Berstalsmann Stiftung described as the broadly held assumption that Muslims assist refugees to exert religious influence or radicalization. Only two percent of the study's respondents reported such intent as motivating their voluntary service.

Instead, the study showed that the majority of Muslims surveyed campaigned for openness towards other religions through their volunteer activities.

Bertelsmann expert for social cohesion Stephan Vopel described Muslims who volunteer as "important bridge-builders" in society.

A distance thing?

A primary determinant of whether an individual engaged in volunteer activities aiding refugees was the proximity of said individual's home to refugee housing.

Respondents were more willing to provide aid the closer they lived to refugee housing, while those who lived further away were more reluctant. The Bertelsmann foundation pointed out that this counters the stereotype that refugee housing only brings problems to the surrounding communities.

Deutschland Flüchtlinge Kinder vor Flüchtlingsunterkunft
Those who lived closer to refugee housing were more inclined to volunteerImage: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Wüstneck

Religious and regional differences

In comparison to Muslims, 21 percent of Christians in Germany provided volunteer aid to refugees while for religiously unaffiliated individuals in Germany, the percentage was 17.

Infografik Social engagement for refugees by religious affiliation

Overall, nearly a fifth of all Germans volunteered to help refugees in 2016, most of them regularly.

The study also regionally broke down patterns of participation. In examining West German and East German tendencies, the report revealed that every fifth German living in the eastern part of the country regularly volunteered multiple times a week, while only every tenth German living in the west did so.

However, a higher percentage of those in western Germany who live close to refugee shelters were included to help refugees overall than those in eastern German, at 28 percent and 17 percent respectively.

Deutschland Berlin Ehrenamtliche Flüchtlingshelfer
Muslim volunteers overwhelmingly advocate openness towards other religonsImage: Getty Images/C. Koall

Part of a larger report

The report recommended further interreligious cooperation in the area of aid for refugees, as well as expanded support and qualification possibilities for volunteers.

The authors of the study surveyed around 1,500 German inhabitants in addition to a further 1,000 Muslims living in Germany. 

"Engagement for refugees" is the initial portion of the Religion Monitor 2017, a Bertelsmann research project that examines the roll of religion and religious diversity for societal cohesion in Germany and in Europe. Over 10,000 individuals across various European and neighbor nations participated in the full project.

cmb/rc (AFP, epd)