Why do people mix religion and terrorism
Welcome to the website of the Federal Foreign Office
-- The spoken word is valid --
Dear Sirs and Madames,
“Give peace, Lord, we ask!
The earth is very waiting.
So much is suffered
the fear grows more and more.
The horizons rumble
faith is woven into it.
Help if we want to give way
and don't leave us alone. "
In view of the terrible attacks in Paris, this verse of the famous hymn "Give peace, Lord, give peace" comes to mind.
The mass murder in the French capital has once again made it clear to us that the crises and conflicts of this world have not only moved closer to us. Terror, violence and destruction have now also reached the heart of Europe. And with a view to the refugee crisis, too, we feel that it concerns us all what is currently happening in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea. Because sooner or later it will affect us here in Europe too - not just virtually, but very specifically.
It is an illusion to believe that walls and fences can seal us off from the problems in other parts of the world. Because terror and refugee movements do not stop at national borders, they pave their way - to our front door, until we can no longer ignore them.
Europe is currently facing a double test that raises a number of questions: How is our coexistence changing in the face of the increasing threat from international terrorism? How far are we ready to go if we promise "any support" to France? How do we best react to the terrorist attacks - with tanks, with stricter security laws or with social workers?
How can we continue to guarantee our security in Europe without sacrificing our open and liberal social model? And what role does religion play in today's world - is it a rift or a bracket for our societies?
And what does all of this have to do with the refugees who are currently coming to Europe in large numbers? How does Germany meet its responsibility in Europe and the world - in accepting refugees in this country and in combating the causes of flight at the international level?
And finally: What exactly do we expect from the immigrants who want to stay with us permanently? And to what extent do we perhaps have to change ourselves in order to meet the European claim of a value-based society that is open to all ethnicities, cultures and religions? How much diversity is possible and how much common ground is necessary for peaceful coexistence in our country, indeed in all of Europe?
You can already see: I want to span the wide range with you tonight. In order for that to be successful, I want to work through four theses. I will not be able to spare you a few provocative questions to which I myself have not yet answered.
First: The Franco-German bond is particularly evident in the difficult hours. After the attacks in Paris we stand firmly on the side of France. But how far are we ready to go in the common fight against terror?
The terrorist attacks in Paris shocked us all. It goes without saying: these days we stand by France's side in solidarity. There is hardly any other country in Europe that has such close and friendly ties with Germany as with France. We especially feel this closeness in the tragic hours. Three times this year, the Germans and the French have stood by each other in moments of sadness and grief.
“Je suis Charlie!” - in the days after the terrorist attacks on the editors of the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” and a Jewish supermarket on January 7, 2015, this expression of solidarity was omnipresent in Germany as well. Then, as now, in Germany we all felt, mourned and suffered for the French.
We Germans were equally overwhelmed by the great sympathy and support from France after the crash of the Germanwings plane in the French Alps on March 24th. 150 people were literally torn to their deaths back then.
On November 13, of all things, the day of the most recent terrorist attacks, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier traveled to Paris to thank the many French helpers from the crash site of the plane crash with the award of the Federal Order of Merit. Several hundred helpers were invited last Friday to watch the football match between France and Germany in the Stade de France.
Just a few hundred meters from the stadium, three suicide bombers blew themselves up during the game. Then the horror in Paris took its course. 130 people fell victim to the brutal terror. Once again, the French and Germans were united in the hour of mourning - for the third time this year.
This shows that the Franco-German friendship is not just a political slogan for Sunday speeches. And it is no longer a purely government event. Rather, our bilateral relations are based on a dense network of personal contacts between citizens of both countries.
This close partnership is more than just a compulsory exercise, it is a matter close to our hearts. And the recent accidents have welded us even closer together. Every candle that is lit for the dead and injured, every flower that is laid down, every minute of silence for the countless victims is a sign of how closely our countries are connected - also and above all emotionally.
It goes without saying that we stand closely with France in the fight against terrorism. But what concrete contribution can Germany - beyond all gestures of sympathy and solidarity - to hold the masterminds and backers of the terrorist acts accountable? What can we do to ensure that such attacks are never repeated? And how far are we ultimately ready to go for it?
Some were quick to use the word "war" after the events of Paris. The day after the attacks, the Handelsblatt even ran the headline “The Third World War”. It is certainly correct: with the recent attacks we have achieved a new quality in international terrorism. But I also ask myself: Do we really want to allow a handful of terrorists to force a war on us that we have never looked for?
Because let's not forget: France was not attacked from outside on November 13th, but from within. The Paris attackers were Muslims, but the majority were also French citizens. Wouldn't that ultimately mean waging a war against parts of your own population?
At this point I advise you to be prudent - and to differentiate: We now have to weigh our words and our actions very carefully. Of course, we also have to fight the terror network Islamic State militarily and in terms of security policy. For example, in the fight against IS, we deliver weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq and train them. But that's not enough. And military answers alone do not do justice to the complex dimension of the problem.
If the Islamic State can apparently spread inexorably like a cancer in Syria and Iraq, don't we need a deployment of diplomats to resolve the many deadlocked conflicts politically and to stabilize the region over the long term?
If young people with a Muslim background drift into radicalism in the middle of Europe, don't we need well-trained social workers and teachers rather than even stricter security laws?
If the Islamic State can continue to recruit violent Islamists unhindered and train them to use weapons in terror camps in the Middle East, don't we need the concentrated knowledge of financial experts to uncover and drain the previously hidden payment flows?
And if the IS henchmen spread their unbearable propaganda and repulsive videos of violence on social networks every day, don't we need an army of IT experts instead of tanks to finally stop them?
These questions already show that there is no single silver bullet to combat IS terrorism too effectively. But one thing is clear: this dispute cannot be won by military means alone; it must rather be fought on several fronts.
Germany will contribute its experience and skills here. Together with our partners, we examine how and where this can be done most effectively. We will not duck away from our responsibility. Because solidarity is not an empty phrase for us.
Secondly: The attacks in Paris were not just aimed at France. They are an attack on our common values and our open, liberal societies. How can we continue to guarantee our security in Europe without sacrificing our freedom?
The attacks in Paris were not only aimed at the 130 innocent people who just wanted to have fun and died in the process - in front of the football stadium, at a concert, in a restaurant or bar. And they were not directed against France alone. Because it could have happened anywhere: in Berlin, Hamburg or Munich, and yes, also in Kassel, Fulda or Bad Hersfeld.
No, the Paris attacks were also aimed at our common values. They were a cowardly attack on our open and liberal societies. That is why we in Europe now have to move together and resolutely defend our value-based model of society against these attacks.
If we think about what constitutes the core of our community of values, it becomes clear that the motto of the French Revolution has lost none of its relevance even after more than 200 years. "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" - freedom, equality and brotherhood are still today a compass for our coexistence in Europe.
Freedom - the freedom of every individual in our society to be able to express their opinion and practice their religion without fear of discrimination or even violence.
Equality - in the sense of the Charter of Human Rights and our European values: All people are equal in dignity and rights. No matter whether man or woman, whether Christian or Muslim, whether white or dark-skinned, whether gay or straight.
And finally brotherhood: We live in a community of values in which we stand up for one another even in crises and tragic hours.
Our values bind us together very closely. Bear one another's burdens. We are brothers and sisters to each other.
Together we are stronger than terror. Perhaps the most difficult struggle is against our own fear. But we won't be intimidated by it. We will not allow the terrorists to bring fear and horror into our society and to rule our lives.
Citizens expect the state to do everything necessary to protect them from terror and violence. Rightly so, because security is a public good that the state must protect.
I can assure you that the federal government and the security authorities in Germany are currently doing everything they can to protect the population from further attacks - with all the means that the rule of law gives us.
But when we talk about security, we can hardly avoid talking about the difficult tension between security and freedom. Yes, it is quite a difficult balancing act to weigh between the steps necessary to increase security on the one hand and the justifiable restrictions on freedom on the other.
And I think: in Germany we have managed this balancing act, which is not always easy, very well. Because we enjoy a comparatively high level of security in this country without feeling unfree.
We all appreciate living in an open and liberal society in which we can move largely freely and carefree. Without the prospect of meeting heavily armed security forces on every corner. Without the feeling of being monitored by a video camera every step of the way. And without the certainty that the secret services overhear or read every call, every letter, every e-mail.
But we have to honestly admit that if we want to continue to live in such a society, then ultimately it also means always remaining somewhat vulnerable. Because there can be no one hundred percent protection against terrorism if we insist on our usual freedom of movement and the protection of our privacy.
We will probably have to get used to living with a low but always audible background noise of the threat. A certain amount of uncertainty is ultimately the price we have to be willing to pay for our freedom.
And I'll tell you in all honesty: I'm happy to pay this price. Because the alternative would be an authoritarian surveillance state in which we would have to live under the constant observation of the security authorities and secret services. I do not want that! You about?
Third: We live in a world that staggers disoriented between disbelief and misbelief. What role does religion still play in politics and society today?
We are currently experiencing a strange simultaneity of two phenomena that could not be more contradicting: On the one hand, here in Germany and in many other western democracies, religious illiteracy is growing. The impact of belief on society and politics is decreasing dramatically. Tens of thousands of Protestants and Catholics quit their church every year.
At the same time, religiously motivated, violent fanaticism is spreading in other parts of the world. In the Middle East we have seen a battle of religions for decades. Terrorists rage in Syria and Iraq who abuse Islam as a cheap alibi to justify barbaric atrocities and human rights violations. And now they are also carrying this terror to us in Europe.
Looking at the current headlines, one would almost like to ask: Is religion to blame for everything?
The terrible attacks in Paris reminded us once more: Religion is not per se a spiritual worldview that serves peace alone. Sometimes the belief - no matter in which God - also turns into a false belief, which leads directly to brutal, inhuman radicalism.
It is absurd: in a few, belief is so present that they are even willing to kill for it. Many others, on the other hand, seem to be becoming more and more indifferent to their religion. We live in a world in which people stagger disoriented between disbelief and misbelief.
But that's the way it is with freedom of belief: It applies to all people - to Christians, to Muslims and also to members of other religions and worldviews. And freedom of belief also means the right to change one's beliefs or not to follow any religion at all.
But there is one thing we must never allow, despite all freedom of belief: that terrorists try to divide our societies. That they want to give other people the choice of seeing themselves either as unbelievers or as Muslims. Nobody has the right to impose a certain belief or a certain way of life on their fellow men.
And as a politician, I tell you: we must not leave these difficult questions exclusively to theological debate. Because if people deny humanity to others in the name of a religion, then the state cannot, yes, must not remain neutral.
Our Basic Law protects freedom of belief, but in the end religion must never be above the Basic Law. We must leave no doubt about it: there is no place for anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of discrimination and marginalization in our open and liberal society - not even in the name of any religion.
In the name of religion - this keyword brings me to an impressive phenomenon that we have been experiencing in the social networks for a few days: “Not in my name” - “Not in my name” - these words were used by thousands of Muslims distanced himself from the terrible attacks in Paris on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Their message is clear: the Islamic State terror network may have Islam in its name. But it is by no means acting on behalf of the overwhelming majority of Muslims.
I find this process of self-assurance and demarcation within the Muslim community encouraging - and it is imperative! Now all citizens of the Muslim faith, on the front line the Islamic authorities and umbrella organizations, are called upon to send a clear signal: IS terror has nothing to do with Islam! Because the Koran preaches mercy, the IS terrorists, on the other hand, are merciless extremists.
And I am happy and grateful that the Central Council of Muslims in Germany has taken an unequivocal position on this issue: Anyone who pretends to act in the name of Islam when they spread fear and terror with terrorist attacks is damaging the entire Muslim world.
We shouldn't take the terrorists on the glue: The rift in our societies is not religion. The dividing line does not run between believers and unbelievers, or between those who have been rooted in Europe for generations and those who are new to us.
Rather, it runs between a small minority of barbaric extremists who want to sow hatred and distrust, and an overwhelming majority of people - regardless of belief, culture or ethnicity - who just want to live together peacefully and respectfully. It remains a task for all of us to prove that such a society is possible here in Europe.
And we as evangelical Christians can also support people of the Muslim faith on this certainly not easy path, wherever this is possible and appears necessary. We need this interreligious dialogue in order to break down existing stereotypes on both sides and to develop a common understanding of values.
But I advise us to refrain from any kind of head teacher attitude. Wolfgang Huber accurately described this in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung last Sunday:
“There is no doubt that barbaric acts can also be committed in the name of a religion. The history of Christianity shows an oppressive chain of examples of this. The insight that this dark side of Christianity is incompatible with the spirit of the Christian faith has only prevailed against resistance and has by no means yet penetrated everywhere. Still by no means all Christians are ready to orient themselves to the commandment of love, which also includes foreigners, or to the beatification of peacemakers. [...] In dealing with the barbarism of our day there is no reason for Christian self-righteousness or a Western feeling of superiority. "
What I want is mutual tolerance, which is more than just the absence of discrimination and exclusion. What I want is a lived acceptance that is also capable of empathy. But that also assumes that we really care about each other and get involved. Let's try to understand each other. Because without mutual understanding there can be no understanding! And that's what matters in the end.
Fourth: We must not make the mistake of mixing up the fight against terrorism and the refugee debate. We fight terror with severity and determination, but when dealing with those seeking protection, our human face is required.
“Paris changes everything!” I openly admit: This sentence annoyed me immensely. Yeah, he actually made me pretty angry. After all, there is one mistake we cannot make after the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris: It would be wrong to mix the fight against terrorism in an inadmissible way with the current debate on displacement and migration. I tend to agree with our Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, who said very clearly: "Paris does not change anything!"
To put all refugees under general suspicion of terrorism is nothing but irresponsible populism. Anyone who expresses himself in this way is only trying to instrumentalize the attacks for his domestic political purposes. This is not only shameful, but also extremely dangerous.
Because in the end it only plays into the cards of the terrorists who want to drive a wedge between European societies and the refugees. If we see a potential terrorist in every refugee, then we are driving more and more young people directly into the arms of the Islamist captors.
The threat to our security and freedom does not come from the people who are currently seeking protection from war, terror and persecution in their homeland. Rather, the attacks in Paris show that we Europeans and the refugees from Syria and Iraq have a common enemy: the Islamic State.
The cruel truth is: The victims of Paris were just as vulnerable to IS terrorism as large sections of the civilian population in the Middle East. What the people of Paris experienced on the evening of November 13th is everyday life in large parts of Syria and Iraq. Terror, violence, destruction, fear - which of us would not flee?
There are currently more than 60 million people around the world on the move. Here with us in Europe they hope for a new, better life in peace and freedom. This is currently confronting us with enormous tasks. In this country alone we will probably take in more than a million refugees this year. And it is strange that Germany is currently being criticized because we treat refugees as our common values dictate - namely humane and decent.
Germany is not naive, but rather responsibly dealing with one of the greatest tests in post-war history. And we will not apologize to anyone for our actions. After all, it is our duty to treat refugees who come to us in their need with respect and openness, to see them as people and not just any anonymous masses - regardless of whether they are allowed to stay with us permanently or not.
And by the way, we also act out of Christian responsibility. Because the Bible also tells about refugees and their fates, it is a book about and for refugees. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaac and even Jesus - they all had to leave their homeland because of famine, war or the threat of persecution.
In many places the Bible reminds us of what hospitality looks like. In the Third Book of Moses it says, for example: “If a stranger lives with you in your country, you should not oppress him. He should live with you like a local among you, and you should love him like yourself. "
In Germany we try to live this hospitality and willingness to help when dealing with refugees. However, we must self-critically admit that in recent years in Europe we have simply pushed people seeking protection back and forth between states for far too long.
This must now come to an end: we in the European Union finally need an asylum and migration policy based on solidarity and human dignity, which really does justice to the demands of a European community of values. We advocate European responses that are based on the basic idea of solidarity and humanity.
Because the EU is much more than just an internal market. It is a community based on shared values. Democracy, the rule of law, cultural and religious diversity, the protection of minorities as well as freedom of the press and freedom of expression - these values bind us Europeans together. And it is precisely because of these values that so many people from crisis regions seek refuge with us. Because with us they find what has long since ceased to exist in their home countries.
And that is why the EU has a very special responsibility in these times of crisis: Outwardly as a crisis manager and mediator in the world. After all, the refugee crisis cannot ultimately be resolved in Europe or at its borders. We need longer-term answers to the global phenomena of displacement, displacement and migration. And here, too, our commitment is required.
This includes, on the one hand, defusing the situation in the Syrian neighboring states, which have taken in the majority of the Syrian refugees. When we provide aid in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey - directly or through the financing of humanitarian aid organizations - then we do so in our own self-interest. Because if the people in the refugee camps in the region are not provided with the essentials, they will inevitably set off on the long, dangerous journey to Europe.
But we need to do more than just alleviate the symptoms. It is more important - but also far more difficult - that we tackle the causes of flight, displacement and migration in the countries of origin directly. Specifically, this means finally finding a solution, or at least de-escalating the cruel civil war in Syria.
Here, too, we make our contribution: through intensive discussion diplomacy and attempts to find common points of contact. After five years of civil war and over 250,000 deaths, there is finally a new ray of hope. In Vienna, Foreign Minister Steinmeier recently sat around the table again with the international actors who are needed for a sustainable solution.
The fact that the relevant actors are now talking to one another is actually a minor sensation. There is still a long way to go, but the historic chance for an agreement is here.
And with an inward view, too, we want to be a role model for others by exemplifying solidarity and humanity in our daily interaction; by showing that in Europe a peaceful and respectful coexistence of people from very different cultures, religions and ethnic groups is possible.
We want to treat the refugees in Germany properly, accommodate them in a decent way and provide them with good care. So that this succeeds, we are currently mobilizing all available forces - in federal and state politics, in our municipalities and with the great support of many voluntary helpers. No question about it: that challenges us, but it doesn't overwhelm us either.
Nevertheless, at the moment we hardly have time to deal with the actually much more important question: How will we succeed in integrating those who will stay with us permanently into our society in the coming years? This is a question that goes far beyond where an initial reception center should be set up or who will pay for the health care costs for refugees.
It's about what expectations we have of people who want to find a new home in Germany, France or elsewhere in Europe. There can be no compromises on one question, as I am sure: If you want to stay with us permanently, you have to respect our basic values - no ifs or buts.
Freedom, tolerance and democracy are the foundation of our societies. But these values do not just fall from the sky, they have to be taught and learned - in kindergartens and schools, in youth groups and sports clubs. Incidentally, this is also the best way to socially prevent terrorism.
Successful integration is the best prevention. A value-based society like ours becomes all the more attractive, the more credible and convincing it is to present concrete offers and to fulfill hopes for a better life.
But prevention also means: We have to be faster - faster than poverty, social exclusion and radicalization. We have to offer young immigrants a fair chance to stand on their own two feet in their new home. Education and access to the labor market are the decisive keys to social entry and advancement.
We are currently experiencing what happens when integration fails in the Parisian suburbs or in the Brussels district of Molenbeek. Parallel societies have emerged here - a reservoir of frustrated, socially dependent and violent young people who have little prospect of a decent education or a job.
And we in Germany are by no means allowed to rest. Yes, the many young migrants offer huge potential for our job market. They can be of great benefit to our country if they see a fair chance here to apply their skills. And when we give them the feeling that they are members of our society with equal rights. But that is by no means a sure-fire success.
If we fail to channel the strength and energy of these young people in a positive direction, then potential can quickly become conflict potential. If we do not give these young people real recognition, they may seek it from radical Islamist preachers. We can not permit that!
In view of the estimated one million asylum seekers who will come to us this year, the issue of integration is more topical than ever for us in Germany. We are aware that the admission of large numbers of refugees will not be entirely free of conflict.
This is a huge task for all of us - both for the incoming refugees, from whom we demand an integration effort, and for the local population, who have to welcome the immigrants with open arms.
Because integration is by no means a one-way street. It is also about the question of whether we don't have to change ourselves if we want to be a colorful, cosmopolitan immigration country. In the long run, it will hardly work to simply tell the immigrants: “We are in the majority. Please adapt! "
No, we have to accept that the people who come to us will also change our society in the medium term. We must finally see migration as an opportunity - not a threat. Migration means diversity. Where there is no diversity, there is no change. And change is something that we urgently need for progress.
I would like to close with a thank you and a request. Thank you that so many brothers and sisters are currently involved in our church congregations: for humanity, for respect and tolerance, for a culture of welcome. This is charity practiced.
But in our society there is not only willingness to help. There is also fear and worry, incomprehension and anger. We now need encouragement instead of fear-makers. We need bridge builders instead of apologists for isolation. We need gestures of reconciliation, not marginalization. We need less clarity in what we are at odds with than clarity in what unites us. And it is precisely here that our church is challenged. Please help further. Because we can. Yes, and we can do it too. Together.
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