Dr. Michael Kiefer
Let me begin with a few remarks about our organization – der Aktion Gemeinwesen und Beratung e. V. (Community Action and Counselling) – which has been conducting the model project “Ibrahim Meets Abraham” since 2010. Aktion Gemeinwesen und Beratung (AGB e.V.) (Community Action and Counselling), founded in 1981, is a recognized volunteer organization addressing child and youth welfare and community organizing in the Düsseldorf neighbourhood of Bilk, and is a member of the Paritätischen Wohlfahrtsverband (DPWV) (Joint Social Welfare Organization). As well as the city of Düsseldorf and the state of North Rhine Westphalia, AGB sponsors include „Aktion Mensch“ (People’s Action), association members and various private donors. AGB works closely with all of the child and youth welfare organizations, as well as with all of the schools in the neighbourhood, and is actively involved in all of the related local and national networks. The Aktion Mensch (People’s Action) supported AGB project "Hilfen für migrantische Kinder und Jugendliche im Sozialraum Jagenbergwerke" (support for children and youth in the Sozialraum Jagenbergwerke) received the German Association of Cities and the German Housing Industry’s 2009 Preis Soziale Stadt (City Social Award).
At this point, I would like to briefly outline the basic concepts that underlie our project. We proceed from the perspective that the peaceful and thriving coexistence of different religions and worldviews in a pluralistic society, with the inevitable diversity of adolescent male lifestyles, both among immigrants and non-immigrants, poses significant challenges. Diverging value systems at home, in peer groups and in society at large often require a shifting between different social codes, making the process of establishing one’s identity complex and conflictual. Numerous reports from schools and youth services indicate that boys from uneducated backgrounds are susceptible to the simplistic formulations of extremist groups, for example, the reduction of the complex consequences of a globalized world to unidimensional effects and responsibilities. The basic problem of extremist recruiting efforts among youth, above all among those who are undereducated, and who as a result have fewer options for social participation, affects youth from immigrant backgrounds in particular ways, as a majority of them belong to this group. That they continue to be perceived as foreign by sections of German society and are not considered to belong is also a contributing factor. This demographic is specifically targeted by the propaganda of some of the Islamist groups, as well as by the efforts of nationalist-Islamist groups (for example, the “Grey Wolves”). These groups present alleged Islamic alternatives encompassing solutions for every problem, thereby drawing in youth influenced by Islam in particular – but not exclusively – on the basis of their cultural origins and the way they are perceived by sections of society at large. Religious clichés, including passages from the Koran, are presented out of context and used to create a dichotomous worldview. A we-group that is positive in every respect is contrasted with an absolutely depraved group of others.
Involvement in the project provides the boys with an opportunity to develop interreligious and intercultural dialogue skills. The project allows them to encounter, experience and learn to value community and common ground in its diversity. This raises the question of the encounter with unidimensional worldviews, such as that displayed in Islamist ideology. The youth must be equipped to identify, critically examine and finally debunk these empty phrases. In the process, the capacity and willingness to critically examine things, while acknowledging other points of view, is presented as an important precondition for responsible citizenship and for civil society. Beyond that, the youth are made aware of the options available to them for participating in society. The important aspect of all of this is the recognition and positive experience of pluralism and democratic behaviour. Disagreements and differences of opinion should be seen as opportunities for critical debate with others and a critical re-examination of your own point of view, a process that ensures the continued development of both the individual and society. It is of particular importance that youth from immigrant backgrounds experience social acceptance and recognition of their religious and cultural backgrounds in the process.
Concrete Objectives in the Dialogue Groups
1. Participation in the Dialogue Groups
The offer of a valuable prize (a scooter) is intended to motivate the boys. The objective is ongoing participation in the dialogue groups.
In the first group phase, the issues relevant to participants’ immediate living environments are addressed, in keeping with the motto “Ibrahim meets Abraham.” The objective is to raise the level of sensitivity about factors in participants’ immediate living environments that affect intercultural and interreligious cooperation.
3. Language Skills
How do the boys perceive the diversity in their environment? What are the attitudes they are exposed to and what has shaped them? The groups address these questions and seek preliminary answers. The objective is the development of language skills.
Tolerating diversity poses a great challenge to the boys in the target group. They are encouraged to consider their attitudes and their behaviour. The objective is increasing tolerance.
In the context of the three-year model project, new participation-based formats for intercultural education and dialogue will be explored and mingled. Boys from uneducated milieus will work in professionally moderated groups to create and implement an interesting educational option for youth their own age. The overall concept is centred on three contests that fall in a logical sequence from year to year:
• To begin with, the motto “Ibrahim meets Abraham” is thoroughly considered in mixed dialogue groups. Then, the participants develop a proposal for an event based on the motto.
• The proposals developed are presented to a jury for evaluation.
• The proposal chosen by the jury, which might be a concert, a theatre piece, a dramatic reading, a podium discussion, or something else, is presented in an appropriate context, with the boys’ participation.
• The conclusion and highpoint is the presentation of prizes to the winning group. Each of the participants will be presented with an attractive prize.
In closing, I would like to briefly tell you about the first round in our competition. Together with our cooperating partners, we were able to establish the three dialogue groups that participated in our February 2011 to July 2011 motto competition, developing a variety of activities in the process.
The 1st and 2nd groups were made up of so-called school dropouts from the Hulda Pankok and Heinrich Heine comprehensive schools. Their average age was 15 or 16 years old. The 3rd group was made up of boys from our organization’s residential neighbourhood. All of the groups were heterogeneous in nature. The boys came from Polish, Moroccan, Italian and Turkish immigrant backgrounds.
All of the boys’ groups (a maximum of 10 boys per group) met once or twice a week from February until July, initially addressing the motto “Ibrahim meets Abraham” as they wished and as interested them and developing activities in the following formats:
• Immediate living environment excursions to neighbourhood associations.
• Conversations with association members and organizers.
• Excursions to important churches (the Cologne Cathedral), mosques (the Merkez Mosque in Duisburg) and synagogues (the Düsseldorf Synagogue).
• Guidance and basic historical information was provided, and controversial issues were presented and critically addressed (mosque construction, etc.), with detailed introductory and concluding discussions.
• Feature films and documentaries that address aspects of the dialogue themes.
(“Mohammed,” “Schindler’s List,” etc.)
• Podium discussions about controversial themes (mosque construction, etc., the Middle East conflict, anti-Semitism) with the roles exchanged (Muslims play Christians, Christians play Muslims, etc.).
• Daily conflictual situations, with the roles exchanged.
• Preparing short videos presenting individual positions on dialogue themes.
• Haram-Halal – the meaning and purpose of dietary laws and their cultural
and religious background.
At the end of the dialogue group phase (June 2011), the groups worked on their competition entries (proposals for educational activities), which were submitted to the jury on September 15. The jury had to choose from the three competition proposals, giving first prize to two of them. In October, the boys participated in choosing sections from the awarding-winning proposals for presentation. Central to the activities was the production of the film project “Was glaubst Du?” (What Do You Believe?), for which we were able to win the participation of the renowned television journalist Ahmet Senyurt. In addition, all of the participants cooperated in organizing a large-scale youth disco.
In a festive setting at the Bilk community centre on December 16, 2011, the 10 winners of the competition received their awards from Ralf Jäger, the Minister for Domestic and Municipal Affairs in the state of North Rhine Westphalia. In his speech, the Minister said that he knew of no other youth project in Germany that tied together the development of dialogue and a youth competition in such an innovative way. This was a perspective shared by many of the guests, including the American Consul General Janice G. Weiner and the Turkish Consul General Firat Sunel. It was a very happy evening, especially for the young winners of the Aktion Gemeinwesen und Beratung (AGB e.V.) (Community Action and Counselling) competition. Ten boys between the age of 13 and 16 received prizes from the Minister. The high point of the event was unquestionably the raffle for the scooter that Peugot Scooters provided to AGB.
Our own perspective, as well as that of the youth who participated and of our sponsors, about the way that the first round of the competition was conducted is unequivocally positive. All three groups approved of the straightforward concept presented to encourage dialogue, one that largely rejected a focus on fixed content. The motto theme provided participants with substantial positive stimulus, facilitating the creation of a diverse and appealing programme.
Berichte aus der laufenden Projektarbeit
Schüler der Realschule Luisenstraße gewinnen den letzten Wettbewerb
Feierliche Preisübergabe in Bilk
Interreligiöser Flashmob erfolgreich durchgeführt
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