Has Islam saved Judaism more than once?

"Judaism, Christianity, Islam - listening to one another, living together": Ceremonial speech on the occasion of the opening of the Week of Fraternity of the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation e.V.,

The spoken word is valid!


thank you very much for the friendly greeting! It is a pleasure and an honor for me to be able to open this year's “Week of Brotherhood” here in the beautiful music hall of the Hessian state parliament!

The fact that the first societies for Christian-Jewish cooperation were founded just a few years after the Holocaust was an important sign, and the willingness on the part of the Jews cannot be overestimated. It is even nicer to speak to you here today in a city whose Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation was founded in 1948 as one of the first four of today's 83 societies nationwide. In doing so, they set a clear example early on here in Hesse. However, this fact should not hide the fact that the Christian churches - and thus also my Protestant church - failed terribly in the Third Reich. Of course there were individual voices such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer's well-known saying: "Only those who shout for Jews are allowed to sing in Gregorian". Or the so-called “Bureau Grüber” in Berlin around Pastor Heinrich Grüber, who campaigned for the emigration and rescue of women and men of Jewish origin who were baptized as Protestants. There were also countless individuals who, because of their Christian responsibility, hid Jews and thus saved them from being abducted and murdered. Overall, however, the churches have not really lived up to their claim to stand up for the disenfranchised. And even after the war - despite the Stuttgart declaration of guilt or a Darmstadt word from the local regional church - there was a long struggle to come to terms with one's own history of failure.

In 1949 the first German Evangelical Church Congress of the post-war period took place. Its founding under von Thadden was to be understood as a clear sign to counter the failure of the official church under National Socialism with a clear sign, with a movement that also and especially asks itself these questions and has an impact on society with time announcements. The 10th and last all-German Kirchentag before reunification in Berlin in 1961 dealt with the topic of Christian-Jewish dialogue: In the large assembly hall, a large Star of David was emblazoned on the wall next to the Kirchentag cross.

And the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, founded three years earlier, also reacted to the unwillingness to know and the unwillingness of large sections of the German population in the post-war years to face responsibility for the Nazi crimes. ASF acted like a thorn. Its founders did not want to support the excuses of large parts of German society. And so they openly faced their own guilt and responsibility. In the founding appeal of Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste, which was read out by President Lothar Kreyssig on April 30, 1958 at the Synod of the Evangelical Church of Germany in Berlin-Spandau, I quote: “We Germans started the Second World War and with it more than others immeasurable suffering caused by mankind. Germans killed millions of Jews in a revolting revolt against God. Those of us survivors who did not want this to happen did not do enough to prevent it. "

For decades there has been a controversial debate in the churches about their own responsibility. After anti-Semitic failures in connection with the Veit Harlan trial in 1950, President Gustav Heinemann sharply disapproved of these incidents and a so-called “word on the Jewish question” was adopted by the EKD Synod in which the Evangelical Church acknowledged its responsibility and to it called for action against anti-Semitic currents within the church. We are committed to this tradition to this day. Remembering always means first admitting your own guilt - only then is reconciliation possible. The Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation in the Federal Republic have been doing this in a special and impressive way for over six decades. For this I would like to express my thanks and also my respect!


More than 60 years have passed since the founding of the first societies for Christian-Jewish cooperation, six decades in which our society in East and West has fundamentally changed. Today we live in a multicultural society with many different influences and also religious traditions: That makes us rich and that causes us problems. This helps us tremendously for our development as a society and it harbors challenges that we have to face. But above all, it is good that it is so. Our social order, which has now been all-German for over 20 years, has, despite many upheavals in principle, led to a free and tolerant coexistence: Everyone can and should live within the framework of the Basic Law as he and she thinks is right and - to Friedrich II strive - to be saved on his own terms. In a time that is looking for standards and orientation, it is, by the way, precisely the religions that can make an important contribution to social discourse. The times when religion was just a private matter should be over. Also because religion is repeatedly misused to stir up prejudices, to cover up political disputes, even to declare it the reason for armed conflicts that really deal with different questions, right up to the terrorist threat that is in invisibility of the religious comes from it. Here in Hesse, for the sake of honesty, one must also remember the alleged Jewish legacies that were put forward at the time, which were supposed to prevent critical inquiries and cover up illegal party donations. Religions must therefore always serve for a lot and are at the same time stopping point and anchor, place of encounter and community, home in a placeless society and, last but not least, in their diversity, place of assurance and doubt, of search and arrival. In this, even in their majority, or especially then, in the democratic community, they are rightly more than an association, they are a place of lived individuality, experienced diversity and lively solidarity.


“Judaism, Christianity, Islam - listen to each other, live together” - I would like to take you on a kind of “journey” to different stations. Stations that seem important and worth considering in the conversation between the three monotheistic religions that shape our German society today, or at least help shape it. I would like to go to the following stations with you:

  1. The first station is that of one's own point of view
  2. A second stop stops at the clichés and stereotypes that unfortunately still exist
  3. A third station touches on the so-called person-centered conversation as a model for interreligious dialogue
  4. In a fourth station I head for the Action Reconciliation for Peace Services, which, in addition to the Judeo-Christian dialogue, is an outstanding example of interreligious dialogue #
  5. In a fifth station I come to the topic of integration and what is important for interreligious dialogue and coexistence
  6. And in a final (sixth) station I finally look to Minden, where the central opening ceremony of the Week of Fraternity is currently taking place. There Navid Kermani is the first Muslim to be awarded the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal.

Before I head for the first station of my own position, I stop at a station, a gas station for the upcoming trip of my lecture, if you will. I found it when I leafed through the impressive 2011 special issue of the Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation. And, look, this "gas station" is not found in the Jewish Bible or in the New Testament of Christendom, but in the Koran. There it says in sura 5:48: “And if God had willed, he would have made you one community, one only. But he wanted to test you in what he gave you. So compete for the good things. ”In an interreligious way, following the New Testament, a saying by the Jew Jesus can be added:“ In my father's house there are many apartments ”(John 14, 2). Obviously, God did not like it to create his likenesses only Jews or Christians or Muslims. God's image is beautiful in many faces! In order to compete for the good things, by that I mean: to talk to each other as religions, to look at each other, to understand, with friendly, even loving looks. But this requires my own point of view, the place from which I look, the heart that opens, the mind that assures itself.

The first station of your own point of view

It doesn't work without your own point of view! When we deal with people - be it in politics, be it privately or wherever - we want to know where our counterpart is, what he or she represents, what is important to her or him in life, what he is focusing on leave what gives her hope. For the functioning of relationships and also for the state it is important to know, understand and be able to understand the points of view of others. This can also mean rubbing against each other, contradicting and arguing - preferably constructively.

When it comes to religion, there is often a reluctance to state one's own point of view clearly and clearly today. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that some claim that religion is a purely private matter. On the other hand, I think it is important that we as Jews, Christians and Muslims tell each other about what we believe, what sustains us and holds us in life, what gives us courage and comforts or - about it to express with the New Testament and this year's slogan of the German Evangelical Church Congress in Dresden, of which I can be President - what we hang our hearts on. It is important to be recognizable and to be recognized. In any case, I regard the speechlessness of religious content with concern, this reluctance to formulate what is one's own, to talk about oneself as a Christian, as a Jew, as a Muslim. I want self-confident women and men who tell others about their respective beliefs and who know where they stand! Because it means more than saying your name, knowing your job or your family situation. When I talk about what I believe in, it is "giving yourself away". Why do Jews celebrate Passover? Why Christians Christmas (let's hope that no one takes a survey why we actually celebrate Pentecost ...)? Why do Muslims meet for the Sugar Festival? Or we look for what connects. Let us take the meaning of the primeval mothers and forefathers of faith, to which all three religions refer together: Sarah, Abraham, Ishmael, - or also the Jewess Mary, Jesus mother, who is also highly respected in the Koran. Often enough, looking at the other person also helps to see what is one's own better, to look more closely, to know more about it.

The second station of clichés and stereotypes


“The Jew”, “the Muslim”, “the Christian” - clichés and stereotypes still haunt many heads and not only at the regulars' tables or in populist tirades à la Thilo Sarrazin. And hardly anyone is free from it! Wasn't every Muslim state per se “unsuitable for democracy” until a few weeks ago? The revolutions in various Arab countries, which are determining the world situation in these weeks, give the lie to such stereotypical statements - even if we cannot yet foresee where the states will develop. In any case, the fact that Islam has a fundamentalist tendency naturally inherent is in any case a malicious cliché.

We experience anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia and discrimination against minorities right up to the middle of our society. Only when we actually oppose flat degradation of entire religions or groups of people and the stupid generalizations of the round tables can we then naturally express the urgently needed criticism of some currents within the religions. Fundamentalist groups that abuse their religion must be contradicted with all clarity!

In our society it must be possible for a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew to be able to identify themselves openly and without fear: with or without a headscarf, with or without a cross as a pendant, with or without a kippah. The fact that I recently had to read in the newspaper that a Brandenburg Jew thinks it's too dangerous and doesn't dare to go out on the street with a kippah definitely makes me angry! Especially since we Germans can be more than grateful that there is Jewish life again in the land of the Shoah.

Against clichés and stereotypes, the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation uses its three slogans: “Sachar”, remembering - remembering our respective traditions and beliefs, the abundance and richness of what carries us through life. But also remember the incredible crimes against humanity that happened under National Socialism.

The second motto: “dibbaer”, to talk - to communicate, to speak of yourself, to meet the other person at eye level. To tell about faith and to share it with other people.

And finally “lamad”, to learn - to learn what my religion and the other religion are, what connects us and what divides us. Learn from history so that the persecution and murder of people based on stereotypes and caricatures can never happen again. We all - Jews, Christians and Muslims - must stand up for this together.

The third station is the person-centered conversation, i.e. the real view of the individual, of my counterpart.

The so-called person-centered conversation according to the American psychologist and psychotherapist Carl Rogers can perhaps serve as a foil with which we can also get into conversation in the various religions. What is important for that?

Rogers lists three aspects for a good and sustainable conversation. He describes the first aspect as “being real, being without a facade”. He names the second aspect “attention, warmth, worries” and finally lists the third aspect, “sensitive, non-judgmental understanding”.

The first aspect, ie “being real, being without a facade” expresses what is now often referred to as “authenticity”. To look into a person's face and not into a mask. This is the only way to have a real and trusting conversation. Applied to the interreligious conversation between the different religions, this means: the content of my religion and that of another religion should make visible without having to fool yourself, not even because you want to be particularly nice. Why is fasting important to a Muslim in Ramadan? What significance does the cross have for a Christian and why is the sanctification of the holiday on Shabbat an elementary basis of his faith for a Jew?

The second aspect of "respect, warmth, worry" is about the interlocutors experiencing appreciation and affection. Nothing is more of a hindrance to a conversation than a cold and unwelcoming atmosphere. The respect for what constitutes my counterpart with his or her beliefs, what is important to him or her - even if it may be strange to me at first or I find it difficult, even strange. We also expect this respect from others and take it for granted. In such an atmosphere the controversial questions and aspects can also be addressed: Is the headscarf a sign of one's own religiosity or, if it becomes compulsory, does it represent the oppression of women? If Christians and Jews do not have too many notions of violence in their scriptures, what do we keep eye to eye today? Tooth for a tooth, as it is in the book of Exodus? Or from twisting into the opposite: and if someone hits you on the right cheek, Jesus says, offer him the other too. Isn't the one violent and the other unworldly, yes, in the required self-abandonment, also misanthropic?

The third aspect of person-centered conversation follows - listening and understanding. When two people are talking, they want to understand and understand what the other is thinking and trying to express. Anyway, you hope that's what they want.But that only works if you try to empathize with the other person and to feel what is really important to him or her, without falling into your own interpretations and evaluations. That also means keeping the drawers closed in your head, rather entering into a conversation with an open mind and freely. Why do pious Jews refuse to turn the lights on or drive on Shabbat? When I was in Jerusalem last week, I also took a Shabbat elevator that didn't press a button and that stopped automatically on each floor. Or: Why do Muslims in Rammadan fast for a whole month and do not eat or drink anything while it is light? And why is the cross for Christians the central symbol of their faith, which is seen as an infinitely sad sign of death.

It only makes you richer to know. We understand the other, but also history, art, and often even political conditions much better.

Of course, shedding prejudices does not mean giving up your own judgments. On the contrary: Those who think their way into the other with an open mind can then criticize them all the more openly and well-founded. When people talk about “criticism of Islam” today, what is meant is a populist, resentful attack. A real Criticism is all the more necessary. In my opinion, such a criticism should, for example, openly address the problematic sides, especially his interpretations, ask the question of the Enlightenment, as many Muslim theologians do and, of course, want to recognize differences and trends. The There is no more Islam than the Judaism or the Christianity.

The following examples show how interreligious dialogue can look like in practice.


The fourth station of the projects of the interreligious dialogue

In a nutshell, I want to touch on a project of interreligious dialogue that is entitled: “Do you know who I am?”. It aims to strengthen the peaceful coexistence of the three major religions in Germany. Numerous local initiatives enable people of different religious traditions to discover what connects their religions and traditions, to respect differences, to stand up for one another and to act together. “Do you know who I am?” Is supported by the governing bodies of the Working Group of Christian Churches in Germany (ACK), the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) and the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (DITIB). The target group of the project are Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities as well as associations, educational institutions and interested people who want to exchange experiences and are convinced that they will contribute to peaceful coexistence in Germany.

Or about the Action Reconciliation for Peace Services. The interreligious dialogue in Germany always includes dealing with German history and the crimes of National Socialism. The Action Reconciliation Service for Peace has been doing this since it was founded in 1958 through committed Christians from the ranks of the Protestant Church. Last week, her 50th anniversary in Israel was celebrated in Jerusalem: since 1961, young people from Germany have been going to Israel and doing reconciliation work there by seeking talks with victims of National Socialism and giving concrete help through their work and trying to bring about reconciliation. The action atonement sets a clear and visible sign against anti-Semitism: the "traditional" primary anti-Semitism, which ascribes everything possible to "the Jews" and culminates in world conspiracy theories. Through her engagement in Israel she also turns against a secondary anti-Semitism, which is directed against the State of Israel in particular, and which is booming worldwide - not only in the Islamic world. This is a challenge for school and extracurricular education and I hope that in the future more German young people of Muslim faith will get involved in the ARSP and thus set an example against anti-Semitism and for the State of Israel. And also at the Kirchentag in Dresden at the beginning of June this year we are doing something for it and setting an example: The traditional collection at the big closing service is intended for a project by Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste, the wonderful project is called “Countering hatred and self-justification with a force. Active for human dignity - against right-wing extremist attitudes in church and society ”. I hope it will get a lot of support.

An outstanding, small and fine project, which is also carried out in cooperation with the ARSP, is that of the Neukölln district mothers: The district mothers are women with a migration background from Berlin-Neukölln, who live in a socially deprived area and from the Diakonie Neukölln-Oberspree to family counselors be formed. They go on a search for traces of Jewish history in their neighborhood and visit Jewish communities and Jews in their neighborhood. This project shows - against all prejudices - the desire to belong to society in Germany. Understanding the time of National Socialism is a key to this: the district mothers set out to ask questions instead of drawing the “line” that many would like to see. The coming to terms with the era of National Socialism and its crimes cannot be concluded, however, and they advocate this and this is also wonderfully expressed in a very beautiful formulation by Regina Cysewski in her text in the brochure of the district mothers: "I woke up, I want to know more, read more, learn more and understand more "!

The fifth station of the integration debate

Let me stop at the subject of “integration”, which has been on everyone's lips over the past few months.

What exactly is meant by “integration” often remained abstract in the last integration debate. What does integration actually mean? Adaptation? Abandonment of one's own? How awful that would be! The Neukölln district mothers show what integration can mean in concrete terms: namely to set off, look for a critical examination of German history, pursue clues. Doesn't that mean much more than when a Muslim woman takes off her headscarf?

It's time to talk about integration again without having to speak for or against Sarrazin. Integration can only succeed as a two-way process. It's about a dialogue. The problems are to be addressed openly as well as the successes. Unfortunately, the latter are all too often kept secret. A large proportion of the migrants living here have long since arrived in our society. You have been enriching and changing our society in all areas for years, paying taxes and ensuring that we are not too embarrassed in football ... Enrichment also within Judaism, if I think of the many immigrants from the states of the former Soviet Union over the past 20 years think. Some second and third generation migrants have excellent educational qualifications. Scientific, intellectual and artistic life in Germany is meanwhile also shaped by migrants, their children and now grandchildren. Think of the filmmaker Fatih Akin, the writer Feridun Zaimoglu, the politician Tarek Al Wazir or the Lower Saxony Minister of Education, Aygül Özkan. When she was sworn in, she replied “So help me God”. When asked which God she meant, the devout Muslim said literally: “As a patriot, I am happy that our Basic Law makes this possible, makes it true and right. It has proven to be suitable beyond the thinking possibilities of its fathers and mothers. ”In a pluralistic society, successful integration does not lead to less, but to more freedom. It gives individuals more leeway to choose a self-determined life.