Thomas Schirrmacher
Relevant ProMundis Blogposts

IIRF on the discrimination of Armenians in Turkey today

28. Mai 2016 von · Leave a Comment 

This article was originally published in 2015 and didn’t appear on my blog until now.

(Bonn, 23.04.2015) In its newest IIRF report, the director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher describes the present day discrimination of Armenians in Turkey today. 

Schirrmacher:

“Turkey does not only deny the genocide among the Armenians or the fact that we again are in the midst of a genocide of Oriental Christians in Iraq and Syria, but also discriminates Armenian and Syro-Aramaen Christians in Turkey as it did for the last 100 years.”

 

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Religion and Politics in a free society

25. Mai 2016 von · Leave a Comment 

This article was originally published in 2015 and didn’t appear on my blog until now.

Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung-Logo(Bonn, 26.03.2015) Since the terror attacks in Paris at the beginning of the year, themes such as integration and Identity, the relation of foundational democratic values with religions, as well as religious fundamentalism and violence, have increasingly moved into the center of public discussion. In the framework of a public discussion in Brussels on March 19, 2015, held jointly by the Robert Schuman Foundation, the Forum Brussels International, and the Hanns Seidel Foundation, a group of experts and advisors offered their insights.

Schuman-Logo_01The German professor of Sociology of Religions/Comparative Religions, Dr. mult. Thomas Schirrmacher, explained how fundamentalism develops. Dr. Khalid Hajji, author and General Secretary of the European Council of Moroccan Ulema (Conseil Européen des Ouléma Marocains), went into aspects and consequences of violence and radicalization in the context of migration into postmodern Europe. Katharina von Schnurbein, coordinator for dialogue with religions and worldviews of the European Commission, presented an overview of the contributions of European institutions toward overcoming extremism, while Prof. Agdurrahman Mas’ud, general director of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in the Republic of Indonesia, reported on the experience of his country with fundamentalist movements. Isabel Guzmán, Brussels correspondent of the German Protestant Press Service (Evangelischer Pressedienst), served as moderator.

Foundations for overcoming religion-based violence

BQ347_2Prof. Schirrmacher identified intolerance and absolute truth claims, when paired with the willingness to use force or psychological manipulation to enforce those truth claims, as the primary causes of violent fundamentalism. It is not religion itself, he said,  that is the problem, rather the tendency to use violence as a means to attain religious goals, in place of convincing people by means of persuasive arguments regarding religious matters. The early recognition of such tendencies is a duty of every individual in their respective communities. An immediate and unmistakable reaction within the respective faith communities is essential both to protect their own values and to restore the credibility of the faith community. For Dr. Hajji, the battle against political radicalism is no less indispensable than the battle against religious radicalism. The current danger for Europe, he said, is precisely that the two varieties of radicalism (political and religious) tend to feed off each other and react to each other. 

The participants in the panel discussion were unified in the conviction that the protection of freedom of religion and other human rights, along with cooperation and peaceful exchanges among faith communities, could make an important contribution to overcoming violent fundamentalism. Even if the European institutions do not have specific jurisdiction for this area, they can act as catalysts and provide a platform for such efforts. Von Schnurbein explained the holistic approach of the European Commission, which includes the “Radicalization Awareness Network” (RAN) as well as a working paper on the protection of victims of extremism and hate crimes which should be presented in November, 2015. According to Prof. Mas’ud, only about 500 “Foreign Fighters” from Indonesia have joined Islamist terror militias. This number is small in comparison to fighters emanating from European countries, and especially so in light of the fact that 87% of Indonesia’s 200 million inhabitants are Muslims. Mas’ud connects this fact with the way in which the principles of tolerance, compassion, and love of neighbors are firmly anchored in Indonesian social values, which are both communicated and embodied by a strong organizational culture of civil society.

The identity of European Muslims and the role of the Imam

BQ347_1Dr. Hajji described the lack of a model of identity formation as a trigger for the growing sympathy of young European Muslims for radical Islam. Islamism offers the possibility of finding one’s personal identity, oriented toward Islamic roots, in a manner that our postmodern society cannot offer to Muslims. Of course, this Islamism arises from a fantasy world, not from reality.  However, in a time in which public life is focused on communication and effects, but not focused on meaning or purpose, such Islamism offers a supposed orientation. For this purpose, on the one hand, Islamists proclaim the necessity of an Islamic state in which Muslims can realize the puritanical dream of a “virgin territory,” while, on the other hand, they attempt to destroy any hope that Muslims can have an acceptable future in a non-Islamic state. This process of growing sympathy for radical Islam is occurring in new and partly unknown virtual online rooms. Dr. Hajji noted that youth at risk often turn away from people in their immediate situation, which makes intervention even more difficult. The role of the Imam was traditionally oriented to accompanying people in prayer, and participation in public discourse was not common for Imams. But in the context of recent developments, a suitable preparation in public discourse for Imams would certainly be desirable, even though experience shows that a European educational background does not provide a guarantee that Imams will safeguard European values.

Religious Nationalism

BQ347_3Prof. Schirrmacher reported on the increasing and dangerous world-wide tendency toward religious nationalism, which equates membership in a majority religion with nationalism. Religion is misused for the sake of creating political identity while simultaneously excluding other groups from political influence. The main problem is the related decline in tolerance toward religious minorities. As examples, Schirrmacher mentioned developments in India, where the equal treatment of all religions guaranteed by the Indian constitution is being called into question by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and Turkey, which is increasingly distancing itself from its own principles of distinguishing religion and government.

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Schirrmacher on the upcoming NBC “A. D.” series

22. Mai 2016 von · Leave a Comment 

Mark Burnett und Thomas Schirrmacher

Mark Burnett und Thomas Schirrmacher

This article was originally published in 2015 and didn’t appear on my blog until now.

(Bonn, 04.03.2015) The executive producer Mark Burnett invited a small group of Christian leaders to be the first outside of NBC to see the first episode of the 12 part “A. D.” series, the follow up of “The Bible”. To produce the first series “The Bible,” purely to be used by secular TV programs was a great risk, but it became an incredible success story: theologically sound Bible films in secular TV systems worldwide breaking many records, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Here is a comment by Thomas Schirrmacher, Chair of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), after watching the pilot episode:

“After seeing the first episode I told Mark: In the A. D. series, the best of our modern culture marries with the best of Biblical scholarship and the 2000 year-old story of the gospel. As a scholar, I am not the type of person to exaggerate or to help advertise things to do people a favor. But when I congratulated Mark, saying that this is not only the best “block buster” on the Bible, but very true and close to the Biblical text, it was my professional opinion as one moderating evangelical theology globally. And I am proud, that former Secretary General of WEA, Geoff Tunnicliffe, played a major role in getting Christian churches of all confessions to back the program. – By the way: The near to perfect music is from my favorite film composer, Hans Zimmer!”

We mourn Thomas Luckmann (1927-2016)
doyen of the sociology of religion

20. Mai 2016 von · Leave a Comment 

Lockmann_Thomas

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Protect Muslims; protect against Islamicists – Speech on the occasion of the 100 Year Commemoration of the Genocide of Armenian and Syriac Aramaic Christians

20. Mai 2016 von · Leave a Comment 

Lecture for the CDU Solingen

This article was originally published in 2015 and didn’t appear on my blog until now.

“The German state must equally guarantee freedom of religion for freedom loving Muslims and also use its monopoly on the use of force to suppress those Islamicists who are enemies of freedom of religion.”

12-01-15_Vortrag-CDU-Christenverfolgung_1This was the main thesis presented by the Director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom and President of the International Society for Human Rights on the occasion of the “Castle Burger Discussions” held jointly by a Protestant working group of the CDU/CSU political party and the senior citizens association of Solingen at the Luther Church in Solingen.

Religious freedom is never achieved half-heartedly, claimed Professor Schirrmacher, who teaches sociology of religion at the University of the West in Romania. One simply must protect Muslims from whoever would threaten their freedom of religion—as well, of course as protecting oriental Christians and converts from Islam to Christianity—especially from those Muslims who are called Islamicists, whose goal is the abolition of religious freedom or who would justify or even use violence.

Freedom of religion, as is true with all human rights, must not only be made legally possible; fundamental rights must be actively defended by means of the monopoly of force of the state against all those who justify, propagate, or practice abuses of those rights.

12-01-15_Vortrag-CDU-Christenverfolgung_2The theme of the evening was “Christian Persecution in the Middle East as a Reflection of the Situation of Religious Freedom Worldwide.” Schirrmacher, who is also deputy chair of the advisory committee for the Center for Oriental Christians in Germany (Zentralrat Orientalischer Christen in Deutschland, ZOCD), reminded the audience of the genocide of Armenian and Syriac Aramaic Christians in 1915. Whoever sees the current situation in Syria as a new or short term problem is historically forgetful. For oriental Christians the Middle East has never truly become a place of peace since the mass murder of millions of their fellow believers a century ago. Today’s genocide is only a new appearance of a terrible tragedy, with a series of starts and stops, which has been going on for at least a century.

The scholar, who travels widely on behalf of ecumenical causes, publicly regretted that Germany is not using 2015 to publicly investigate and evaluate its shared responsibility in the 1915 genocide carried out by its ally in World War I, Turkey.

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Thomas Schirrmacher