“What holds our country together”

Cultural Integration Initiative presents theses for successful coexistence © Arno Burgi

Today, the non-partisan "Initiative for Cultural Integration" is presenting principles for a successful coexistence – the churches are also participating. The initiative is critical of the term "Leitkultur," which has been the subject of much discussion in recent weeks.

There was a great deal of excitement when German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (CDU) presented his theses on a German Leitkultur about two weeks ago. An initiative that is also working on principles for successful coexistence was also irritated. She wants to present her thoughts today. Rejects the term Leitkultur. What makes the whole thing even more tricky is that representatives of the Federal Ministry of the Interior are also involved in the ideas for a successful coexistence.

The managing director of the German Cultural Council, Olaf Zimmermann, on whose idea the founding of the initiative goes back, was appalled: The term "Leitkultur," which the interior minister prefaced his theses with at the beginning of May, was "burned," he said in an initial reaction. The term divides instead of unites. For this reason, the "Initiative for Cultural Integration" decided not to include him in its considerations.

Dialogue between natives and strangers

After the long first weekend in May, a crisis meeting of the parties involved took place. That is 28 groups from politics and society, including the churches, the Coordination Council of Muslims, the Central Council of Jews as well as trade unions. As a representative of the church, Hamburg's Archbishop Stefan Hebe recently commented at a Cologne congress. He is "not at all" attached to the concept of a guiding culture. "It is important to me that we are in conversation about what holds our country together," he declared. These are, for example, the Basic Law, equality between the sexes, education and culture. And: locals and foreigners should participate in the dialogue.

In the meantime the waves had smoothed out again somewhat, so Zimmermann in the apron of the conception. As planned, the Minister of the Interior will give a speech at the presentation of the theses developed by the initiative at the Max Liebermann House of the Brandenburg Gate Foundation in Berlin-Mitte, but later than initially planned: First, the initiative wants to explain its ideas. Only then will the Minister of the Interior speak about "values, culture and social cohesion".

Discussion set in motion

In retrospect, Zimmermann can also see something good in de Maiziere's initiative: Perhaps it is also quite positive that a discussion has been initiated. Because in terms of content he agrees with some of the theses of the Minister of the Interior.

However, important points are missing. For example, de Maiziere did not mention the rights that individuals have vis-à-vis the state, such as freedom of speech. Nor does he mention gender equality or the importance of civic engagement. He was also irritated by the order of the theses, Zimmermann said. He said it was surprising that de Maiziere began by shaking hands and showing his face in greeting.

Discussion with religious representatives

There will certainly be more to talk about this on Tuesday. After the speech by the Minister of the Interior, a discussion is therefore planned in which, in addition to de Maiziere, various religious representatives will participate. These include the auxiliary bishop of Munster, Christoph Hegge, the federal political representative of the Protestant Church in Germany, Martin Dutzmann, the president of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, the chairman of the Coordination Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, and the president of the Federal Working Group of Immigrant Associations, Ali Ertan Toprak.

In addition, participants plan to debate volunteerism ("panacea of civic engagement or excessive demands on volunteers"). Minister of State for Culture Monika Grutters (CDU), WDR Director-General Tom Buhrow and State Secretary in the Ministry of Labor Thorben Albrecht are among those expected to attend the discussion on culture and work as integration factors.

The organizers are putting an "exclamation mark" on the event's conclusion: In the early afternoon, the participants plan to present the theses to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU).

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