In November 2010, Donald Reeves and Peter Pelz went to Germany, to Werl – a town in the Ruhr region. They had been invited by the Soest Forum of Religion and Cultures because Donald had been awarded the International Award of the Forum for their work of peace-building in Bosnia. The laudate was given by Paul Oestreicher. There is no money attached to the award but it is significant since the Forum is the oldest Muslim organisation in Germany; the award was given to the Soul of Europe a Christian organisation.
The presentation of the award coincided with the Soul of Europe’s work in the Balkans drawing to a close.
We are really grateful to those who supported our work in a now forgotten region of the world which has never caught the public’s imagination.
New Directions have emerged for the future of the Soul of Europe – closer to home.
Awakening the soul of Europe
We have learnt of a new phenomenon in Europe – a variety of far right populist leaders who champion a robust nationalism alongside a visceral hatred of minorities especially Muslims. Now their inflammatory rhetoric has moved into European mainstream politics. Muslims are regarded ‘as a threat’ and ‘alien to our way of life: they are not like us’. This is blatant racism and anti Islam as a religion. As Marwan Muhammed, from the Collective against Islamophobia in France, told the Soul of Europe: ‘We are scapegoats and are blamed for all of Europe’s problems’.
However there is more to say. From among the many different European Muslim communities there are those who say: ‘we have had enough of discrimination, enough of crude stereotyping, of being scapegoats’. (This impatience reflects the birth of a new civil rights movement – European style). These men and women are not ‘extremists’. In a debate on Britishness set up by Young Muslim Voices as to what it means to be British, a definition was agreed: ‘a cosmopolitan community where people are respectful of different faiths and different backgrounds’.
And from among non Muslims there are those who reject intimidation and harassment of Muslims; and there are those who express their solidarity with Muslims. Among these are churches who in some regions of Europe and over many years have made realities of inter-faith dialogue in mutual cooperation and collaboration on social, cultural and political matters.
Therefore the Soul of Europe together with the Soest Forum is seeking to strengthen, deepen, broaden and extend the bridges which have been and are being built between Muslims and nonMuslim, particularly among the younger generation. In this way the culture of Islamophobia – both in its religious and racist manifestations – will be interrupted. This is a pan European issue and needs to be addressed from a European perspective.
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