Jean Monnet Network PEACE, WAR AND THE WORLD IN EUROPEAN SECURITY CHALLENGES POWERS International research workshop "Religious fragmentation as factor of conflict" 23 – 24 April 2019
On 23 -24 April 2019 Georg-August University of Goettingen carried out an international research workshop targeted on discussion of religious, cultural and social specific aspects of regional conflicts and migration.
The workshop brought together researchers from Georg-August University of Goettingen which was a host institution, Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey and Voronezh State University, Russia according to the initial workplan of the POWERS Network. However apart from the POWERS members there were invited speakers from Goethe University of Frankfurt-am-Main and Duhok University in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Their participation is a profound contribution to the research value of the workshop as well as excellence in teaching on international security. The number of direct attendees was 26 participants representing senior researchers, PhD candidates and junior researchers and students.
During the workshop, the discussion on religious fragmentation was mainly conducted based on specific case examples, such as Armenians and Greeks in Turkey, Armenians in Syria and Armenia, Christian refugees from Syria, Armenians in Germany, Islamic migrants in Germany and migrants in Russia. The individual discourses were followed by a general discussion about s paper on “Islamic minorities” and the question of religious fragmentation, delivered by Dr. Ertuğrul Şahin, professor of Islamic Law at the Institute of Culture and Religion Studies of Islam, Goethe University of Frankfurt-am-Main, who was an invited speaker. His paper focused on the dilemma of Sharia interpretation. He suggests that it is not able to solve the issue of Muslim recognition of the Situation of minorities in Muslim majority countries as long as there is no common ground in seeing Sharia as a) divine revelation or b) an historical and therefore context dependent law. Unless the chasm between those two positions cannot be overcome, his outlook on the improvement of lives for minorities is grim.
There was common consent that the religious fragmentation of societies is not the sole cause of conflicts or unbalanced social structures in the societies that were discussed. In the mentioned paper are hard-to-resolve contradictions within the Islamic concepts regarding contact with minorities. Otherwise, the paper argues the potential for a completely different evaluation and attitude of Islamic theology, as long as it seeks to connect to the context of the debates on religious freedom and protection of minorities. The question, whether such concepts can become legally effective in Islam-dominated societies, remains open. The discussed minority concepts were considered problematically by the participants from the Middle East because they are too static and ultimately involve the risk that representatives of the minorities could be prevented from taking on responsibility for their societies in a governmental leadership position.
After that, Sevgi Cilingir reflected the situation of the Armenians as one of the historical Christian minorities (according to the Lausanne-treaties) in the EU-Turkey Relations and the actual improvements in this field.
Subsequently Lilit Sargsyan was able to show the diversity within the Armenian minority in Germany. Focussing on chances and difficulties for the Armenian minority to integrating into German society. She stated that Armenians may have an advantage over other minorities integrating due to their Christian heritance. Though she makes the case that some Armenians struggle with an identity crisis, feeling disconnected from a national or cultural base, their religious identity could be helpful in creating an identity for themselves within German society.
Rima Atoyan described the relocation of 25,000 Armenians from Syria to Armenia, their settlement in sometimes difficult regions, work on language and cultural issues between Western and Eastern Armenian traditions, the effort to move from relative prosperity in Syria to economic development less favorable situation in Armenia and the tendency to move from Armenia to third countries in America and the EU.
Dr. Gülay Türkmen introduced the Muslim perception in Germany in her presentation. According to her studies, Muslim minorities are perceived far too homogenous. This misconception leads to further problems. By observing the Muslim minorities, she states that what should be kept in mind is the analysis of conflict potential between Muslim immigrants and refugees as well. Also, religious identity should not be seen as the only defining identity of Muslims unless they say so themselves.
Sinem Abka, researcher in the International Relations Department, Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey brought attention to the struggle minorities face which are not even recognized as such. She emphasized the Greek Orthodox minority’s suffering from the narrow definition of the Turkish government which stems from the historical wish to form a homogenous nation. Even though reforms were made to protect minorities several shortcomings still complicate Greeks Orthodox life in terms of education, representation and political participation. Turkish relations with the EU have the chance to improve the life of minorities.
Dr. Natalia Zhurbina from Voronezh State University pointed out, that most migrants are coming to Russia from the Post-Soviet area. The main reason for immigration is labour. She focussed specially on immigrants’ children, who don’t necessarily learn Russian. This effects isolation from Russian children. The importance of learning the language is not to underrate. Specific support in this field is necessary in order to establish a common ground for communication to enable each other to remove prejudices. She allocates this also as a challenge for the religious communities to solve the Muslim migrants‘ radicalization problem. She describes both sides, the one of the minority, as well as the side of the majority. Problems on both sides determine the present in Russia. A common dialogue could be a first step. She is pursuing a moderate discourse oriented approach.
At the end of the workshop, Majid Hassan Ali from Duhok University in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq summarized in his contribution compared the policy of the Iraqi government to religious minorities in the early Iraqi Republic after the fall of the monarchy (1958-1968). He focused especially on the situation of the Yezidis. The example of the Yazidis gained importance because it pointed out that not only Christian minorities were at risk of becoming victims of religious fragmentation, but that all religious minorities are affected. A representative for that fact is the oppression of Sunni and Shiite rule in Iraq. All participants urgently required further reflection on current questions of religious fragmentation, combined with profound field research on individual minorities, who appeared to be particularly affected by oppression and migration.
University of Göttingen — http://www.uni-goettingen.de/de/548621.html?fbclid=IwAR0f9wIis4w60DH2vhvXHfK8bzWEqdPdVngsY1tj7F2VpD5jeG8_NEw9LSM (in German)
Voronezh State University — http://www.vsu.ru/ru/news/feed/2019/05/11057