Our UNAoC fellows at Berlin


By Kholoud Mansour

As the fellows experienced the intensive and overwhelming week in the United States, they were very well-prepared to visit Europe and examine the differences. Europe journey included 3 appealing cities Berlin, Brussels, and Paris.

The first session in Berlin started with a meeting with Mr. Steffen Sibert, Government Spokesman, State Secretary at the Federal Press Office Press. Mr. Sibert expressed the high interest and close follow-up on the momentum of the situation in the Arab region. The West has sometimes misconception to take the Arab countries as a homogeneous community instead of looking at the countries individually. As Mr. Sibert took questions on every imaginable subject; he emphasized that one should deal loyally and heartedly with the government in order to avoid any contradiction between public statement and personal convictions.

As a federal and decentralized state, the media is divided in two camps; the public service station owned by the government and private ones. However, the online media made a huge difference all over the world. Mr. Sibert added

Mr. Seibert addressed the issue of the Arab Awakening that was engulfed by the absence of economic well-being and the unemployment. Germany is in a position to start fresh with any elected government in the Arab countries as Germany had good relations, yet not privileged ones, with the old powers. Development is the filed where Germany can cooperate and help the MENA countries.

The meeting with the Ambassador Dr. Heinrich Kreft, the Director for Public Diplomacy and Dialogue among Civilizations at the Federal Foreign Office was very insightful. Ambassador Kreft generously invited the fellows to a lunch to continue the discussions on various subjects and to provide a briefed history of Berlin as a receiving-migrants country to the huge influxes in the country. Ambassador Kreft additionally highlighted the increasing number of Muslims communities and mosques in Germany and the importance of education’s role in this regard. We expressed our gratitude in his support to the fellowship programme.

The fellows got the chance to meet with Ali Aslan, UNAoC alumni fellow, and the host of the international talk show “Quadriga” on Deutche Welle TV “Integration and Diversity in Germany today”. Ali offered statistics on the migrants in Germany, the demographic challenges summarized by the aging old society with a relatively low birth rate. He also explained the three tiers of the schooling system, the image of Muslims in Germany, as well as the different dynamics (and somehow tension) within the migrant groups themselves. It was joyful to exchange Aslan’s experience living in New York City for some years while the fellows had just arrived from the United States and still had their few days in NYC fresh in mind.

The first day was concluded by a meeting with Mr. Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office.  Mr. Löning reflected on the different Arab revolutions as he believed that it would be very simplifying to say that the removal of one dictator will bring a country from one side to another. As the previous sessions, Mr. Löning responded to the enormous questions raised by our dear fellows who have national, regional, and international political interests.

The meetings continued in Berlin with Katherina, Public Information Officer at the World Food Program who reflected on the volatile food price in addition to many other challenges as land, rising of population, drought… etc that make drastic impact and affect the WFP work. The mandate of the WFP is simply to fight hunger, distribute food, and provide sustainable projects. The host talked about some initiatives in different countries where the WFP tried to build strong capacity and connect the farmers with the local markets. She also explained the work of the WFP during the emergency situation and how the food is secured to the most affected areas. However, the delivery might be faced by many challenges especially among the insecurity and instability in some areas which makes it very dangerous to the staff.

The fellows met later with Ms. Sawsan Chebli, the Intercultural Affairs, Berlin State Government, Senate for the Interior and Sport. Ms. Chebli focuses on Islam and integration as a platform for young Muslim children to have a voice, overcome some challenges, and enforce their identity.

Mr. Ralf Gebel, Head of the Office of State Minister Maria Bohmer, Federal Chancellery revealed a great interest to listen to the fellows regarding the progression of their countries. Mr. Gebel talked about the migration and integration, the social security, legal and illegal migration, as well as the council of integration.

The foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung was the last station for our fellows in Berlin. The organization highlighted the priority momentum of change and use of the youth in the activities in the MENA region. Germany plays major role in the peace process and create fine atmosphere in the peace and cooperation process starting from education as an effective and vital tool to make any change.

Most of the hosts in Berlin highlighted the importance to learn the language specially for the religious imams to be able to preach and reach the majority of Muslims in the country. The hosts also addressed the German Islam Conference and the Islamic studies taught in many universities as a step forward to assist in the integration and comprehension in the society.

See you in Brussels…