The Federal Foreign Office’s fifth “Long Night of Ideas” took place on 19 July 2020. A first this year was that it took place entirely virtually. The #LNDI2020 bore the motto “Cultures of the Future – Future of Cultures” and addressed, in particular, the role of culture in times of crisis. Minister of State Michelle Müntefering emphasised in her address to the #LNDI2020 the importance of international cultural projects amidst this unprecedented crisis, the possibilities offered by digital formats, and the power of culture to overcome borders.
In doing so, both she and the Federal Foreign Office reaffirmed our approach at Dialogueperspectives: Social distancing cannot be taken literally. Solidarity, community cooperation, and human contact in the digital sphere are especially important during this crisis!
The Long Night of Ideas is a collaborative project of the Federal Foreign Office, its intermediary organisations, and further strong partners from civil society, research and scientific organisations, and private foundations. The goal of the event is, among others, to provide society access to the various facets and topics of foreign cultural and education policy and the intermediary organisations involved in it.
This was Dialogueperspectives’ second opportunity to orchestrate an event as part of the Federal Foreign Office’s Long Night of Ideas. After we were able last year to have discussions on the defence of diversity, gender equality and justice, and fake news with our visitors long into the small hours, on 19 June 2020 it was all about Europe and its pluralistic waters. Europe is a site of diversity, a space of possibilities and societal collaboration. The religious/worldview pluralism present in Europe has long overtaken any imagined uniform national or religious homogeneity. At the same time, Europe is marked by political fragmentation and polarisation, rising nationalism, and the rejection of alternative ways of life.
Pluralisation means not only an increase in and differentiation of identities, but also a strengthening of religious/worldview communities. In Europa’s diverse communities, the times for simply posing questions about integration are long past, with communities now trying out critical self-assurance, demanding societal participation, and participating in public discourses. What role religions and worldviews can play in the shaping of European society is a matter of a process of negotiation that must reflect this societal pluralism and include those who, for example, do not have any religious identity.
Utilising various formats and with the intensive participation of Dialogueperspectives participants, we devoted ourselves during the #LNDI2020 to the urgent questions of pluralism, political participation, alliances and a collaborative, inclusive shaping of our lifeworlds despite – or perhaps because of – the ambivalences and interdependencies of linguistic, religious/worldview, and political diversity.
We began the evening with a podium discussion on the topic “Religion – Language – Society”. Author and activist Kübra Gümüşay (“Sprache und Sein” – “Language and Being”), Vice-President of the German Bundestag Claudia Roth (Alliance 90/The Greens), and the poet and author Max Czollek (“Desintegriert euch!”) took part in the discussion. Jo Frank, managing director of the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk, led the discussion. Together they discussed how language reflects and creates reality, and the extent to which language can form society.
After the discussion that we wished could have continued much longer, our participants were able to have their say. We asked participants and alumni*ae about their perspectives on Europe and the term European identity. This always implies the question: How can something like a European identity be possible in spite of Europe’s pluralistic waters? And, further, do we even need the concept of collective identity to formulate and realise shared visions, goals, and bases for action? Our current and former participants are diverse, in every sense. In their video contributions, they show that the answers to the questions of Europe and European identity are as diverse as the people in Europe are. The video contributions can be viewed on our website.
The artists Beatrix von Schrader and Dieter Puntigam provided us a whole other view of the evening’s topics. In their performance art, they employ the tools of dance and the tagtool, thus allowing their audiences to see, hear, and experience the religious/worldview, political, and societal diversity of Europe through their performance. They sketch creative, unconventional, and controversial pictures and snapshots, providing food for thought as we navigate pluralistic waters.
We then turned to the second panel of the evening. With the moderation of Iman al Nassre, a freelance speaker for Dialogueperspectives, Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe in the Federal Foreign Office, Esra Küçük, Managing Director of the Allianz Kulturstiftung, and Terry Reintke, Member of the European Parliament for the European Greens, discussed pluralism and political participation in Europe. Who is Europe? Who is allowed to shape Europe? How can Europe become our Europe? Do we even want that? What are the possibilities for and boundaries of political participation in a pluralistic Europe?
This panel also felt far too brief! After that, we tried to let the voices, perspectives, and expertise of our participants be heard: we changed digital spaces and divided our visitors into breakout discussion rooms. They encountered our Dialogueperspectives participants as experts in interfaith/worldview dialogue and in questions relevant to society as a whole. The small groups spoke about identity, borders and territoriality, gender and religion, global and local solidarities, and understandings of belonging in light of debates on “Leitkultur” and “the West”.
Connecting with the formation “Keep Calm and Drink Tea”, which the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk began with at the start of the corona pandemic, we came together for the candle lighting with Max Feldhake – right on time at 9.15pm – to welcome the beginning of Shabbat. Max Feldhake is a rabbinical student of the Abraham Geiger College and provides clerical support for Dialogueperspectives. In addition, he has held a position within the Federal Foreign Offices department on Religion and Foreign Policy since May 2020.
We ended the evening with a DJ set from Daniel Laufer, curator of the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerks’ artists’ programme DAGESH, along with Alex Stolze, violinist, songwriter, and producer, providing a musical conclusion to four hours of discussion on navigating Europe’s pluralistic waters.
We would like to thank everyone who helped us in planning and carrying out the event! And many thanks also to all our viewers who enriched the event with their comments. We’d be delighted to continue the conversation with you all somewhere else in the future!
We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to all our guests and contributors to the evening: Kübra Gümüsay, Claudia Roth, Max Czollek, Terry Reintke, Esra Kücük, Staatsminister Michael Roth, Iman Al Nassre, Jo Frank, Neta-Paulina Wagner, Nasim Gambarov, Angela Pape, Simon Stromer, Thao Tran, Marco Schendel, Ezgy Aydinlik, Gil Shohat, Dora Laborczi, Azra Koyuncu, Anile Tmava, Thalia Rahme, Nuriani Hamdan, Anthony Ssembatya, Svea Schnaars, Mariusz Muszcynski, Larissa Zeigerer, Felix Leininger, Julian Sagert, Sonya Ouertani, Hussam Alcha‘ar, Nastasja Penzar, Maximilian Priebe, Mohammed Ibrahim, Gal Yaron Mayersohn, Bea von Schrader, Dieter Puntigam, Alex Stolze, Daniel Laufer, the entire Dialogueperspectives team, our colleagues at ELES, especially Adrian Fiedler, Rachel Lichtenauer, Stephanie Haerdle, Konstantin Seidler, Dominik Ziller, Alexander von Falkenhausen, Kevin Nagel, Regina Prokopetz, Oya Ataman, Sabine Bausch, Katharina Cordts, Marcus Savaria, Katharina Hofbauer, Verena Zeiner, and Daphne von Schrader.
And finally, thank you to our supporters, especially the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
˝The programme makes possible something that is all too rare in our society these days: speaking and having discussions across borders, not about each other, but with each other. That can be a hard slog at times, but at the same time the format makes space for follow-up questions and deeper conversations that are only possible through trust on all sides.
Felix, DialoguePerspectives participant