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Michael Sievernich SJ

Multi-Culturalism at its End

 

From: Stimmen der Zeit, 2006/1, p. 1f.

 

In the recent past multi-culturalism formed a facet of that political spirit of the time that wanted not to be outdone in tolerance, however at the price of disregarding or discrediting its own cultural and religious tradition. The fact that people of different social-cultural coinage (must) live together peacefully in society, is a matter of course that is also naturally realized in a city like Frankfurt/Main with a foreigner portion of 25 per cent. But if multiculturalism maintains as a norm the equality of all represented cultures, which might not be integrated into a "leading culture", then this relativism on principle places not only basic values of the European core culture to the disposal, but hinders also necessary assimilation processes. The actual co-existence is charged to such an extent with competitive assertions that the ideological petrifaction of the difference favours the formation of parallel societies, and hinders the mutually flexible syntheses of one's own and foreign things. By this process concerns less those who by their knowledge of languages, education, diligence, or business success have become 'cultural frontier commuters' and are able to integrate themselves, concerned are above all those who - by the want of education and training, of work and initiative, of faculty of speech and success - are detained in their ghettos, and exposed to seduction by readiness for violence and hatred of the surrounding culture.

With the beginning of the new century multiculturalism seems to have passed its zenith, and to make place to a new cultural thoughtfulness. Present pressing events have rendered doubtful the past multicultural concepts. Temporary final point of those developments were the outbreaks of violence in the satellite cities of Paris and other French cities, when violent juveniles did not only burn off thousands of cars of their neighbours, but also their own schools, social services and shops with prefabricated incendiary bottles. There it became obvious that legal measures such as emergency decrees, and measures of the police such as patrols and arrests, can restore the outward order but do not solve the problems of that dammed up hate. Hatred is attributed by the French philosopher André Glucksmann to a wide-spread Nihilism that also became apparent in the 'NO' to the European Constitution.

The fact that in France, according to demographic estimations, about four million Muslims of usually North African origin are living who constitute eight per cent of the population, goes back to the colonial past of the country. In Germany, where one assesses the Muslim population at approximately four per cent, the situation presents itself historically differently. Fifty years ago, in December 1955, the Federal Republic of Germany signed the first enlistment contract with Italy, in order to overcome the lack of workers. Up to the enlisting stop 1973 further contracts with Greece, Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Portugal, Tunesia and former Yugoslavia followed. That immigration was not caused by any colonial inheritance but by the job market situation, and marked the beginning of the modern work immigration. It was, according to George Simmel's saying, not the foreigner who comes today and goes tomorrow, but the foreigner "who comes today and will stay tomorrow". That their remaining could succeed to some extent goes back not least to the effort of the Catholic Church, which took a substantial part in the integration of the foreign "immigrant workers" particularly from Italy, Spain, Yugoslavia and Portugal. Since there are no foreigners in the church, the church appointed pastors, organized charitable assistance and created native language parishes that often exist up till now.

The European core culture, in which with much variety the countries of this continent participate, grew together from a plurality, and comprises the message of the four hills: the inheritance of Judaism (Sinai), the Christian gospel of Salvation in Christ (Golgotha), the Greek thinking (Areopag), and the Roman law (Capitol). After long and sorrowful experiences this amalgam of cultural and religious traditions forms that core culture in which the dignity and rights of the human person are protected by the rule of law applying to everybody. But also the principles of a beneficial togetherness were formulated: that of monogamy which is realized by the consent of the partners, up to the dialogical living together of the religions, and the tolerant acknowledgment of the other person, as long as his/her culture is compatible with the law and the fundamental basic values.

To the European orientation knowledge belongs the insight that foreigners enjoy not only a special right of protection (Exodus 22,20), but have - due to the unity of mankind by God's creation - also the same dignity. Well, by the acknowledgment of the other person as equal creature, the difference between Greeks and Jews, slaves and free, men and women will remain, but at the same time it is transcended "in Christ" (Gal 3,28). The best contribution for the intercultural and inter-religious integration might be the Europeans' coming out from their corner and get down to the Christian core of their own culture. Only those who take their stand can be tolerant. Only those who are rooted in their culture can acknowledge the cultures other peoples. Only those who leave the religious indifference behind are able to value the religious dimension of the culture correctly.

 

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