Manchmal weht er/sie/es ziemlich unvermittel: Die “Ruach”, der Geist Gottes. Gestern Nachmittag zum Beispiel: 15 junge US-AmerikanerInnen an ihrem letzten Studientag kommen etwas lustlos in den Klassenraum geschlurft. Ich bin gebeten worden, ihnen etwas über die Beziehung zwischen Religion und Politik zu erzählen. Die Dozentin warnt mich vor: Der Kurs ist eine Herausforderung, es ist schwierig, sie zum Diskutieren zu bringen, sie sind sehr disparat. Also denke ich mir: Ich leg einfach los – und den Rest lege ich in die Hände Gottes. Heute morgen erhielt ich eine E-mail mit der Reaktion einer Studentin, die sich als Atheistin bezeichnet:

“I found the meeting with Martina Basso to be extremely interesting. Seeing her in the cafe before class, I had no idea that she was our guest speaker. Growing up in New Jersey I often drove through Pennsylvania when visiting family, and had previously held misconceptions about what Mennonites looked like, and how they acted.

I think this goes to show a semester-long theme, that we often hold ideas or even prejudices about cultures and religions different from our own, simply because we do not know. Being able to have conversations with people of different religious and cultural backgrounds, like with Mohammed and Reverend Basso, have been highlights of this class for me. What Reverend Basso spoke about, the community meeting here in Berlin of neighbors who live together, but know nothing about each other’s cultures or religions stood out to me. These types of conversations are so important in communities like Berlin that are influenced by so many cultures, but really in any community. I loved what she said about how at the end of these meetings, regardless of differences or unknown, these community members leave as friends.

I was particularly intrigued by the power of Reverend Basso’s presentation. Her introduction with the books that shaped her life was extremely interesting. Citing the Bible and Bonhoeffer’s writings from prison as her greatest inspirations again tied together semester-long discussions about good vs. bad, peace vs. violence, and religious and political motivations. Like what we learned about Bonhoeffer, Basso talked about people who use “Christian values” as excuses to infringe on the rights of others. Like how Bonhoeffer could not sit back and watch people be persecuted because of their humanity, Basso cannot justify “Christian values” as truly Christian if means a government limits human rights in the name of Christianity. I thought this connection was profound. 

Like Mohammed, and like Tim, and like Dr.Jacobs, I found it interesting how humble Basso was. Her work is so powerful, and the way she speaks about peacebuilding efforts in communities is so important. All of these speakers spoke so casually about their willingness to be arrested or ostracized for their work on behalf of their moral and religious values and I found that in all of them to be an extremely respectable quality. This humbleness shows the power of religious motivation behind actions different from politically motivated actions- a religion based on the benefit of humanity rather than the politically motivated gains.  I think this can best be summarized in Basso’s quote- “we do advocacy not policy.”

Today’s presentation was very powerful, and something that I will take with me as I start my next block in Cape Town on Sunday. I think it will be so interesting to contrast the political and religious roles in society in South Africa to what I have learned about their importance to society here in Germany.”

Danke, Ruach!