“Dialogue of Religions and Cultures – Impulses on the Situation in Europe”.
Lecture 2, Friday, 22.04.2022
The first question I asked myself after being invited again was: what did I initially intend to tell you? Certainly, something about the various initiatives of the European political institutions, the Council of Europe and the European Union, on intercultural dialogue, and something about the practical possibilities that would result from the political proposals. Probably also about the dialogue between Religions and European politics and the cooperation between Churches and Religions in Europe that is necessary for this.
Immediately after these reflections, however, I asked myself a second question: would those topics I had wanted to talk about in spring 2020 still fit after what we have experienced in the two years since March 2020? Did not important social parameters change as a result of the pandemic and the measures taken to contain it? Have we not become aware of the global connections and interdependencies as well as the resulting limitation of the scope of action for states and individuals? Did we not gain new insights into the (limited) importance of Europe in economic and geopolitical terms? Did we not suddenly realise how much we lack suitable instruments for global cooperation and coordination in crises? Didn’t we realise once again how differently we react to common threats – e.g. through the different sanitary-political measures, for example in China or the USA, which are also culturally conditioned, not to mention the divergent approaches in the European Union? The reactions to these measures – protests, demonstrations, emotional arguments in the social media – did they not make cultural and social tensions, shifts, dislocations and ruptures visible that cut across society, friendships and families? Have we not witnessed how quickly deeply rooted cultural forms such as greeting rituals have changed from one day to the next under the pressure of hygiene measures: no more shaking hands, no more three kisses so characteristic of Latin culture, no confidential putting of the arm around the shoulder and no more “hygge” or “knuffelen”. Instead: keep a distance of 2 metres, born of the mistrust that everyone could be a potential carrier of the disease and thus contagious. The crowds at the carnival shortly before the outbreak of the pandemic in Europe had given way to empty public spaces in the cities, instead of the noise of airplanes suddenly a quiet sky, and encounters between neighbours and friends took place on the balcony, each one on his or her side of the street, .