Hubert von Goisern
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RELIGIOUS COOPERATION

Miscellaneous: 2006

Religions: Austria looks for a consensus

Kurier 22nd March 2006 | Photo: APA

Hubert von GoisernVienna - The controversy over the cartoons, with its violent consequences, has now resulted in the establishment of a platform of cooperation in Austria. Representatives of the Christian churches and the Islamic religious community united to promote tolerance and rapidly intervene in fields of conflict with religious elements, as Paul Schulmeister, co-initiator, journalist and representative of Katholische Aktion (Catholic Aid) put it at the presentation of the project on Wednesday morning. The "initiative for a joint future in Austria" also wants to assess pre-existing mechanisms, which have prescribed the coexistence of the different religions.

Austria as a positive example

Anas Schakfeh, chairperson of the Islamic religious community, expressly welcomed the fact that the initiative for the platform had come from Katholische Aktion. It is a good sign for Austria, when a large organisation of the majority religion concerns itself with corresponding coexistence in the country. There have hitherto been good experiences in this area anyway, abroad one can refer to Austria as a positive example in all arising problems.

Life without borders

For Carla Amina Baghajati from the Islamic religious community, the special quality of the new initiative is the fact that intellectual debates, as well as personal meetings, are fostered here. Singer Hubert von Goisern, himself not a member of any church, on the one hand promotes faith in oneself and, on the other hand, thinking and living without borders - which he means not only regionally, but also religiously. The journalist Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi spoke out for making Muslims in Austrian society more visible, for example - similar to the French - as presenters of big TV programmes.

Solidarity with immigrants

The director of the Evangelical deaconry, Michael Chalupka, called above all for solidarity with immigrants, who are brought to the country as manpower and, now in this state of emergency of unemployment, are threatened with deportation by politicians. Right-wing populist tendencies were refused by the initiators. Here it is guaranteed that the voice will be raised accordingly. However, this would also apply should radical Muslims spread corresponding messages: "We are not blind to any side", "Furche" publisher Heinz Nußbaumer asserted.

Tolerance and respect are not enough

A joint explanation was submitted by the initiators, in which it was stressed that tolerance and respect in treatment of others are indeed important and irreplaceable, but they are not enough: "Christians and Muslims are called upon to understand one another better, to know about and learn more from one another, to respect one another more and to live together more." The explanation can be supported online (www.christenundmuslime.at). Conductor Franz Welster-Möst, actor Klaus Maria Brandauer, author Barbara Frischmuth, former politicians Erhard Busek and Hannes Androsch, Rapid striker Muhammet Akagündüz and archbishop Michael Staikos are among the first signatories.

The fact that the Catholic bishops' conference was not present at the presentation and, with Viennese auxiliary bishop Helmut Krätzl, also only had one representative on the list of initial signatories, means no distance from the project, according to initiator Schulmeister. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is informed and supports the dialogue, he said when asked.

Dialogue encourages social peace in Austria

KAÖ 23rd March 2006

[...] Hubert von Goisern - himself no longer a member of the church - told of a concert in an otherwise avoided "Fundamentalist stronghold", which turned into a great party. As someone who is widely travelled, he knows the fear of strangers well, but has always experienced the overcoming of that fear as a positive thing.