Volker Beck © Roland Weihrauch
University instead of the Bundestag: Green politician Volker Beck, former spokesman for his parliamentary group on religious policy, is teaching religious policy as a guest lecturer at the Ruhr University Bochum in the winter semester. In the interview he explains his step.
CBA: You will be teaching as a guest lecturer at the Center for the Study of Religions (CERES) at the Ruhr University in Bochum in the winter semester starting this Friday. Their subject is religious policy. Did you think long and hard about accepting the offer from the University of Bochum??
Beck: No, not really. I find the change of perspective very exciting, from an active politician to someone who looks at politics and examines framework conditions, motives and programmatics. After leaving the Bundestag, I am looking forward to the intellectual freedom that this now brings with it.
CBA: What will you teach the students?
Beck: I will discuss from a scholarly perspective what important ies have been addressed and decided in religious policy since 1990. This includes the adoption of the law on the arrest of religions for the new federal states at the beginning of the 1990s, as well as important decisions by the Federal Constitutional Court on religious ies, such as the so-called headscarf ruling.
CBA: The ies and problems in the field have changed enormously in recent years…
Beck: There are two major impulses here: on the one hand, there have been increasing secularization tendencies and a dechurching in some regions of Germany in recent decades; on the other hand, the religious map has also become more colorful, especially as a result of migration. There are many Jewish and Muslim communities and associations today. This has led to a renaissance in the politics of religion. I would like to explore with the students what the implications are.
CBA: You are considered well-connected by the two churches, but also by other religious communities. Will you also invite religious policy actors to your seminar?
Beck: In fact. The heads of the Catholic and Protestant offices in Dusseldorf, which are responsible for contacts with the North Rhine-Westphalian state government, will be there. Students should have the opportunity to ask questions of church officials and their work.
CBA: Did you also invite representatives of the Turkish-Muslim umbrella organization Ditib in Germany, which has recently come under a lot of criticism for its closeness to the Erdogan regime??
Beck: No, I didn't want to overload the seminar with too many external guests. But of course one could have invited representatives of the Islamic associations or of the Central Council of Jews.
CBA: During your time as a member of the Bundestag, you often criticized the Catholic Church, among other things for its attitude toward homosexuals. Is it deceptive to think that you have struck more conciliatory tones in recent months?
Beck: That is not true. In my opinion, I have always had a very benevolent relationship with the Catholic Church. What I have done is to make inquiries again and again, also about the relationship between fundamental rights-oriented secular legal order and magisterial concepts of faith. Especially when the church does not really follow its own teachings on freedom of faith.
CBA: You have praised the churches for their support in the refugee crisis.
Beck: Yes, the churches, but also the Jewish community, have done a great job there. You have reminded us – quite theologically – of our cultural roots and foundations, to take responsibility for the other person. "A stranger shall dwell with you as a native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers also in the land of Egypt": Quite practically, many church communities have helped refugees and filled these sentences from the Torah with life. Without this massive support, the state would have looked very pale.
CBA: Will we also hear from the Green politician Volker Beck in the future??
Beck: If the party, but not only the party, wants to draw on my experience and knowledge, I would be happy to do so. But even more exciting for me now is social work beyond the everyday business of party politics.
CBA: What do you recommend to your party colleagues with regard to the exploratory talks for a Jamaica coalition?
Beck: Calm, prudence and steadfastness. All democratic parties are aware of the great responsibility they have to form a stable government capable of acting for our country, even in the face of untypical majority conditions. At the same time, each party must also respect the programmatic core of its partner. For us Greens, that's certainly sustainability and respect for fundamental and human rights.
In my opinion, the agreement reached by the CDU/CSU on the refugee ie over the weekend only served the purpose of "face keeping" for the CSU, but that is also important in politics. But it will not and cannot be the result of the negotiations with the FDP and the Greens in this way.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx formulated important theses on refugee policy at the Michaelmas Reception last Tuesday. This could be a good starting point for negotiations.
The interview was conducted by Birgit Wilke.