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I recently attended the Autumn Seminar of the Dialogue Perspectives scholarship programme in Brandenburg (Havel), Germany, organised by the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk (ELES). The programme was mainly for scholarship students at German universities, but for the first time they opened up the programme for participants from the UK, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary and Sweden. The seminar’s theme was “Religion and Identity: Understandings of Self, External Attributions, and Collective Identities”.

 

The diversity in the group was really inspiring, and I learned so much from other students on the programme. Even among the mostly German-speaking students, many came from east and southeast Europe or the Middle East. For the “Religion and Identity” multi-session workshop groups, I chose “Parallels and differences between East German and immigrant identity discourses”. Among our group were several Syrian refugees now living in the former GDR, a student whose Vietnamese parents had come to former East Germany as immigrant workers in 1988 and a number of Germans with mixed East and West backgrounds, and this made for fascinating discussions.

 

The conference was packed with events. We shared a Sunday morning ecumenical service, Shabbat celebrations and Muslim evening worship, and attended introductory talks on reading the Koran, queer theology and the approaching Rosh Hashanah. We spent the first evening getting to know each other through a “Dialogue Café”, sitting down at a table with several new people and discussing the question written on it – discussions I participated in included God’s gender and what “being religious” means to us. Informal discussions and debates continued well into the night, and I was privileged to listen in onto one such debate, among seven or eight of the Muslim students, on how to create a space in Muslim circles for discussion of taboo subjects such as sexuality.

 

I’m really looking forward to the Spring Seminar in Luxembourg and would hugely recommend the programme to students of faith in the future. Thanks so much to CCJ for telling me about the programme!

 

Florence Butterfield

Student Leader 2019