Giessen, Germany—A former asylum seeker who seeks to build bridges between refugees and Germans was the speaker at a UPF event.
International Café, an initiative of UPF in the town of Giessen, hosted an event on December 2, 2017, featuring Ali Can, author of a new book published by Lübbe: Hotline for Concerned Citizens: A Trusted Asylum Seeker Answers Your Questions.
Mr. Can, who was born in Turkey and came to Germany as a child, based his book on the hundreds of telephone calls that he has received since starting his “Hotline for Concerned Citizens” in 2016.
He began his book presentation with a reading from the chapter “Belief, Feelings and Conscience”—about a telephone conversation he had with a Mr. S. from East Germany. This conversation brought out diverse opinions and understandings of religion, in particular differences between Christianity and Islam. But many other topics were broached.
He also spoke about meetings he has had with people connected to the German nationalist movement Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West), who meet on a monthly basis in Dresden. He said he also has learned much from these interactions.
Concerning direct interactions and discussions, Mr. Can said he wanted to emphasize two factors. The first is the art of listening and the willingness to be open to another person and to their point of view. Most people scarcely wait until the other has finished talking before voicing their own opinion, he said. Real listening is a skill that must be developed over time, he said.
Secondly, we must have eye-level discussions, he said. For this we need to examine our own opinions and to be open to learning. That means being open to other points of view, considering other perspectives and having empathy. A true encounter can succeed only when good will is displayed by both sides, he said.
This statement stimulated a question from the audience as to whether Mr. Can considers that refugees with a Muslim background feel bound to obey the German constitution and basic law. Mr. Can said he considers this to be mostly the case and asked us to bear in mind that most Muslims living in our country themselves have fled from radical Islam.
He then read an excerpt from the epilogue of his book in which he makes a case for more humaneness and solidarity.
In conclusion, he introduced briefly some of his projects and his plans to open the way for interaction. He sees himself as a bridge-builder. For example, his Intercultural Streetwork project, established as part of the organization he founded in 2016, Intercultural Peace, is tackling the theory of humane cooperation by dealing with and putting into practice topics that people are really concerned about.
All in all, this was a very interesting and enlightening presentation and gave some good insights into the content of this valuable book.