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  – 21.01.2008

[Austria] Churches and Religious Communities Demand Change of View in Integrational Politics

Representatives of Austrian Religious Communities Presented a Demand Paper on Integration of Immigrants – Fair and Just Chances for Natives and Foreigners – Dialogue instead of Fear


Vienna (epd Ö) – Access to the labour market, political participation and access to citizenship for immigrants are demands in a paper with the title “The Challenge of Integration – Thoughts and Demands from the Point of View of Churches and Religious Communities", which was presented by representatives of Austrian churches and religious communities on January 18th in Vienna.
The Lutheran Bishop Dr Michael Bünker spoke about the necessity of a “fair and just chance for natives and foreigners", but also emphasised the statement of the paper, that immigrants were “obliged to honour the universality of human rights and the democratic constitution as basis of living together”. Bünker emphasised, that the topic of integration “was a matter of considerably more than the aspect of safety that dominates nowadays“. A society was only complete when foreigners had become citizens with equal rights. The bishop demanded an extensive campaign by those responsible in government on the chances that integration offers to Austrian society. In this context, Bünker referred to the final paragraph of the paper, in which is stated: "We appeal to the political parties to lead the discussion in a way that the following remains clear at every moment: It is a matter of people. And we are confident: One who loves Austria does not divide it. “

Landau: "Austria Is a Country of Immigration"

"Austria was and is a country of immigration", stated DDr Michael Landau, Director of Caritas, at the presentation of the paper. It was a matter of a "change of view in the debate regarding integrational politics: Away from fanning fear and towards a solution oriented dialogue, which addresses chances as well as problems." In view of the remarks about Islam made during the Graz election campaign recently, the Caritas director stated: "One who loves Austria does not expose our country publicly and internationally. We demand respect of the things that are holy to others."
The Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan Dr Michael Staikos referred to the fact, that the representatives of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam wrote the demand paper together and emphasised that religious awareness formed the identity of a human being. Foreigners should not have to conform to Austrian society but should be able to blend in. In doing so, it should not be a matter of mixing the cultures but a matter of addition. For this, the state had to contribute. "In this country’s past it was possible", said Staikos, "I am convinced, that it is also possible nowadays".
"We are at one with each other as rarely ever", stated the President of the Jewish Community (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde), Dr Ariel Muzicant. It was a matter of respect of the faith of another. On this, one could not render judgement like it happened in Graz recently. When dealing with immigrants, it was important to return their dignity to the people. "You are not able to get an idea of what an immigrant goes through“, said the President to the journalists.
Muzicant emphasised the chances of integration within the scope of European economy and appealed to the government to use these chances. "Our economical wealth is made in Eastern Europe nowadays“, emphasised the president, who is in economics himself.

Schakfeh: Family Is Common Value

The President of the Muslim Community, Prof. Anas Schakfeh, stated: "That we present a joint paper is a message in itself." Schakfeh overall emphasised the "very good atmosphere" of the dialogue between Islam and Austrian society and said, that attacks against it had to be fended off. Schakfeh: "We have different faith truths, but we have common values." In this context, the president mentioned family and called it the "central unit in our society". Integration was inevitably accompanied by problems, which had to be solved: "We have small problems in Austria."
In regards to the attacks on Islam in Graz, Schakfeh stated that the solidarity of the Austrian society with the Muslims was "satisfactory". The consistent stance of the people responsible in politics and in church in this country had already shown its effects.


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