Immigration, society and religion in Germany: The “Interfaith Council” in Frankfurt/Main

Essay, 2012

16 Pages



It is only after 1960´s immigration[1] has been framed negatively by Western European countries. A brief answer to the question why the view towards the immigrants changed in 1960´s could be the dissolution of the Eastern Block which caused enormous demographic changes which had as a consequence serious impact on socioeconomic level. The mobilization of a great mass of people lead European national states to ethnicise their migration policies in a way that encourage the arrival of immigrants from the simiral ethnic background, in order to achieve, a re-homogenization in the Post- Communist era (Kaya, 2011, 21) . Immigrants of different cultural background rather that the majority´s were disapproved. Kaya (2011) in the very same article mentions that this massive migration flows was parallel with the rise of heterophobic discourses such as the „clash of civilisations“, „culture wars...“ (Kaya, 2011, 4).

Immigration in Germany

Specifically, on the German example, immigration inflow was considered a necessity for the rebuilt of a dilapidated Germany. Thus the Federal Labor Institute (FLI) in cooperation with the German authorities recruites foreign workers, in the late 1950´s and 1960´s numerous Treaties were signed with Spain, Greece, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Portugal. The foreign workers were under the status of “guest workers“ implying that their presence in Germany was temporal (Constant, Nottmeyer, Zimmermann, 2009, 2).

Germany failed on the re-patriation process of the „guest process“ which ended being permanent residents in the host country. Constant, Nottmeyer, Zimmermann (2009) in their article mention that in the 1980´s and earlz 1990´s the immigration boosted by asylum seekers and „ethnic Germans“ which were coming to Germany in the aftermath of the fall of the iron Curtaindue to liberalized travel regulations. Immigration of the latter, the so-called „Aussiedler“ from Poland, Romania, and the former Soviet Union, increased until a new more restrictive law was enforced in 1993. (Constant, Nottmeyer, Zimmermann, 2009, 3).

Despite the great inflow of immigrant population in Germany, today according the Federal Statistics Office, approximately 18% of the population of Germany are either without German citizenship (8%) or German citizenship holders of immigrant background (10%)[2] - as Radtke (1994, 2003) argues:

Against statistical evidence, Germany in the second half of the twentieth century reluctantly denied being an immigrant country. For years, multiculturalism was nothing more than a mere discourse in the political arena and the media, brought forward as an argument by those in competing political parties, in churches and welfare organisations who attempted to initiate a re-description of the dominating jus-sanguinis-based self-concept of the nation. Their political and pedagogical intention was to advocate the recognition of ethnic diversity and to upgrade the integration of immigrants to a major task of the administrations at all federal levels. (Radtke, 2003, 56).

It is a considerably recent attempt for the German national authorities to move integration to a policy concern and establish a new civil and social identidy for all citizens. Religious and cultural identidy are most then ever important in postmodern history of Germany. The new immigration law which was introduced on 2005 has serious amentments for the integration process Heckmann (2010), while refering to the new immigration law mentions „integration in Germany has not been left primarily to the market and civil society processes“ and he continues arguing on the widely accepted notion that „integration happens at the local level that local policies have been responded to the new challenges by making integration policies a top priority“ (Heckmann, 2010, 2-3).

The Interfaith Council [3] in Frankfurt

Frankfurt’s Interfaith Council (Rat der Religionen)[4], created on April 1. 2009, acts cooperatively with the local authorities of the city of Frankfurt. The Council counts 23 members, all are representative of their religious communities (Gemeinde). More precisely, the 23 members are representing 9 religious communities: Christians, Judishs, Muslims, Budhists, Hindus, Sihks, Bahais, Ahmadiyya Muslims and Mormons.

The purpose and the objectives of the Council as they are declared in the statement of its creation are:

§ 2 Purpose and Objectives


The purpose of the Council is the promotion of religion by the dialogue between them. The aim will be achieved through: 1. Guidance to member communities and other religious communities, 2. Cooperation with the municipal institutions, and government agencies, associations, institutions and societies in the city, 3. Seminars, conferences, publications, interfaith events and projects.


[1] In an initial attempt to theorize immigration policy, Meyers’s (2000) point rise a very crusial argument that immigration is not well defined and lacks, fort he most part, attempts to debate the relative merits of various schools of thought on the subject (Meyers, 2010, 1246). Under the discipline of Political Sciences immigration policy had been analyzed via the Marxist, –presented by Beard and Beard (1944),Gorz (1970), Marshall (1973),Marx (1973, 1976),Castells (1975),Nikolinakos (1975), Castles and Kosack (1985), Miles (1986, 1987, 1989) and Bovenkerk et al. (1990, 1991)- interest group, partisan politics and institutionalist approaches, additionally the field of international relations has added to the concept via the analysis from the realism, liberalism and world system approaches and under the discipline of sociology and psychology, immigration has been also examined via the national identity approach.


[3] Great is the debate around the identity as well, but identity theories pre-suppose the elaboration with the social representation theories thus it should be added that the notion of social representation counts more than twenty years in social psychology and it is inherent in social sciences too. The first who introduced the concept of social representation was Moscovici (1961) who was inspired by the work of Emile Durkheim’s and his concept of collective consciousness (Andrianou; 2004: 6). The concept of identity appeared in psychology with Erikson (1950), who introduced the triple separation of identity. According to his study “the distinction rested on the ego identity (sometimes identified simply as "the self"); the personal idiosyncrasies that separate one person from the next, known as the personal identity; and the collection of social roles that a person might play, known as either the social identity or the cultural identity” (Cote & Levine; 2002: 22). According to Breakwell (1992), “Social identity theory, while it attempts to explain intergroup relationships, is a model that focuses upon individual needs and motivation (the need for a positive social identity) as the means of fundamentally explaining inter-personal and intergroup dynamics” (Breakwell; 1993: 1). In identity theory the position of memory is very important as well, Assmann (1995) attributes several characteristics to cultural memory, firstly, noting that it is characterized “by its distance from everyday.” (Assmann; 1995: 129) Assmann prolongs referring that: Distance from the everyday (transcendence) marks its temporal horizon. Cultural memory has its fixed point; its horizon does not change with the passing of time. These fixed points are fateful events of the past, whose memory is maintained through cultural formation (texts, rites, monuments) and institutional communication (recitation, practice, observance). We call these “figures of memory”. (Assmann; 1995: 129).Ethnic identity has traditionally been most salient in immigrant receiving countries like USA and Australia, but it has become an increasingly important issue throughout the world, as social and political changes have increased the amount of contact among people from different ethnic groups and, in some cases, have led to ethnic conflict. (Phinney; 2001: 4821 in the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences).


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Immigration, society and religion in Germany: The “Interfaith Council” in Frankfurt/Main
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Dr. Christos-Athenagoras Ziliaskopoulos (Author), 2012, Immigration, society and religion in Germany: The “Interfaith Council” in Frankfurt/Main, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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