An Initiative of the African Christians in Berlin and Brandenburg

A case Study of the African Christians council of Berlin and Brandenburg

Thesis (M.A.), 2014

61 Pages


Table of Contents

1.0 Background of the study
1.1 Objectives of the study
1.2 Research Questions
1.3 Hypotheses for the study
1.4 Significance of the study
1.5 Structure of the stud y report


3.0 Target Population
3.1 Sample size and sampling Techniques
3.2 Data Collection methods
3.3 Data Collection Procedures
3.4 Data Analysis Techniques
3.5 Ethical Considerations
3.6Challenges of the Research

4.0 Brief history of Africans in Berli
4.1 The current-general situation of Africans in Berlin
4.2 The foundation of the Council (RACIBB)
4.3 Reasons for the foundation of the council
4.4 Membership of the council
4.5 Motivation of the members to join the RACIBB
4.6 The projects and activities of the council within Berlin-Brandenburg
4.7 Partnering and Networking in RACIBB
4.8 The challenges of the counci
4.9 The future plans of the council




I would like to express my deep gratitude to Professor Dr. Frieder Ludwig, my research supervisor, for his valuable and constructive suggestions during the planning and development of this research work. I would also like to thank Pastor Peter Arthur of Akebulan Missions for his role as my contact person during my fieldwork. My grateful thanks are also extended to Members of RACIBB and their Partner organizations, especially Dr. Tobbit Dieudonné, Deacon Alimamy Sesay, Pastor Peter Mansaray, Mr. Harald Sommerfeld and Fr. Joseph Rohrmayer for providing me with valuable information regarding their organizations. I am grateful too, to all those who participated in this research although not mentioned by names.

I would also like to extend my thanks to Dr. Armin Triebel for ensuring that I had accommodation during the period of my research work. Finally, I wish to thank Ms. Sarah Njeri for the support she has given me throughout my study.

CHAPTER ONE Introduction

This chapter outlines seven component of the study; the first component is the background of the study, the purpose, objectives, research questions, hypothesis, the significance of the study and the structure of the thesis.

1.0 Background of the study

This is a qualitative research carried out in a Christian organization known as the African Christian Council of Berlin and Brandenburg (RACIBB) and it is a product of narrative description and explanation of the life experiences’ and perceptions of the informants. The research has used migration and religion trajectories; the two trajectories are deemed appropriate for the study because of the nature of the organization (RACIBB). It is an organization founded by the people and for the people with African migrant backgrounds and at the same time operates as a faith-based organization although not in the manner it serves the people. Migratory movement has often resulted into formation of macrostructures, according to Adogame, macrostructures are the informal social networks developed by the migrants to assist them in adjusting to the migration and settlement e.g. the informal networks can be family or community ties (the community can be religious, cultural, ethnic and social ties).[1] As realised during the study some of these macrostructures are later developed to formal Organizations under the state law of the host country. One of the advantages when founded within the perimeters of the law is that the organization is free to implement its activities and can apply for financial assistance from any funding institution.

Most of the migrant founded organizations like RACIBB are multi-functional by nature depending on the needs of the members hence their functions can be categorised as follows: Ethno-solidarity, Ethno-cultural, Ethno-specific religious and Ethno-specific political Diaspora activities. Ethno-solidarity activities aim at addressing social and integration issues among its members, for example, it provides members with the information about the host country; what is expected of them and what they can do to live comfortably in the host society.[2] Organizations formed based on ethno-cultural activities are geared towards preserving the cultural identity of the origin place and it is an avenue for promoting inter-cultural cooperation.

There are other organizations formed based on the religion, Christians or Muslims can decide to found such associations mainly to promote spiritual growth. Fijalkowski and Gillmeister call it ethno-specific religious activities although they are not ethnically exclusive they can be religiously exclusive. Ethno-specific-political Diaspora activities include fighting for justice and equality for the migrants, for example fighting against racism, xenophobia and other intolerance attitudes towards the migrants.[3] Examining the above group clusters by Fijalkowski and Gillmeister, the RACIBB has adopted a holistic approach cutting across ethno-cultural, religious and political activities to serve comprehensively the needs and quests of the African migrant communities in Berlin and Brandenburg.

1.1 Objectives of the study

The objectives of the study were:

i. To identify the role that RACIBB plays within the social, cultural and religious aspects of the Africans in Berlin and Brandenburg.
ii. To explore some of the challenges that African migrants in Berlin and Brandenburg are experiencing.
iii. To examine the historical foundation of the organization (RACIBB) and the challenges it has faced.

1.2 Research Questions

The study was guided by the following research questions:

i. What is the general life situation of the African migrants living in Berlin-Brandenburg?
ii. How, When and Why was the council (RACIBB) founded?
iii. Who were the people behind the formation of the council?
iv. What has been your experience as a member of RACIBB?
v. What is your experience like in working with other partner organizations?
vi. Where do you see the council in the next five years?

1.3 Hypotheses for the study

The research project answered the following hypothesis:

i. For some decades African migrants have been relying on church institutions not only for spiritual growth but as ‘a home away from home’, this trend is shifting to the formation of organizations, associations or clubs as a platform to discuss and try to solve some of their problems. RACIBB as an organization has been able to play the role of addressing the social, cultural and religious problems being experienced among the African migrant communities in Berlin and Brandenburg.

1.4 Significance of the study

This research will contribute to the existing researches that have already been done on the African Christian migrants in the Diaspora, as it does not focus on a single church institution but on an umbrella body of African Christians in Berlin. This research will give insight for the organizations/associations or clubs working or planning to network with the African migrants organizations or associations on the anticipated challenges and the relevant activities and projects that could benefit the migrant communities.

This might be a seminal work in regards to the scope of the research or it can be ‘a deliberate source’ a source that is produced for future researchers.[4]

1.5 Structure of the study report

The study is organized into five chapters; the first chapter gives the background of the study, the purpose, objectives, research questions, research hypothesis and the significance of the study and definition. Literature review is in the second chapter where the researcher reviews the relevant studies concerning the topic under investigation. The third Chapter examines the research methodology, which includes the research design, target population, sample size, and sampling procedure, research instruments and data collection procedure. The fourth chapter presents, interprets and analyses the data and the last chapter discusses the summary of the study, that is, the conclusions as well as recommendations.



This chapter reviews and discusses the relevant literature available although the limitation of this study is that there is not much available literature directly related to the study.

For the last fifty years, many Africans have been migrating to the Western countries; Europe and North America in search of better life[5] and because of the growing number of these migrants, scholars have been interested in knowing the history, culture and religion of these people. According to Ludwig and Kwabena, the research about African Christians in Europe, specifically in the United Kingdom begun as early as in the 1970s although many publications came out in 1980s and 1990s. The most known centres for African Diaspora research were in Birmingham and London where scholars focused on the cultural and religious aspects.[6]

The most researched aspect about the African migrant communities is the religious aspect specifically the Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity that has been creating waves in the Diaspora communities. Kwabena Asamoah argues that due to challenges that many African migrants are faced with, for example, deportation and lack of jobs, prayers is seen as one of the powerful tools for solving such challenges. Hence charismatic and Pentecostal has been the most preferred form of Christianity because of its experiential spirituality[7] and as affirmed by Ogbu that Pentecostalism movements looks more ‘attractive’ because of its promise on the holistic dramatic transformation of the individual’s life, social transformation, economic and spiritual transformations.[8]

The book, Beyond Christendom by Jehu Hancile looks at the contribution that the immigrant communities are making on the host country (America) in the landscape of religion, that is, Christianity.[9]

Hancile theme is somehow related with the focus of this research but the scope of this research goes beyond the contribution of the African migrant churches and looks as well the challenges that the migrants face and the initiatives that they employ to curb the challenges.

Boris Nieswand researched on the West African charismatic Christians in Berlin, the empirical data were based on a series of sermons of a Ghanaian pastor, interviews, and ethnographic observations within different charismatic churches in Berlin. As the title of Niewand’s research reads, Enacted Destiny, the focus was on a theological understanding and interpretation of the concept ‘Destiny’ within the African charismatic Christians in Berlin. Niewand compares the charismatic understanding of the concept with the African traditional understanding specifically on the Akan people of Ghana, there is that shift from the theological to anthropological dimension this is a comprehensive approach.[10] Even though the research was done on the African people in Berlin, it is evident that the focus of Nieswand is more a theological approach and has little to do with the social and cultural experiences of the Africans in Berlin and how they negotiate them in order to settle and live in the host community and not merely to survive.

Another person who has researched on African churches is Claudia Währisch-Oblau. She did an extensive field research on the African immigrant churches across Germany; the research was part of her doctoral thesis. The research covered both the churches and their leaders; the nature of those churches and the defining role the African pastors perceive to be playing within their own communities[11] (African migrant communities). Claudia work also focused on the church institutions and the experiences of the church leaders and not exclusively on organizations or associations founded by the African migrants that are multi-function like the African churches.

The person whose work closely connects to this research is Andrea Baumgartner-Makemba. In her Master thesis research (2007) which was later published in 2009, gives detailed account not only the historical presence of Africans in Berlin but also focuses on the current situation of the Africans in Berlin. She traces the presence of Africans from the 18th century and the challenges they had to face. Despite the presence of 54 African nationalities in Berlin, Makemba claims they are still ignored in various cycles even from the German media. Some of the interviewees in the research reflected the same sentiment of Makemba, that in most cases African migrant stories appear in the media only for ‘negative’ coverage.[12] However, with the foundation of numerous African churches, and organizations/Association, the situation is improving; a little positive recognition is being seen within the media cycles but still a lot has to be done.

Today they are numerous migrant organizations/associations that have come up with various strategies to address migrant issues; such associations were founded as early as in the 1950s, the characteristics of these migrant organizations/associations are based on the ethnic-cultural, ethno-religious, political and ethno- specific Diaspora politics. The focus on these African associations is on the social, cultural and immigration policy sphere.[13] Although this might be the case among many migrant organizations/associations in Berlin, some organizations like RACIBB besides focusing on the social, cultural and immigration issues, they are also ecumenically involved. They bridge the African charismatic churches with the mainline German churches.

There are other umbrella bodies of African Christian in Europe that are founded solely by church institutions unfortunately they have not gained much academic attention apart from being mentioned shallowly mentioned in some published works. One of such works is of Jackson Darell and Passareli where they have described the Council of African Churches in Germany (CACG) and the African Christian council (ACC) in Hamburg that has over 50 member churches. Looking at other European countries, like Netherland has an umbrella body called Samen Kerk in Nederland (SKIN) a body that has 67 migrant churches[14] and Christian organizations as members. SKIN plays important role both in the ecumenical and social sphere. In the ecumenical sphere, it provides contact between migrant churches and white churches and organizations and in the social sphere; it creates a platform for discussion on the practical problems and tries to solve them by networking with the government agencies and other organizations.

The other umbrella body of African churches in Netherland is called Gift of Africa to Europe (GATE). Its member churches are exclusively the independent and evangelical African churches and it aims at evangelizing Europe.[15]

In France, there is an umbrella body under the Project of Mosaic of the Federation, Protestante de France (FPF) which aims at building relationship between migrant churches and members of FPF. Some other research that have been done on the Christian umbrella bodies was by Frieder Ludwig on the Council of churches of Britain and Ireland(CCBI), a council that had sixty-five African Independent churches as their members.[16] Another umbrella body of African churches was the Council of Christian Churches of an African Approach in Europe (CCCAAE) that operated at the European level. It had member churches with African and Afro-Caribbean backgrounds from Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands and United Kingdom. The council was part of the initiative of the Word Council of Churches (WCC)[17] this council as other umbrella bodies have scattered unpublished articles.

Examining at the available published sources about African Christian organizations or associations it is evident that countries like Britain and Netherlands have done more research on such organizations more than Germany. One missing link that this research tries to connect is that it focuses on an organization not a church institution; most of the researched and published works have focused more on single church institutions of either African origin or blacks from other continents.

In order to get a broader and deeper picture of the Africans in Berlin be it within the scope of religion, culture and politics, it is worth to note their historical presence in Berlin. One of the reasons being that some of the contemporary challenges that Africans in Berlin are facing have long historical origin and the persistence of such challenges has then led to the foundation of various organizations/ associations. It is therefore prudent to mention a literature that has detailed the historical aspect of the Africans in Berlin and Brandenburg. Paulette Anderson in her latest publication of 2013 has focused on the historical aspect of Africans in Berlin and Brandenburg since 17th century.

It was during the period of the Prussian kingdom when the first African slaves landed in the capital of the kingdom (Berlin). This literature focused too on the period of the West African Conference of 1884-85, which resolved to divide the continent of Africa into different Western colonies. The latest period that the book covers is the life of Africans and Afro-German under the Nazi rule, it gives descriptive case studies of both Africans and Afro-Germans and their life narratives during this period, For example the case of Theodor Wonja Michael who married a German, such families were unheard of and Mohamed Husen (an African soldier) who together with his wife lost their German citizenship because they were originally from Africa although many Africans never fought back, Husen fought for his rights and this put him at logger head with the Auslaenderpolizei ( German immigration agency).[18]


The aim of this chapter is to introduce the research strategy that was employed in carrying out the project. The chapter defines the scope and limitations of the research design and is divided into the following sections; target population, sample size and sampling procedure, data collection methods, procedure of data collection, data analysis technique, Ethical consideration and research challenges.

3.0 The target Population

The informants were put in three categories, the first category were the founding members, officials and members of the council. The second group was the officials from the partner organizations working closely with the council and the third group was other people from other organizations within Berlin and Brandenburg and are working with the African migrant communities.

3.1 The sample size and sampling techniques

The total number of the informants was sixteen; six of them were from the council (RACIBB), four informants were from partner organizations closely working with the council, six informants were from other organizations working with the African communities in Berlin and Brandenburg. The research required both purposive and quota sampling as only selected informants participated. A part from the founding members of the council, the selection criteria of the informants were based on the duration of stay in Berlin-Brandenburg, which was not less than ten years and the engagement of the person with the African communities in Berlin and Brandenburg, race or gender was not considered as one of the criteria.

The snowball sampling or chain sampling is a method where already interviewed informants refer or recommend the researcher to other potential informants.[19] This method of sampling became effective, as it was not easy to identify further other informants.

3.2 Data Collection methods

There are four methods of data collection used in the study: the in-depth interview, participant observation, non-participant observation and questionnaire. The in-depth interview was done based on the already predetermined semi-structured themes. Among the four methods of data collection, the in-depth interview was the most preferred method. The first reason for its preference was that the researcher could verify and clarify the answers being given on the spot by probing or asking further questions. As pointed out by Judith Bell that when an interview is done skilfully it follows up ideas.[20] The second reason was that the researcher was able to read non-verbal gestures (the hesitation, laughter, tone of the voice) which can assist the researcher when interpreting the data.

The success of the in-depth interview relies on the level of the rapport that has been created between the interviewee and interviewer; this can have both advantages and disadvantages. One of the problems experienced by the researcher was that in some cases it took long period to develop a rapport with the interviewee. For example, an incident occurred whereby it took the researcher more than two weeks to have an interview appointment with an interviewee. Hence, the possibility of running behind the initial planned interview schedule was experienced although it never affected the outcome of the study.

The second method of data collection was the participant observations, the researcher had to attend some of the meetings of the council and other activities organized by either member churches or partner organizations of the council. One of the advantages was meeting most of the interviewees before the actual date of the interview, as already a rapport had been created. Even though it was never experienced during the research, participant observation has one major disadvantage that the researcher might get involved with the group to the point that he/she loses the focus of the research.

The third method was the non-participant observation whereby the researcher watched the subjects of the study with their knowledge perform their activities but without active involvement of the researcher. In agreement with Fitzpatrick and Boulton, this method of data collection enables the researcher to collect data from the ‘taken for granted’ activities of everyday life.[21] The disadvantage of the method is that the participant in some situations might dramatize their normal behaviour hence compromises the authenticity of the data.

The last method of data collection was questionnaire sent through email to the informant. One of the advantages of the questionnaire was that despite the tight schedule or the distance of the informant, the researcher was still able to reach the informant. The shortcoming of the method was when the researcher had to seek for more clarification on the answers provided; it took longer time than desired.

3.3 Data Collection Procedures

The researcher had to book for an appointment with the interviewees, two weeks before the actual interview to avoid cases of unreliability. A general description of the interview was given but with no much detail on the possible research questions, this was to avoid fabrication of the answers that might compromise the data. The researcher used a voice-recording device and this was done after the interviewee had granted permission. Within a period of twelve hours after interview session, the researcher had to transcribe the data.

3.4 Data Analysis Techniques

The completed transcribed data and questionnaires were edited to identify spelling mistakes, blank spaces, the data was then thematically classified.

3.5 Ethical Considerations

The researcher obtained oral consent from all the interviewees who took part in the research and all the information collected were confidentiality handled. Respect of the individuals in relation to their culture and religion were observed during the study. All the interviewees were signed with different alphabetical letters to protect their identity.

3.6 Challenges of the Research

One of the challenges that the researcher faced was of a natural cause. One of the key informant passed away a week before the scheduled interview and a replacement had to be done. The other challenge was the underestimation of the expenses involved during the research period. Apart from accommodation, they were frequent travelling and making many phone calls that was not foreseen. The two approaches referring to the behaviour of either the researcher or the people being researched, that is, etic and emic[22] were safely negotiated during the research and did not negatively affected the process of data collection.


This chapter gives a brief history of the Africans presence in Berlin and Brandenburg, and then it explores the current situation of the Africans in Berlin and Brandenburg, that is, the social, cultural and religious aspects. Chapter four also gives answers to the research questions such as when, how, why and who founded the council. In responding to the social, cultural and religious challenges among the African migrants, the council has responded by initiating projects and activities these will be later elaborated in this chapter. Lastly, the chapter will present networking and partnership issues and the challenges being experienced by the council and its partner organizations.

4.0 Brief history of Africans in Berlin-Brandenburg

Historically three events had led the Berlin-Brandenburg people and the Africans to a close physical contact. The first contact was during the trans-Atlantic slave trade that led to the formulation of the 1794 Universal Code of Law among the Prussian States on the slave trade and slavery.[23] The second event was the Berlin/Congo Conference in 1884-85, which decided on the colonial partitioning of the African continent. As pointed out by Adogame that it was after the conference that there was more increased interaction between the Germans and Africans.[24] The third event was the formation of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, famously known as the Nazi party, which carried out all kinds of atrocities among the Africans and Afro-Germans, for example the Rhineland bastards; children of mixed race were subjected to social discrimination and sterilization.[25] However, before these events, there was already physical contact between Berlin and Africans in the year 1717, when twelve African boys were brought from Ghana as the slaves of the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm.[26]

The kingdom covered large geographical area, from the East and West Prussia, Posen, Pommern, Silesia, Brandenburg, Saxony, Westfalia, Hannover, Ansbach and Bayreuth.[27]

These three major events already had put Africans in unpropitious position, a position that has been difficult to scrap out until now. It was not only in the secular or civic cycles that Africans had to walk with dented imageries such as ‘poor species’ or ‘uncivilised people’ but also in religious cycles as well.[28] After the Second World War, the number of Africans and Afro-Germans had significantly increased. Apart from the Africans who had their roots in Germany, new more Africans came as political asylum seekers, students, high skilled workers and through family reunions. Most of the students and high skilled workers tended not to leave after their studies or at their end of their work contracts because of the greater opportunities that the Germany offered to them as compared to the countries of origin and the trend has continued until today.[29]

According to the Berlin-Brandenburg statistic office, there are approximately 47 African nationalities, a number that contradicts the one given by Andrea Makemba in her 2007 research work. Among the 47 nationalities, 42 are from the Sub-Saharan Africa. The continent of Africa is divided into five main geographical regions: North and Southern Africa, West and East Africa and Central Africa, all these regions have their population represented in Berlin and Brandenburg. North Africa region has the highest population of 6,113, followed by West Africa 5,676, Central Africa has the third largest population of 2,775, then East Africa region has 1,977 and the lowest is Southern Africa with population of 1,885.[30]

Among the North African countries, Egypt has the highest population of 1,752 while the lowest is Algeria with 810 people. The leading country among the West African countries is Ghana with 1,758 people and the least is Cape Verde with 24 people. From Central Africa, Cameroon is leading with a population of 1,917 people and the least is Gabon with 21 people. From East Africa, Kenya is leading with 882 people and the least is Seychelles with 12 people. Angola is the leading country from the Southern Africa with 828 people while the least is Malawi with 21 people.[31]

In reference to the statistic office of Berlin-Brandenburg the total population of Africans in Berlin-Brandenburg is 18,440 among the number approximately 12,168 people are between the age of 15-45 years and 3,890 are 65 years and above.[32]

The above data from the statistics office is debatable especially in the manner in which it is usually conducted; hence, it is still difficult for one to know the exact number of Africans in Berlin-Brandenburg by relying only on the census done by the state authority. The census done by the state does not include African migrants who have acquired the German citizenship. The state depends on the Immigration Department to provide the data for the census that apparently are only for the registered migrants, migrants who have been legally processed to live in Germany. Hence, the unregistered migrants are not reflected in the census results.[33] It is a law in Germany that census are not based on race, this law was implemented after the atrocities committed against other races during the Second World War by the Nazi regime.[34] The law has made it more difficult to know the exact number of people living in Berlin and Brandenburg in relation to racial category.

In 2008, RACIBB carried out its own census and the number of the Africans living in Berlin-Brandenburg was 26,000. Apart from the immigration data, they involved also all the African migrant churches in Berlin and Brandenburg, which by then were estimated to be over 60 in number. Through this approach, they were able to count the registered and unregistered Africans living in Berlin and Brandenburg. According to the current assessment done by the council, it is approximated that the number of Africans has risen to 40,000 people, although they have not carried out yet another census since 2008.[35] Examining at the manner in which the two institutions carry out the census, it leaves one with little doubt that the census conducted by the RACIBB seems as the most reliable source.

With the growing number of Africans in Berlin and Brandenburg, more problems are also being experienced and the response to tackle the challenges has seen the foundation of more than 53 organizations.[36] African communities in Berlin-Brandenburg have founded most of these organizations and they range from secular to religious based, this is besides over 70 African migrant churches that exist in Berlin.[37] Many African migrant churches and organizations/associations have become ‘central powers’ where Africans in Diaspora reconnect to form ‘forces’ on which they do not only raise up their voices for fuller inclusion to the larger society but also seen as people who are capable of solving their own problems(social, cultural, political and religious) in the Diaspora.

Some of the challenges are not new; they have existed since the time of the trans-Atlantic trade, whereby different treaties between kingdoms, merchants, shipping companies and insurance companies were signed. For example, the contractual agreement entitled the Assiento de negros, which was between the Spanish crown and the Assientists or the middlemen supplying slaves. In addition, the establishment of the Universal Code of Law for the Prussian States (Allgemeines Landrecht fuer die Preussischen Staaten) in 1794. The law about the slave trade and slavery mainly explains the duties and responsibilities in the society. In part two of the Universal code of law under the heading of Insurance, title eight paragraph 2227 stated ‘As for Negro slaves, the insurance provider shall not be liable for the life of the same [Negro slaves] if they die of illness; if they kill themselves; or if they start a revolt and sustain damages in the course of [the revolt]’[38]. African slaves were seen as commercial goods that had only monetary value not human value. It was such laws that laid the ground for racial superiority and inferiority and the product of such laws was racial discrimination that is still persistence up to date.

4.1 The current-general situation of Africans in Berlin

Although some few Africans have made it in Berlin-Brandenburg to become medical doctors, entrepreneurs, managers or professors, many of them are still struggling to live their dreams. A human activists and a founder of an organization in Berlin believes that the life of African people have not changed much in comparison to the life of Africans in the 1940s, the only thing that have changed significantly is their number which has steadily increased.[39]

Among the several groups of migrants living in Berlin and Brandenburg, Africans are the most economically disadvantaged group and because of this, most of them are faced with negative prejudices. They are perceived as people who are in the society (Berlin-Brandenburg) only to benefit from the social services and have nothing in return to offer to the host society.[40] In agreement with Adogame, most African migrants are at the receiving end of the public frustrations and animosity due to high unemployment rate and unstable economic growth in many parts of Europe.[41]

Many of the problems of any minority group in Europe revolve around social and educational inequalities, lack of language skills, racism, questions of integration, isolation and assimilation, lack of representation within the institutions in charge of making migrants decisions and policies.[42]

Social and cultural challenges

Language is one of the skills that assist an individual to participate fully in any community. Migrants who learn the language of the host society end up being either bi or multi-lingual, a skill that has social and cultural benefits. As pointed out by Lynch and Pfohman that such skill becomes cultural asset that bridges the gap between cultures by promoting intercultural understanding and communal cohesion.[43] Unfortunately as founded out by this study, some of the African migrants have not acquired such necessary skills.

a) Lack of Language skills

One of the main challenges that most Africans migrants have not overcome is the mastery of the German language. As compared to other International languages like English or French which are widely spoken in Africa because of the long presence of the French and English colonial powers in Africa, German language is not popular in most of African countries. Hence, many African migrants find themselves locked into their own ethnic or nationalistic cubicles, as it is hard for them to link with other people from different nationalities especially the host community. Language barrier limits what they can do and where they can go, in agreement with Tulud Cruz that inability to speak the language of the host country can adversely affect the person in his or her daily interaction. For example, visiting the doctor, seeking assistance from the police or buying things from the market.[44]

Many parents who have children in schools find it more difficult to communicate with the teachers and this make children suffer because it is not easy for the teacher or parent to discuss the progress of the child into details. In terms of parenting too, it has become another agony for some parents. As remarked by an informant, “Some parents cannot speak any of the international languages (English, French or Germany), the only language they speak fluently is their own dialect, and others can speak broken English and German”.

This proves challenging for children who grow in such families, often they feel frustrated at school especially during the early stages of schooling as they keep mixing two or three languages when speaking; a word that they do not find in German they put either English or their own dialect. However, as the child get to master the German language, again a barrier is build between the child and the parent. Such scenarios are common among the African migrant communities in Berlin and Brandenburg whereby the child grows up in a ‘confused language system’.[45]

There are reasons that migrants have for not learning the language. The first reason unveiled by the study is that some African migrants who come to Germany do not have any formal basic education; they can neither read nor write. It becomes almost impossible for such people to learn the new language and if they have to learn, the process is long because they have to acquire first the basic education. For some who are willing to learn, it proves difficult because of their advanced age, most of them are the political asylum seekers, who did not intend to move outside their home country but unfortunately had to for security reason. There is also a group eager to learn the language but due to the familial responsibility, they can hardly concentrate in the language course. There is a category of African migrants that have the ability to learn the language but because of the condition they are in demoralize them to do so, many of them are the people in the detention centres. They are often faced with the uncertainties about their stay in Germany, hence some do not see the purpose of learning the language because he/she can be deported any time, the question that rings in their mind is how will he/she use the new acquired language in Africa even if he has to learn the language.[46]

There is a group comprised by the economic migrants; people who migrate to other countries for labour or economic reasons; they include high skilled labour, temporary labourers and guest workers.[47] This particular group is less interested in learning the language. Their goal is to make money and go back to Africa, learning the new language is perceived as waste of time and money. However, in some cases the plan does not favourably work out on their side, some of them do get stuck in the country for a longer period than planned and only realises later that he/she has to learn the language. There is another group, which is interested in learning the new language, but because of financial difficulties, they cannot afford the cost of the language course. Although the state offers free language courses as part of the integration programme it is not always enough.[48] An article by Jean-Gottfried Mutumbo entitled, “Whoever can speak, will always find their way”, describes the experience of the migrants who have not mastered the language. He describes the power of mastering the language of the host community as a tool for social integration and bringing hope and blessing to people in the context of mission work for the African pastors who have come for mission work.[49] People who cannot speak the language of the host community tend not to interact cross-culturally and instead prefer ‘comfort zones’ hence it leads to formation of civic, secular and religious groups based on ethnic affiliations.

b) Lack of employment

Unemployment rate among the African migrants in Berlin and Brandenburg is high. The most available jobs for the majority of African migrants are the 3Ds jobs (dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs).[50] Some of the migrants have good education background, some were teachers and bankers back in Africa, being that some academic qualifications attained in African education institutions are not recognized by the German authority many African migrants end up in low skilled jobs e.g. toilet cleaners or taxi drivers.

Sectors that easily absorb qualified people, for example, the health sector (medical doctors or nurses) has few qualified Africans. Other jobs in the education sector such as teaching in higher learning institutions, University are difficult to get even if the person has the German academic qualifications. As illustrated by two examples, one is the case of a European trained Professor originally from Cameroon who taught for many years in one of the Universities in Berlin. Despite his qualifications for the professorship, he was never elevated to the position of professorship and finally he had to go back to Cameroon. Several versions of stories are being told for his predicament but the most reliable one is that he wrote his doctorate thesis on a very ‘sensitive’ topic about the colonial plan of the Nazi to rule the whole of the African continent.[51] Although it might be an overstatement, most of the informants believe it was the reason as the topic was not timely; it was written in a period when the pro-Nazis were actively engaged in the racial discrimination activities and to research on Nazi related topic was like adding fuel to an already burning fire.

The other case was of Dr. Kingsley Arthur (the first Chairperson of RACIBB). In an interview done by a local newspaper in Berlin called the ExBerliner, he narrated “… I remember my first managerial position in the 1980s. After I got the job, I had access to my own personal file. I saw this statement: “The man is highly qualified for this job. However, he is a black person.” That hit me like a blow.”[52] As shown by the two examples that at times academic qualification does not guarantee employment for an African migrant.

For those who had worked as professionals in their home countries in Africa before coming to Germany and have to work in unskilled sector, this becomes a source of tormenting experience and low-self esteem creeps in with the emotional stress of submitting oneself to a job that is regarded ‘low’ in the society. As pointed out by Tulud, the change in the social status for some migrants in a similar situation is not easily appreciated by oneself.[53] Most African migrants get employment through ethnic and religious networking. For example, in the migrant churches, pastors are always informed by members about the available jobs opportunities. Priority is usually given to members who are looking for job opportunities. The same applies to ethnic networks whereby a person only informs a member of his own ethnic community about the availability of the job. It is only in case when the member does not take the job that the information is finally passed on to the ‘outsiders.’[54]

Looking at the above-discussed challenges, lack of language skills and unemployment, the most affected gender group is the African women many who are housewives.[55] An informant (a social worker by profession) confirmed this. Based on her own observation of ten years, between the Nigerian and Cameroonian women in Berlin and Brandenburg. The number of educated women among the Cameroonian community is higher as compared to the Nigerian women. Many Nigerian women tend to stay at home; the man has the duty to provide for the family while the woman takes care of the children at home.[56] This tendency is one of the ‘imported’ cultural practices among the African migrant communities. In many African communities, women were supposed to take care of the home while the man goes out to find food for the family. In relation to the focus of the study, it is hard to tell whether it is a practice of a single ethnic community or it is a common practise within other ethnic communities in Berlin and Brandenburg.[57]


[1] Afe, Adogame. The African Christian Diaspora. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.7

[2] Jürgen Fijalkowski and Helmut Gillmeister. Associations of foreigners - a research report: the function of self-organization for the integration of heterogeneous immigrants into a host society - the example of Berlin. Berlin: Hitit, 1997. 209

[3] Ibid.

[4] Judith, Bel. Doing Your Research Project; A guide for the first-time Researchers in Education and Social Science. 2nd ed. Buckingham: Open University Press, 1993. 68

[5] Asamoah, Kwabena, Gyadu, Frochtling, and Kunz-Lubcke, eds. Babel is Everywhere; Migrants Readings from Africa, Europe and Asia. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2013. 91

[6] Frieder, Ludwig, and J. Kwabena, eds. African Christian Presence in the West. New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2011. 6-7

[7] Ibid. 191

[8] Mark Gornik R. Word Made Global: Stories of African Christianity in New York City. Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2011. 31

[9] Jehu, Hancile . Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African migration, and the Transformation of the West. Orbis: New York, 2006.

[10] Boris Nieswand (2010) Enacted Destiny. “West African Charismatic Christians in Berlin and the Immanence of God”, Journal of Religion in Africa 40. 33-59

[11] Claudia, Währisch-Oblau. The missionary self-perception of Pentecostal/Charismatic leaders from the global south in Europe. Leiden: Brill, 2012

[12] Andrea, Baumgartner Makemba. Self-organization and representation of Africans in Berlin. Munich: GRIN Verlag, 2009.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Frieder, Ludwig, and J. Kwabena, eds. African Christian Presence in the West. New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2011.7

[15] Alle, Hoekema. “The Position of African Christians in the Netherlands.” Christianity in Africa and the African Diaspora. Eds. Afe Adogame, Roswith Gerloff and Klaus Hock. London: Continuum, 2008. 317

[16] Frieder, Ludwig, and J. Kwabena, eds. African Christian Presence in the West. New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2011.7

[17], accessed on 4.11.2013.

[18] Paulette Reed-Anderson, Menschen, Orte, Themen. Zur Geschichte und Kultur der Afrikanischen Diaspora in Berlin. Berlin: Pinguin Druck, 2013. 51-54

[19] Natasha, Mack, et al. Qualitative Research Methods: A data collector’s Field Guide. North Carolina: Family Health International, 2005. 5

[20] Judith, Bel. Doing Your Research Project; A guide for the first-time Researchers in Education and Social Science. 2nd ed. Buckingham: Open University Press, 1993. 91

[21] Fitzpatrick, Ray, and Mary Boulton. "Qualitative methods for assessing health care."Quality in health care 3.2 (1994): 110

[22], accessed on 4.11.2013

[23] Paulette, Reed-Anderson, Menschen Orte Themen; Zur Geschichte und Kultur der Afrikanischen Diaspora in Berlin, Berlin, 2013. 14

[24] Afe, Adogame. “Who do they think they are? Mental Images and the Unfolding of an African Diaspora in German.” Christianity in Africa and the African Diaspora. Eds. Afe Adogame, Roswith Gerloff and Klaus Hock. London: Continuum, 2008.253

[25], accessed on 10.10.2013

[26] Ibid

[27] Paulette, Reed-Anderson, Menschen Orte Themen; Zur Geschichte und Kultur der Afrikanischen Diaspora in Berlin, Berlin, 2013. 14

[28] Afe, Adogame. “Who do they think they are? Mental Images and the Unfolding of an African Diaspora in German.” Christianity in Africa and the African Diaspora. Eds. Afe Adogame, Roswith Gerloff and Klaus Hock. London: Continuum, 2008.253

[29] Interview with Josef Rohrmayer. Berlin, August 2013

[30] Statistisches Bundesamt/Amt fur Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg 31. Dezember 2012

[31] Ibid

[32] Ibid

[33] Interview with RACIBB. Berlin, August 2013

[34], accessed on 15.10.2013

[35] Interview with RACIBB. Berlin, August 2013

[36] Katherina, Oguntoye, Tcheumeleu, and Föster, Djakam. Afrika- in -Berlin Handbuch. Berlin: Marz, 2011

[37] Interview with Alimamy Sesay. Berlin, August 2013

[38] Paulette, Reed-Anderson, Menschen, Orte Themen; Zur Geschichte und Kultur der Afrikanischen Diaspora in Berlin. Berlin, 2013. 14

[39] Interview with Katherina Oguntoye, Berlin, August 2013

[40] Interview with PM. Berlin, August 2013

[41] Afe, Adogame. The African Christian Diaspora. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. 55

[42] Jamal, Malik, Inter-Religious Dialogue; Briefing Paper, EU: Brussels, 2006. 2

[43] Catherine Lynch and Shannon Pfohman. Hidden talents, wasted talents? The real cost of neglecting the positive contribution of migrants and ethnic minorities. European Network Against Racism (ENAR): Brussels, 2013.9

[44] Gemma, Tulud Cruz. An Intercultural Theology of Migration, Leiden: Brill, 2010. 21

[45] Interview with EA. Berlin, August 2013

[46] Ibid

[47] Jackson, Darell and Alessia Passareli, Mapping Migration: Mapping churches’ responses. WCC Publication: Geneva, 2008. 6-7

[48] Interview with EA. Berlin, August 2013

[49] Jean-Gottfried Mutumbo. “Whoever Can Speak will always find their way; Experience of an African Missionary in Germany.” Mission Continues Global Impulses for the 21st Century. Eds. Claudia Währisch-Oblau and Fidon Mwombeki. Oxford: Regnum, 2010. 179

[50],_Dangerous_and_Demeaning, accessed on 28.10.2013

[51] Interview with Katherina Oguntoye. Berlin, August 2013

[52] Annabel, Brady-Brown, Ida Rud, and Aimee Stanton. “Africans-in-Berlin-part-one”. Exberliner, 20 September. 2012: 1

[53] Gemma, Tulud Cruz. An Intercultural Theology of Migration, Leiden: Brill, 2010. 47-48

[54] Interview with Peter Arthur. Berlin, October 2013

[55] Interview with PM. Berlin, August 2013

[56] Interview with SC. Berlin, August 2013

[57] Interview with EA. Berlin, August 2013

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An Initiative of the African Christians in Berlin and Brandenburg
A case Study of the African Christians council of Berlin and Brandenburg
University of Göttingen
Intercultural Theology
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initiative, african, christians, berlin, brandenburg, study
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Vincent Pascal Gucha (Author), 2014, An Initiative of the African Christians in Berlin and Brandenburg, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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