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A Balancing Act: Minority Religious Communities and Processes of Transformation

Panel Chair: Thorsten Wettich | Friday, August 28, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

In this panel we want to discuss different kinds of transformation processes in religious (migrant) communities in Switzerland, Germany and Austria with regard to their embedment in the host society. Minority religious communities are more involved in a constant series of “dialectic tensions” (Lincoln/Mamiya 1990, 10-16) than other religious institutions of host societies. The diversification of religious and social engagement turns out to be a balancing act between divergent tendencies of objectivation and alienation, elaboration and effectiveness (O´Dea/Yinger 1961). The gist of the hypothesis is that transformations of religious and social practices must be seen in an overall context including questions of transmission of religious knowledge, generational change, transnationalism, social tensions and discourses of the host society. Our papers deal with Re-Invention of traditions in Yezidi communities, networks of engaged (Neo-)Muslims, Korean Christian ways of glocal engagement, and the formation of mosque-communities as spaces of action.

Sabrina Weiß

Glocalization of Korean Migrant Churches in West Germany

At the present time around 30.000 Koreans live in Germany. Since the 1970s, some of them established up to 30 immigrant churches alone in North-Rhine Westphalia. These immigrant churches changed over time into diaspora churches, which not any longer serve as sanctuary for the first generation of Korean migrants. One reason for processes of change was intern diversification due to further immigration of Korean students and businessmen and intergenerational conflicts. A glocal perspective, considering the Korean diaspora churches in their social field stretched out between their place of residence, countries of origin and the globally connected communities as the starting point of analysis. The paper focuses upon three specific glocal religious activities: the exchange of guest preachers, passion for foreign mission and civic engagement, and donation behavior. It concludes by noting that globalization facilitates the growth of glocal networks of religious actors.

Veronika Rückamp

Creating Community through Action: Mosque Associations in Switzerland and Austria

Since the 1970s immigrated Muslims have been establishing places for prayer in Switzerland and Austria. Being provisional in the beginning, these mosques have mainly been frequented by a certain ethnic community not only as a place for prayer but also to create a “home away from home”. Since then some major changes happened, two of which I want to analyse more closely: a toughening in the public discourse on Muslims and the transmission from first to second generation immigrants. In this paper I want to ask how mosque associations are responding to these changes through action and what this means for the configuration and institutionalization of mosques in Switzerland and Austria. First insights from the analysis of my qualitative research point to a shift away from immigration related towards religious services, the tendency to organize and take part in public events, the evolving of de-ethnicised mosques and forms of professionalization.

Thorsten Wettich

(Re-)invention of tradition: Negotiating Yezidi theology in the German diaspora

German Historian of Religion, Gernot Wießner, instrumental in the asylum seeking-process of thousands of Yezidis originating from the Eastern Anatolian provinces of the Turkish Republic, in the 1990ies spoke of the „need of a consistent theology“ that Yezidis would have to develop after their arrival in Germany. The emerging diaspora allowed for religious freedom for the first time in the Yezidi history and caused both a reformulation and a negotiation of the divergent strains of oral tradition that shaped religious knowledge production in the past. The paper investigates in the reinvention of Yezidi tradition by focusing on four factors: 1. the ongoing literalization of Yezidi theology, 2. an increasing move towards usage of new media, 3. new strains in religious pedagogy and 4. the role of the newly founded religious associations and their specialists in Germany.

Karin Mykytjuk-Hitz

Networks of engaged (Neo-)Muslims in Germany

In around the last decade the establishment of new forms of Muslim associations is observable in Germany. The pioneers of these new networks, the Neo-Muslims, are active in social, civic and political fields as for example environmental protection and sustainability, social and charitable work, intercultural training programs, media representation and others. They aim to improve the life situation of not just other Muslims (as usually mosque associations do), but of society as a whole. Therefore they are involved in Muslim and Non-Muslim structures and concerns at the same time. This balancing act of the engaged (Neo-)Muslims is one aspect of the transformation process among young Muslims who are socialized in Germany. The (Neo-)Muslims and their networks provide diverse civic potentials for the whole society, which can be specified in the fields of public discourse, demographic change, social ethics and theology, migrant history, politics and organizational fields.


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