Director of Service-Learning
Office of Service-Learning
4200 54th Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33711
Berlin: Spring Break 09
During Spring Break, 13 students traveled to Berlin, Germany to learn about the issue of Arab/Muslim immigration in Europe. After 9/11 and other European terror attacks, Islamaphobia has become a common prejudice in Western countries due to their misunderstanding of the religion. In Germany specifically, the "majority of the minorities" are from Turkey and practice the faith of Islam.
We stayed in Kreuzberg, a multicultural district of Berlin that is predominately Turkish. The agency we volunteered with was the Berliner Studentenverein, an NGO that offers tutoring as well as the opportunity for children with a Turkish background to learn about their national heritage through the study of Turkish history, language, philosophy, culture, religion, and literature. We helped them organize their personal library by categorizing and cataloging hundreds of books. One day we helped the students that were receiving tutoring for English. Alongside our volunteering, we were able to learn about the present political and social situation involving Muslims in Germany. We heard from Burhan Kesici, of the Islamische Föderation in Berlin, about the role of Muslims in European politics. And a social perspective from Mohammad Imran Sagir from the NGO Inssan, meaning "humanity" in Arabic, which works to promote coexistence and diversity through dialogue so as to realize the common ground that exists between Turks and Germans, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We had the opportunity to visit the local mosque, where we learned about the basic tenets of Islam and that there are many more similarities between the major world religions than we had realized.
Of particular importance to our learning experience was our visit to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in northern Berlin. What had happened at this camp, just 70 years prior to our visit, showed us the true limits of hate. The fundamental goal of terrorism is to create divisions amongst social groups, so as to foster hate and revenge. But in our fight against terrorism, we as non-governmental entities must promote coexistence. Our experience taught us that for all the disagreements we might have over politics, religion, and culture, we have much more in common, starting with a shared humanity sharing a diverse world.