Austria supports integration of Turkish imams – religious representatives have bridging function
Ankara, 6 July 2012 – Eight imams from the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (diyanet) who will take over positions in the federal Austrian provinces of Vienna, Salzburg and Vorarlberg this autumn were given a ceremonious send-off by Ambassador Dr. Klaus Wölfer and Special Envoy Sabine Kroissenbrunner at the Austrian Embassy in Ankara on July 3rd. “As religious representatives, you have an important bridging function between your flock and Austrian society; between Turkey and Austria”, Ambassador Wölfer said. The representatives of the Department of International Relations at the Presidency of Religious Affairs, Ahmet Dilek and Dr. Fevzi Hamurcu, emphasised that Turkish immigrants perceive Austria as their second home. The diyanet deems it highly important that the imams who are sent to Austria for a period of approximately five years learn German to a very good standard and familiarise themselves with the country.
The send-off at the Austrian Embassy in Ankara was preceded by a two-day “Induction Course for Turkish Religious Representatives in Austria”, which, for the second time, took place in the facilities of the Ankara Goethe Institute on July 2nd and 3rd 2012. In lectures and discussion rounds, Prof. Dr. Susanne Heine (Faculty of Protestant Theology, Vienna University) and Zeynep Elibol (Director of the Islamic College for Social Education in Vienna) touched upon topics such as religious freedom and diversity in Austria, the rights of women and ways of supporting women in areas such as health, education and integration.
Together, the Austrian speakers and the Turkish religious representatives visited the Museum of the Directorate General for Religious Foundations in Ankara, which, with its extensive collection of Koran editions, manuscripts, rugs and other cult objects, provides a good insight into Islamic culture in Turkey. The museum, which also cooperates with the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna within an EU-funded project, made an excellent platform for this dialogue of cultures and religions.
The training initiative will be continued with a seminar that is to take place in Vienna in 2013. The training scheme that prepares Turkish religious representatives of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (diyanet) for their work in Austria dates back to 2008. After their arrival in Austria, the imams attend cultural studies events provided by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs. To intensify this project, it was decided in 2011 that one of the training units should take place in Ankara. The goals of the training initiative include fostering mutual understanding, building trust and strengthening the awareness of the imams of their “bridging function” between their Turkish/Muslim flock and the Austrian population.
Every year, the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs sends 8 – 10 religious representatives to the 62 mosque communities maintained in Austria by the “Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation in Europe” (ATIB) for a period of approximately 5 years. ATIB is the largest Muslim umbrella organisation in Austria.
Austrian Embassy Ankara
Tel.: +90/312 405 51 90-30
Fax: +90/312 418 94 54