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Showing posts from 2010

BBC Correspondent Brian Hanrahan dies: He represented a dying breed of journalist

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This morning I heard the sad news that Brian Hanrahan, one of the BBC's finest correspondents had died. I've worked with Brian, many times in the last decade covering mostly stories related to recent German history. He was thorough, seeking the truth, a sticker for details, good research and facts and more facts. So many times when I rambled on, giving my personal take on events, he said to me "Just give me the facts"

He was fair on those who worked with him and those he interviewed. He was a Mensch.

Today I remember after a heavy day of filming, the many thought-provoking conversations we had over dinner in Berlin and Leipzig and Dresden and Cologne.  We talked about the media, current affairs, history, books and art. He certainly shaped my view of the role of journalists in our day and age.  At every shoot I learnt something from him. In Dresden he encouraged me to still visit the world-famous Zwinger art museum with only an hour to spare on the morning we left.

Bri…

German Protestant head says a European Islam needed for dialogue

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Vatican cardinal says lack of shared communion his greatest regret

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By Anli Serfontein Stuttgart, Germany, 22 July (ENI)--The recently retired senior Vatican official responsible for ecumenical affairs has said his biggest regret during his tenure in Rome is that he did not achieve an agreement on a common communion with Protestants.

"Today, there is a lot of convergence. So, we got closer to each other but we could not achieve the final breakthrough. I regret it very much but you cannot push the issue," said Cardinal Walter Kasper, who retired on 1 July as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

"The main thing that I did not achieve is the sharing of Holy Communion," Kasper told ENInews in an interview in Stuttgart, while attending, as a special guest, the 20-27 July assembly of the Lutheran World Federation.

Kasper, now 77, became president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 2001; he had served the previous two years as its secretary. Originally from Germany, Kasper is a former p…

World Cup 2006 changed the perception of Germany

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With the German team firing on the World Cup fever in South Africa, I had to think back of what it was like when the World Cup was held in Germany four years ago. I ended my first book with the World Cup 2006 which forever changed the perception of the way the country was seen by the outside world. Here is an extract from the last chapter of my book: "For a month in the warm early summer of 2006, Germany was transformed into one big party venue, as the nation played host to the 2006vSoccer World Cup. Their catchy host slogan was “Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden—A time to make friends” was the official translation, which does not catch the spirit. “The world are our guests: at home with friends,” might have captured it better.

When I first saw the slogan, which was on billboards everywhere, I thought it was quite kitsch, but as the tournament went on, it absolutely caught the spirit of the new Germany. They were the perfect hosts and showed the world an unexpected side—they truly knew…

Service: desert or dessert? Wie bitte?

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Germans are reliable, is one of the myths that we foreigners have. And on a hot early summer Saturday in June, they have once more shown themselves more reliable than I actually wished them to be. In my book on Germany I have lamented the fact that service as we know it in the Anglo-Saxon world is not a word understood in the same context or intent by people here.  To make things worse we live in a border area where the locals have unfortunately adopted the worst of the German idea of no service and the absolute top of the French concept of bad service:  a toxic combination. So on this hot summer’s long-weekend Saturday, my husband and I decide to take the scenic route through the hills and woods of the Hunsrueck area to fetch our daughter  in Idar Oberstein from the Youth Camp 2010 of the Evangelical Church in Rhineland.

Idar Oberstein is famous for its precious stones and a mere 80 kilometres from our home. So we set the GPS system to take the minor roads, dreaming that we will stumbl…

German Police Inter-Cultural Sensitivity

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One day each year, foreigners living in Trier, - and they make up 8% of the local population after all - can celebrate their cultures  on one of the city squares.
Yesterday on a rainy Sunday as people from the Middle East and Asia and Africa cooked their specialities, danced and sang, they were also introduced to German culture.
Coming from South Africa and having worked in the townships during the Unrest of the late Eighties and early Nineties, I for one, for many years  after moving to Germany, made a wide berth around anyone in uniform. Too many bad memories clouded my rationality. I wonder how many of the foreigners on the Kornmarkt yesterday are political exiles who still have nightmares from the way they were treated by men in uniform? Maybe even tortured?  In my experience many of us coming from the Third World fear dogs. However they were introduced to the law in their new country.

With intercultural (in)sensitivity the German police put their police dogs through their paces in d…

German Catholics launch helpline for abuse victims

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It is seldom that I can just get on my bike and go to a press conference, but this one in Trier yesterday was a welcome change!

Trier, Germany (ENI). The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has launched an official telephone hotline for victims of sexual abuse in its institutions.
At a press conference in Trier, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of the German Bishops' Conference said on 30 March the helpline will be staffed by psychologists and social workers from the diocese of Trier.

Ackermann was appointed in February by the German bishops to handle mounting allegations of abuse in Germany's Catholic Church.

The crisis began when a school in Berlin run by the Jesuit order announced in January that there had been systematic abuse of pupils by three priests in the 1970s and 1980s. After the school had appointed a lawyer, it appealed for victims of abuse to come forward.

Soon it emerged that the priests involved also worked at other church-run schools and the problem grew. The scandal ha…

Books, people, publishers and blisters

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The annual Leipzig Book Fair is truly a people's book festival and in stark contrast to the Frankfurt Book Fair which is all about deals.
Ever since Johannes Gutenberg invented his book printing machine (I visited the museum two years ago in Mainz), Germany has been the centre of the publishing trade.


From 1632 to 1945 Leipzig was the biggest book fair in Germany and in Europe. However after the divide of Europe and Germany into East and West after the Second World War in 1945, the festival continued in East Germany. It was however was overtaken in importance by Frankfurt.


This get-together of the publishing and media sectors with writers, readers and publishers has an invigorating air about it. In the hustle bustle of some spring sunshine the famous mix with booksellers, readers, plebs and wannabe authors like myself.
Nobel Prize Laureates Günter Grass and Hertha Müller were walking around being interviewed and talking to people, as was South African author Deon Meyer.
One hall is mai…

Latter-day Latin Lamentations

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There I stood this week at the grave of Erasmus of Rotterdam in the Basel Münster at a loss to read the inscription in the lingua franca of Europe. Albeit the lingua franca of an earlier Europe, when a common written language prevailed - Latin. That was the world of this Dutch Renaissance humanist. Coming from Africa I never saw the advantages of Latin as a subject. Moving from Jozi barely a century old to Germany’s oldest Roman town, a mere 2,000 years old , I was soon confronted by Latin. In our area some secondary schools offer the option of pupils starting with Latin as their first foreign language when they, aged barely ten, start Gymnasium, the most academic of the three-tier secondary schools. Because numbers are low a lot of marketing goes into attracting pupils.My tri-lingual daughter was seen as a natural candidate. „Latin is a dead language,“ I proclaimed loud enough for all to hear. Whereas the German intelligensia, in other words the professors, the architects, the doctors …