Skip to main content

tv   Focus on Europe  PBS  January 4, 2016 6:30pm-7:01pm PST

6:30 pm
>> hello and welcome to a special christmas edition of "focus on europe." now, of course, christmas is an extremely important religious festival for lots of europeans. and that's why we've decided to devote today's show entirely to the religions across europe. and that's also why i'm here right on top of the roman catholic cathedral in the middle of cologne. now you might think that germany, a country of the reformation, of martin luther, is a protestant country. but in fact, just as many catholics are living here as protestants. and they have been set a challenge by the pope. they've been asked to take in as many refugees as they can. each parish needs to take in at least one family of refugees. so how are germany's catholics coping with that challenge?
6:31 pm
we've been out and about in cologne to find out. >> school's over for the day, and youssef is back at home. it's an unusual living arrangement. youssef, who's from egypt, is living with three catholic nuns. >> [singing] >> these franciscan sisters in the western german town of olpe have taken in youssef and his family they had to leave egypt because they're christians and were persecuted there. >> the convent is a livelier place now that an entire family is living here. >> the sisters are really nice. they're helping me to learn german. they're always ready to help me. >> they haven't been here very long -- about two weeks. it's changed our lives. there are new people in our home
6:32 pm
now. it just sounds different now. when we hear something, we just figure it's one of the family members upstairs. >> pope francis would approve of what the nuns are doing. he says the church should set a good example. that includes sheltering refugees. but that would be a problem for these dominican friars. there are only a few of them in this monastery, and many of them are elderly. father david would like to host some refugees, but he can't. >> some of the friars here are old or ill, and it's our job to take care of them. but that doesn't mean that we don't care about the refugees. >> german priests and nuns have heard the pope's message, and the dominicans in cologne are helping the refugees with language courses and social support.
6:33 pm
here in the basement of st. theodore's church in cologne, father franz meurer and his team are getting ready to distribute food to the needy. many people in this part of town depend on food donations, even more so since large numbers of refugees have been arriving. the parish has also been able to provide housing. father franz meurer: a year ago, we took in a family from kosovo. they had eight kids, including a new-born. i think it's great that the pope is doing the same now. >> a lot of parishes have acted even before the pope's message. hailoun -- who's from syria -- is repairing bicycles for other refugees. he's nealy 70 years old, and he's been in germany for nearly two years. he lost everything when he fled syria. hailoun, syrian refugee: i
6:34 pm
worked for 43 years -- and now it's all gone. i lost two homes, a shop, and an office. >> but hailoun is glad to be in germany where he feels safe. and since this parish helped him, he now wants to help the parish. the franciscans say that helping refugees -- whether they're christians or muslims -- is just part of being a good catholic. the nuns here say that the church is changing, thanks to pope francis. gertrudis lüneborg, franciscan nun: jesus went to the fringes of society -- and the pope is doing exactly the same. he says that christians should also reach out to the fringes, find the needy and help them. >> youssef, his parents, and his younger brother will finally have a home this christmas season -- instead of an emergency shelter. and for that, they can thank the franciscan nuns.
6:35 pm
and the sisters believe that having a few extra people around the convent has made their lives richer. >> of course, the other great world religion that's always been important here in germany is judaism. the holocaust wiped out a whole culture and millions of jews were brutally murdered by the nazis. but over the last few decades, jewish life has been coming back -- returning here to germany as can be seen here in this synagogue in cologne. but anti-semitism sadly still exists in europe. it's sometimes fuelled by the conflict in israel. but in one northern english city, bradford, often characterized as a place where jews and muslims clash, a local synagogue has been saved from closure by local muslims. >> hanukkah, the festival of lights, is rudi leavor's chance to shine. without his dedication, this celebration wouldn't be taking place at all. leavor is the chairman of the
6:36 pm
bradford reform synagogue and almost 90 years old. the jewish community here has dwindled to just 45 members, yet the synagogue is packed. that's because rudi hasn't only invited people of the jewish faith to celebrate hanukkah. >> well, it is important for bradford and for the jewish community that for once in a while, and hanukkah is the best time to do it, to invite people from all religions and none, and from different nationalities and to meet together. >> and leavor has done more than most to forge such alliances in bradford. he's had to, to keep his small jewish community alive in changing times. bradford's jewish population has been dwindling for decades, and muslims now make up close to a quarter of the city's population. for a long time, the two communities had little to do with one another. but that's changed.
6:37 pm
>> shalom, are you well? >> yes, thank you. >> that's also thanks to jani rashid, a muslim who's helped rudi leavor save bradford's synagogue. the synagogue was in desperate need of repairs, but the jewish community lacked the funds to pay for them. a muslim neighbor heard of their plight and made a generous donation. >> it was an extra surprise. we were glad to get money from anywhere, that is always a surprise. but that it came from the muslims was a bigger surprise, that's quite true. >> because bradford is certainly not free from anti-semitism. british newspaper "the daily mail" filmed a jew wearing a kippah walking around the streets of various british cities. in bradford, it took just minutes before he was insulted as "jewish scum". rudi leavor and jani rashid both agree that such hostility is fuelled by the conflict in the middle east. they, too, have had to make huge leaps of faith. they often meet to talk things
6:38 pm
over in sweet centre, a pakistani-indian restaurant around the corner from the synagogue. zulfi karim is one of bradford's most influential muslims -- and one of leavor's biggest supporters. but he's had to defend his actions -- even to himself. >> was it right, spiritually, morally, all the questions you ask yourself. and also, how would the community feel. don't forget, there's a lot of tensions out there, not everything is beautiful and blue sky. >> still, leavor's muslim friends and neighbors want to do everything possible to help. >> i'd never seen a synagogue until rudi took me in there. and to be honest, for us it was an eye opener. the local synagogue is part of our heritage in the city of bradford. they've been here longer than us. we've only been here as curry house for 50 years, and the
6:39 pm
synagogue has been here for more than 200 years. >> the relationship between rudi leavor and his muslim neighbors has grown increasingly close. still, when the jewish leader asked him to join the synagogue's council in early 2015, he was surprised. >> it came at a time when things were not too good in the middle east, in terms of relationship s between the jewish and muslim community. i thought it was very brave of the jewish community, the synagogue, and in particular rudi, in having the foresight to invite a non-jewish person onto its committee. >> it would be a means of cementing the cooperation and friendship between jews and muslims, if we co-opted a muslim onto the council of the synagogue. >> and rudi leavor plans to keep on cementing friendships between bradford's residents --
6:40 pm
regardless of their religious affiliation. >> of course, there are many different types of islam. some muslim communities in bradford are seen as pretty conservative. whereas this mosque in cologne likes to show a more liberal and open face of islam. that's often the case here in germany, that muslim communities are more liberal, because most muslims here come from turkey wher islam is often more moderate than in other regions of the world. and that's particularly the case for the sufi dervishes who delight tourists with their whirling dances -- but also want to show that islam is about more than fundamentalism extremism. >> istanbul, the city on the bosphorus, offers a host of attractions. everything from its old palaces and mosques to its whirling dervishes enthrall visitors to this thriving metropolis. these dancers are muslims who strive to get closer to god
6:41 pm
through their movements. carine gug from france came to istanbul to find out more about the whirling dervishes. they're adherents of sufism, often called the mystical dimension of islam. their religion is more about searching for meaning and spiritual development than dogma and interdictions. >> it's about forgetting yourself, leaving your ego behind while you're whirling, and thinking about god. that's the path that the koran shows us, if you read it properly. at least that's the way our founder mevlana showed us. >> the souvenir stores in town have also picked up on the dervish trend. the dancing dervishes sell like hotcakes -- but only a few people know what they stand for. young architect carine gug was surprised to find such a mystical movement belonged to islam.
6:42 pm
>> for me, religion is this philosophy of life. so that means being respectful, trying to find the balance in your life. i've always been interested in dervishes. for me, it was mystical. i was curious about it how they could turn for so long. >> but you won't find any dervishes in the mosques of istanbul. they practice their faith in private. before, they lived an ascetic life in monasteries. the turkish state prohibited all sufi orders in 1925 but later allowed their dances to be performed in public. today, their adherents are appalled to see how the koran is being misused for political purposes. they prefer to devote themselves to their meditative music. >> what humanity needs the most right now is love, but unfortunately everyone is only looking to maximize profit.
6:43 pm
our founder mevlana's philosophy father is love. my prophet is love. my god is love. i am a child of love!" >> at this museum in galata, housed in a former dervish monastery, carine gug visits an exhibition on the history of the whirling dervishes. the religious order has been banned by the turkish state numerous times. and to this day, it's targeted by radical islamists -- partly because women aren't forbidden from dancing. >> it's not -- how can i say that -- a religion which is putting pressure on people. you practice it if you want to practice. there was no war for sufism, for example, to try to expand it, to try to expand it. and that's very interesting, i think. >> ahead of a traditional ceremony known as a sema, a dervish explains how the dance
6:44 pm
works. the palm of the right hand faces upwards, to receive god's blessing. the left palm faces down to share the blessings with this world. the dancers turn in time to the rhythm of the music, and in doing so hope to get closer to god. >> these people seem to be very passionate about what they are doing. it's something a bit different than religion is. >> the ceremony begins. the dervishes start whirling faster and faster, and seem to enter a state of rapture. spectators soon fall under their spell, carine gug included. for her, these dancers have put a whole new spin on islam. >> when you wander round the center of cologne, pass all the churches, you can really see that this city was quite literally built on its christian heritage.
6:45 pm
but other european cities have more a tradition of religious diversity. in particular, the bosnian capital sarajevo, where for centuries mosques, churches, synagogues all co-existed peacefully side-by-side. that unity was destroyed by the ethnic conflicts of the 1990's. the city was torn apart. today, the city has been rebuilt and it's peaceful again. but that ethnic disunity is still very much there, and you can see that by what's happened to the national museum. >> sarajevo, a cultural metropolis that is centuries old. the city is home to muslims, christians, and jews. sarajevo's priceless heritage is preserved in this greying building, the national museum of bosnia & herzgovina. mirsad sijaric is the museum's deputy director and the archaeological curator of one of
6:46 pm
the balkan region's largest collections of cultural treasures. but the job does have its problems. >> it's a blessing. but it's also a curse because we're not able to preserve or even display all of the items that we have. >> the museum was closed for many years -- and the exhibition halls were not properly maintained. sijaric says that the bosnian government isn't interested in the historical, cultural, and religious legacy of this multi-ethnic state. >> our entire political system is structured so that only a handful of people have power, and can do what they want. and what they want is to preserve the ethnic and religious divisions in this country.
6:47 pm
>> three years ago sijaric and the museum director, marica filipovic, experienced the effects of that policy first-hand. the government cut off funding for the museum. so for the first time in 100 years, it had to shut down. more than 60 employees lost their jobs. >> i'm a widow. when they closed down the museum, i felt as badly as i did on the day that my husband died. >> so the lights at the museum were turned off. but the government hadn't counted on the determination of silaric and his colleagues. they stayed on the job, without pay. they guard the museum against break-ins, an they keep the exhibits clean. it's a labor of love.
6:48 pm
>> i wanted to do something to help -- so that i wouldn't be ashamed of myself later on. i refused to accept this injustice. >> one of silaric's responsibilities is to look after this magnificent jewish manuscript from the 15th century. it's worth millions of euros. its historical value is incalculable. the fact that a muslim is responsible for its safe-keeping underlines the ethnic diversity of this society. >> this represents the best example of what bosnia used to be, and what it should be today. bosnia was a place where people from different ethnic groups, religions, cultures, and civilizations lived together for centuries. >> the museum director says that the feeling of national cohesion was destroyed 20 years ago in
6:49 pm
the bosnian war. to make her point clear, she takes us to a place in the sarajevo suburbs. >> these ruins bear silent witness to bloody fighting that involved serbs, bosniaks and croats. >> our country was deeply wounded by that war, and it still is. the war also wounded us, as citizens of bosnia. >> since that time, the nation's parliament has been split among muslim bosniaks, orthodox christian serbs, and catholic croats. they're not interested in what happens to the national museum. and that makes marica filipovic angry. she knows that bosnians can live ogether -- as we can see in this display, which portrays life in the 19th century.
6:50 pm
>> the various peoples, nationalities, and religious groups that live in bosnia & herzegovina represent the soul and the wealth of this nation. >> the minister in charge of funding for the museum came to a similar conclusion and approved a modest amount of money so that the museum could open its doors again. these pre-school kids are taking a tour, and they're excited to learn something about their country's history. >> mirzad sijaric can once again put his professional skills to good use. this is why he became an archaeologist -- to study the historical legacy of bosnia & herzegovina, and the christians, muslims, and jews who live there.
6:51 pm
>> if there's one thing that characterizes christmas here in germany, it's the christmas markets. gluehwein for the adults and toys for their children. but of course, here in western europe, not enough children are being born, even in catholic poland. now that surprises me because i remember in the 1990's when i lived there, families were pretty large. but now that's changed. poland has become a lot more western, and the low birth rate is part of that. but that is not the case within the kashubians -- a devoutly catholic ethnic group in north eastern poland. >> sierakowice in kashubian is serakojce. town signs in kashubia are bilingual. 240,000 people belong to this ethnic slavic group. and that number is set to grow because families here tend to have many children. >> these five siblings, for example, are all part of the kreft family. max is in charge of the mugs. he needs 10 for everyone, including his parents. the oldest brother david is
6:52 pm
cuddling with the youngest, gabriel. all in all there are eight children. meals, games, and homework all take place at one big table. the holy family looks on from above. catholicism plays a big role here. >> we wanted four kids. god gave us eight, so he doubled our wish. that's life. >> many more families in the town feel blessed by an abundance of children. those who do are granted an array of benefits, including free school meals. the kids pour in for lunch. this is just one class. >> for us having many children doesn't mean two, or three, or four children. 10 kids are no exception. our record is 12 children at our school from one family. >> the community has a population of almost 20,000, and
6:53 pm
that number is growing. tadeusz kobiela has served as the local community leader since the collapse of communism. counting heads is a favorite pastime. >> at the start of every new year, i tally up the numbers of deaths and marriages. and using those figures, i calculate the population growth rate. >> kobiela's administration encourages population growth by supporting large families, who receive gas subsidies at the pump, discounts at local stores, and generous food parcels . the town has no less than 11 schools. and since he often comes bearing gifts, kobiela is always warmly received. >> the year is almost over and we have money left over. do you need anything? >> the high school is a bright, well-built modern building. most of the 600 children enrolled here have siblings at the school.
6:54 pm
two of these girls here say they've got four siblings. asked there is an also an only child, only one girl comes forward. so why does this town have so many children? with consult the local priest. his register reveals a pattern of more baptisms and less funerals. the birth rate is four times the death rate. >> tradition and faith are very strong here. in the past, couples needed many children to ensure the continuity of their families. >> ensuring the continuity of the kashubian minority may also be a factor. old church registers show the region has long had a very high birth rate. family planning has never played a role here. >> contraception is not an issue here. naturally it's available like anywhere else in the world, but it's generally not used. >> every morning during the
6:55 pm
season of advent, entire families attend mass -- before school. for centuries the kashubian minority struggled to defend its identity against assimilation by germans and poles. today, it appears they have found lasting strength in faith and in numbers. >> nativity scenes like this as the lash are a reminder that christmas is all about peace. so all that remains for me to do is to say thanks for watching and to wish you a merry christmas and a happy and peaceful new year. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
6:56 pm
steves: since the romantic era in the 19th century, luzern has been a regular stop on the grand tour route of europe. [ whistle blows ] its inviting lakefront now includes a modern concert hall, which incorporates the lake into its design. the old town, with a pair of picture-perfect wooden bridges, straddles the reuss river, where it tumbles out of lake luzern. the bridge was built at an angle in the 14th century
6:57 pm
to connect the town's medieval fortifications. today, it serves strollers, rather than soldiers, as a peaceful way to connect two sides of town. many are oblivious to the fascinating art just overhead. under the rafters hang about 100 colorful 17th-century paintings showing scenes from luzern and its history. this legendary giant dates to the middle ages, when locals discovered mammoth bones, which they mistakenly thought were the bones of a human giant. here's luzern in about 1400, the bridge already part of the city fortifications. and luzern looked like this in 1630. luzern is responsible for controlling the lake level. by regulating the flow of water out of its lake, the city prevents the flooding of lakeside villages when the snow melts. in the mid-19th century, the city devised and built this extendable dam.
6:58 pm
by adding and taking away these wooden slats, they could control the level of the lake. swans are a fixture on the river today. locals say they arrived in the 17th century as a gift from the french king, louis xiv, in appreciation for the protection his swiss guards gave him. switzerland has a long history of providing strong and loyal warriors to foreign powers. the city's famous lion monument recalls the heroism of more swiss mercenaries. the mighty lion rests his paws on a french shield. tears stream down his cheeks. the broken-off end of a spear is slowly killing the noble beast. the sad lion is a memorial to over 700 swiss mercenaries who were killed, defending marie antoinette and louis xvi during the french revolution. the people of luzern take full advantage of their delightful river with a variety of cafes and restaurants along its banks. this evening, we're enjoying the setting as much as the food.
6:59 pm
i'm having the local pork. my producer, simon, is having eel, fresh from the river. with a picturesque setting like this, the dining experience makes for a wonderful memory.
7:00 pm


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on