Drinking tea with princes, bishops and ministers
Interview with David Müller, Political Advocate for Religious Freedom in Iraq
David, can you give us a brief overview of the ojcos foundation’s involvement in and for Iraq?
In 2017, people from Iraq confronted us with the question: “What are you doing to ensure that Christians, Yazidis and religious minorities in the country have a perspective of a reconciled life in dignity and security?” When I was hired in January 2018 as a “Political Advocate for Religious Freedom in Iraq”, we took on the challenge of clearly advocating for this issue in German politics, the media, and the public. In doing so, we are guided by this thought from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian: “The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation shall continue to live.” In the past few years, we have visited Iraq seven times, had countless appointments in the German Parliament, and gratefully experience how our network in Iraq is continually expanding. In the meantime, ministers and members of parliament, archbishops, members of the Yazidi princely family and many others have become friends of ours there. On our initiative, we founded the network “Peace & Advocacy in Iraq” together with seven other organizations from the field of peace work in Iraq and Germany. We want to promote the encounter of people from different backgrounds and train them to actively participate in reconciliation and shaping their society.
What is special about the commitment of the ojcos foundation?
One of our principles is: To add what is missing. We see that a large part of the large amount of financial aid is invested primarily in survival aid and reconstruction. That is why we concentrate on questions of peaceful and reconciled coexistence. Another specialty is our relationship-oriented networking. In a tribal and power-oriented culture, we tirelessly try to bring people together, strengthen common ground, build bridges and encourage mutual trust.
What do your visits mean to the people in the country?
They are a sign of hope. The people there feel not only without perspective, but also forgotten by the rest of the world. We are repeatedly told that we enjoy great trustworthiness and appreciation because we visit the country regularly and travel in an attitude of listening and partnership.
What does your mission mean for politics in Germany?
In addition to the commitment to Religious Freedom, the topics of “Fighting the causes of flight” and “Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention” are pillars of German politics. Iraq also plays a key role in stabilizing the entire region. Thanks to our regular visits to the country and our good network, we help political decision-makers to classify the sometimes contradicting information from Iraq. Since we have a lower security level in terms of protocol than, for example, members of parliament or employees of large organizations, we are in more direct contact with the people and the situation on the ground. These insights are gratefully received by German politicians.
What was your personal highlight?
I find it very motivating to work professionally in a non-everyday environment. Who regularly commutes between Iraq and the German Parliament? Who regularly drinks tea (and asks tough questions) with archbishops, princes and politicians in Iraq?
What is lacking above all in this difficult humanitarian and political situation?
Decades of wars and, last but not least, the terror of ISIS have left an atmosphere of hopelessness and mutual distrust between the many different groups in Iraq. One of the main causes of flight is the fundamentally lost trust in a positive future. A lack of security, insufficient work opportunities and a failure to come to terms with the injustice suffered complete this. There is also the great cultural challenge: On the one hand, religion and tribal affiliation have always played a major role in the oriental world. On the other hand, there is a growing desire for a secular state based on citizenship, equality and justice. Unfortunately, even international supporters are not always culturally and religiously sensitive.
What hope drives you and what are you grateful for?
Pope Francis once said: “Hope is the air that a Christian breathes.” As a Christian, I not only have a hope that relates to the hereafter, but also that God wants good for the people in our world now. Added to this is the conviction of the ojcos foundation: “Large doors turn on small hinges.” How many changes in world history started in the encounter of individual people who were in the right place at the right time and who took on responsibility? I am very grateful for people who accompany, advise and encourage me and support my work financially and in prayer.
What is your goal, your vision, your wish for the next two years?
My goal is to have made a concrete contribution to peace and reconciliation in Iraq, thus giving people the opportunity to stay in their homeland. Since my work is financed exclusively by donations, I wish that this will not fail because of money.
The questions were asked by Michael Wolf.