On Friday, 9 June, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, at Herzog August Library in the town of Wolfenbüttel. More than two hundred years ago, in the home region of the German Foreign Minister, a magnificent building was erected that emphasises what the religions have in common, rather than how they differ.
Old and new conflicts
The play Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, which contains the Ring Parable, is a fundamental text of the Enlightenment. It is seen as making the case for humanity-focused and tolerant monotheistic religions. In view of the present-day problems faced by societies, the play is as relevant today as it was several centuries ago.
The two Foreign Ministers did not, however, meet to discuss inter-religious conflict. Gabriel is deeply concerned about the fact that the State of Qatar is being isolated by a number of Arabic countries, led by Saudi Arabia: “The conflicts there are already large enough – we only need to think of Yemen or Syria. What we certainly do not need at the moment is for the disputes to escalate – especially between the Gulf states.”
Focusing on de-escalation and on fighting the common enemy
Gabriel went on to say that not only do blockades have severe consequences, but breaking off diplomatic ties leads to disastrous results. The First World War stands as a reminder of this, and in 2018 we will be commemorating that it ended 100 years ago. With this in mind, Gabriel is convinced “that now is the time for diplomacy”. Germany will work together with its European partners to ensure that the conflict does not escalate any further, so that everyone can concentrate on fighting the actual enemy – the ISIS terrorists. “We must stick together in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS!” the Foreign Minister said. Qatar is part of this Coalition.
The power of religions
The example of ISIS clearly demonstrates what great power religions have. This is dramatic proof of how religions are time and again instrumentalised by ideologies and misused to legitimate terrorism. Religion becomes a fig leaf when it is falsely used by those fighting in political and economic conflicts. We are therefore well advised to recall Lessing’s Ring Parable, which teaches us what great peacemaking potential religions have.