Speech by Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the celebration of the breaking of the fast in Villa Borsig hosted by Minister of State Aydan Özoğuz
Ladies and gentlemen,
According to the Prophet, God said: “Among my servants, the ones I love most are those who break their fast quickly.”
We’re more than happy to act in line with that sentiment. However, I still have a few minutes and I would first of all like to express my thanks for this invitation.
I always find it very special to take part in the breaking of the fast during Ramadan. Only a few days ago, I broke the fast here in Villa Borsig with my Iranian counterpart. But two very different Iftar evenings also left a lasting impression on me: celebrations in Milower Land in Brandenburg and in Berlin’s Moabit district, to which I had been invited by Syrian families. I’m delighted that these families are here this evening. Allow me to extend a warm welcome to you.
Just as you invited me to break the fast with you back then, I know that people are coming together all over Germany this month to celebrate Iftar together: Germans, Syrians, Christians, Muslims.
For many Germans, it may be the first time that they’ve taken part in a breaking of the fast. For many refugees, on the other hand, it’s the first time that they’ve had to mark Iftar so far from home.
During the Iftar celebration in Brandenburg, we spoke about how difficult that is. How great the yearning for home is – especially during the fast month of Ramadan, a time when everyone wants to be with their family.
I believe we have a shared responsibility, Aydan Özoğuz, to ensure that this longing for home doesn’t remain a longing. We want make returning home a realistic prospect.
That’s why we’re doing everything we can to find political solutions to the conflicts which force people to flee – be it in Syria, Iraq, Yemen or Libya.
The path to this goal is often anything but an easy one. However, I’m convinced that we must not give up, that we must not be put off by setbacks, if we are to make progress.
And, ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate the Iftar here together – a celebration which brings people together – allow me to emphasise that we’ll only make progress in our quest for political solutions if we come together, if we seek to engage in dialogue with each other, if we work on joint solutions – especially when the going gets tough.
For me, Ramadan is a forceful reminder of this.
In Villa Borsig, we have found a place to celebrate the breaking of the fast which underscores this desire in a great way. For we’ve come together countless times during the last few months in this very house to try and defuse crises and open up political avenues. This is especially true in the case of Syria.
Believe you me, the French Foreign Minister now probably knows every duck in Lake Tegel personally – that’s how often he’s been here.
And I fear that when my Russian and Ukrainian colleagues see the venue “Villa Borsig” on an invitation card. then they get set for a long night.
This Villa is a place where diplomacy shows all its dramatic, as well as its mundane, sides. That means, for instance, that discussions are held in these armchairs until the sun rises on the other side of the lake. That means that a discussion can be so heated that one of the partners in the talks goes out on the terrace over there to take a deep breath. That means that a cigarette is sometimes lit during difficult negotiations despite the ban on smoking. That means – even more often – that heads end up spinning. That means that people want to give up because it seems that no progress is being made and then – time and again – they carry on after all.
That’s what this house stands for, ladies and gentlemen. It stands for dialogue and it stands for the hope that we can make progress together – even if it‘s only small steps.
The idea that we have to work together despite our differences to make the world a better place, is also a guiding principle of Islam.
It says in the Koran: “And had Allah so willed, He would surely have made you one single community; instead, (He gave each of you a Law and a way of life) in order to test you by what He gave you. Vie, then, one with another in good works. Unto Allah is the return of all of you; and He will then make you understand the truth concerning the matters on which you disagreed.”
Many of you, ladies and gentlemen, live by this principle in your day-to-day work. You seek to establish dialogue, to foster conversation, to build bridges – between Christians, Muslims, Jews, as well as between newcomers and established communities.
For this work, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you most sincerely.