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Potsdam, Germany 

Summer School 2019

The CUE has been taking part in a two-year project on Religious and Cultural Diversity in Kurdistan for the second year running. The project is supported by the German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD) with the participation of Catholic University in Erbil, Tishk International University and Salahaddin University. Three delegations representing the three universities joined the programme. The delegation consisting ten academic staff and sixteen students, made a fifteen-day visit to the summer school in Potsdam between 28 June and 12 July 2019.

The present report summarizes the German-Iraqi program (DAAD) project that was held in summer 2019. It illustrates in some details the daily activities that the students and professors carried out in Germany along with pictures of the activities and seminars.


Different activities were held during the visit covering various topics. It included workshops on religious diversity, visits to historical sites in Germany, seminars on mapping Erbil. There were also meetings with some German officials, students and academics aiming at sharing various religious, cultural and educational experiences among the participants.

During the last five days of the program, the chancellors of the three universities were invited by the German side to join the program and had the opportunity to participate in some events and activities carried out by the delegation.

Jun 28, 2019

Arrival and Check-in 

The first day was the check-in and reception day. As soon as the delegation members arrived in the airport, they were received and welcomed by the organizer of the programme Prof. Dr. Stephan who took the delegation for a tour in the city and then to the hotel. This day was empty of activities, which gave the chance for the group to visit the place near the hotel and then have some rest.

Jun 29, 2019

Welcome ceremony, programme presentation, and Meet and Greet;
Presentation of the program; and details on the visit schedule

On this day, the German professors paid a visit to Mercure hotel in order to meet the delegation and clarify the aims and objectives of the project. only the professors and organizers of the project where present excluding the students. The leader of project was, Prof. Dr. Hafner, who made a presentation in the conference hall clarifying the objectives of the trip and presenting the German side to the Iraqi one.

Jun 30, 2019

Church service at Peter and Paul Church
Potsdam & Seminar at Potsdam University

The first day was the check-in and reception day. As soon as the delegation members arrived in the airport, they were received and welcomed by the organizer of the programme Prof. Dr. Stephan who took the delegation for a tour in the city and then to the hotel. This day was empty of activities, which gave the chance for the group to visit the place near the hotel and then have some rest.


10 am: Church Service at Peter-und-Paul-Kirche location: Am Bassin 2, 14467 Potsdam Individual lunch
2 pm: Seminar Religious Diversity in Northern Iraq and Germany location: University of Potsdam, Am Neuen Palais 10, 14469 Potsdam, house 8, room 0.58

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In the early Sunday morning, all the Christian participants from the Iraqi side, in addition to the Muslim ones, attended a service at St. Peter and Paul Church where Dr. Hafnar serves as a deacon. It is a historical church with an archaic style of building. . See Appendix #1. The CUE students contributed in the mass through singing ‘Our Father’ hymn in Syriac (neo-Aramaic) language. Then a member of SUE made a recitation of a prayer in Kurdish.

Appendix #1: a group picture of the Iraqi student and staff with Dr. Hafner and Dr. Stephan

Then, the group headed to the campus of Potsdam University for the first time and met new students from the university. After that, tow students made a on the relationship between state and religion as provided by the constitutions of Iraq and Germany. Highlighting that the key difference between the two is that German constitution is more secular and that religion is not the source of legislation in Germany. By contrast, Islam is the source of legislation ion Iraq. The presentation followed an open discussion by both sides sharing new information. This was followed by a coffee break.

Afterwards, four students from each side, Iraqi and German, held a testimonial in form of four groups separated around the campus. The topic of the discussion was ‘Belonging to a Religious Community, religious and legal consequences of apostasy and conversion’. It was a good opportunity for the students to know one another and share their local experiences. A pair of students, each from one side- one German and one Iraqi- led the testimonial, and then presented their conclusions in front of the other participants, including the staff. Concluding the testimonial, the German side was way more open in terms of granting freedom for the citizen in converting their religion or staying in it. On the other hand, Iraqi constitution appeared quite strict in terms of conversion, since it is forbidden for Muslims to convert to other religions, while others – non-Muslims – are allowed to convert to Islam.

Appendix #2: Pictures for groups of German and Iraqi students discussing the topic ‘how do I express my religiosity’



Jul 1, 2019

Visit to Cistercian Monastery Chorin

After having breakfast in the hotel, as usual, the group gathered in front of the hotel to get ready for a trip to the ancient Monastery of Chorin in Brandenburg. At 9:15, the group picked up a train and headed to Chorin guided by Dr. Dirk; another organizer of the project.

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The train arrived in the village of Chorin, in Brandenburg. Then, the group walked through the village on their way to the monastery. The team passed through the lovely countryside with its beautiful lakes on their way to the monastery located near the village.

Chorin abbey location and building

Chorin Abbey is a Cistercian monastery founded in 13th century and built in a Gothic architectural style. During the Reformation Era in the 15th century, the Abbey was destroyed and rebuilt after several years maintaining its original architectural style. building, in bricks.

Side of the visit to the Chorin Monestry

Jul 2, 2019

Seminar on mapping Erbil

Mapping Erbil was a series of seminars considered with editing and adding information to the reports that have been done by the Iraqi students. On Tuesday, July 2, Prof. Dr. Hafner, presented the first seminar. Then three samples from the mosques at the first, two of them written by Salahaddin university student, and one of them by Tishik university student. This seminar started at 9:00 am with a coffee break at the end of each report reading and criticizing. The final report ended at 4:00 pm. This was followed by free time for everyone.

Jul 3, 2019

Trip to Leipzig

The trip to city of Leipzig was the longest during the programme. Leipzig was formerly a trade centre during the communist regime. As Dr. Derik explained: “it is one of the most popular cities in Germany, and especially during socialist times, it was the second important city after Berlin due to its importance, in terms of knowledge and development.”

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Derik guided the group to some of the monumental areas in Leipzig. The team was first taken to Leipzig Reformierte Kirche; or Leipzig Reformist Church.

Leipzig Reformist Church

As an evangelical Church, it differs from the other Churches especially the Catholic church, in that statutes and pictures are not used in the church maintaining that the faithful should have a spiritual relation with God, not through praising idols.

The second place to visit was the Center of Jewish Community. This one, on the other hand, is the place where the Jewish members meet and practice their activities. According to Dr. Derik, the Jewish community has a school in this building where they teach Judaism. It is like an informal Synagogue.


The third place to visit was the main Synagogue of Leipzig, formerly, now it is a memorial place. This Synagogue was desecrated and destroyed by the Nazi Germans, during the “Reichspogromnacht”. It is also known as the Kristallnacht; night of broken glass”. Nowadays, as Dr. Derik mentioned, it is a memorial place for the Jewish people, where they come and pray for the persecuted and murdered Jews by the Nazis Regime.

Memorial Synagogue of Leipzig and the map of the original Synagogue


Description for the historical Synagogue


Finally, the group visited St. Joseph Church. This Church belogns to the Protstants. It was known for its linkage to Johann Sebastiane Bach who contributed to the Church music, espeically, in this Church. As a reward, a statue was built in his memory in front of the Church.


Thomas Church and Bach’s statue

Jul 4, 2019

Seminar on mapping Erbil

This was the second seminar for editing the reports. This time the reports chosen included the Chatholic studets’ reports as well. Similarly, it was the same of the previous session for doing critique and editing work. It lasted till 4:00 pm.

Jul 5, 2019

Pergammon Museum

This day was fascinating for those who are interested in the history of Mesopotamia. At the early morning, the Iraqi delegation, led by Dr. Stephan and Mr. Issa, were directed to Berlin, to pay a visit to one of the famous Museums in Germany and the world, the Bergammon Museum.

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This Museum is known for preserving the original copy of the Babylon Gate and some Assyrian artifacts from the old city of Namrud, in addition to some Roman, Levant and Islamic statues and artifacts.

The group was welcomed by Dr. Lutz Martin, the general director of the Musuem. Dr. Lutz guided the delegation in the museum and gave an explanation about every section of the museum along with highlighting the difficulties faced by the excavation teams during their work in Iraq. See appendix #10. After that, Mr. Issa invited the delegation to have an ice-cream in a famous place in Berlin.


Group pictures in the Pergamon Museum for the Iraqi delegation that visited the meuseum


Jul 6, 2019

Seminar on Religious Diversity in Northern Iraq & Germany

This day included many activities. It started at the 10:00 am. Each Iraqi and German student prepared a presentation on different topics. The topics were presented in Potsdam University. The first presentation was about “Religious symbols in public places: headscarf, kippa, crosses”; three German students, representing the German side, and three Iraqi/Kurdish students, representing the Iraqi side, made presentations on this topic.

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Jolina Borgwardt, Paul Schulenburg and Benjamin Witzke, students from the German side explained how the Catholics and Protestants are distributed in Germany adding that the Catholics are the majority in Germany, however, there is no discrimination against the other minority religions.

They also added that Germany secures the freedom of religion, hence, everybody may adhere to whatever beliefs they prefer. On the other side, Mariam Al-Saoor; from CUE, Thurraia; TIU and a student from SUE presented the situation in Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Maryam as a Christian girl, made a presentation about Christianity in Iraqi and how they practice faith.

While the other two students made a presentation on Islam and the use of symbols in the public, teaching the religion public schools and their religious practices in the public. For instance, Thurraia illustrated the different types of head scarfs, that Muslim woman wear.
The hosting university ordered Pizza and while the German students prepared some desserts and food.

This was followed by presentations on different topics. One of the topics was on “Building and running a mosque or church: Legal conditions, and in reality”. Hamza and Rahma, students from the CUE, made separate presentations on this topic. Hamza, in his turn, explained the way a mosque is built in Iraq referring to the legal process involved, while Rahma made a similar presentation on how churches are built along with the legal terms to be met.

The same topic was was presented by the German students according to German rules. The key difference is that funds used to build a church in Germany are raised from the taxes collected from German Christian citizens, while in Iraq the expenses are covered by the Ministry of Endowments.

Jul 7, 2019

This was the second day of the Seminar. The presentations were less in number compared to the previous day. Mostly, the presenters were from the German side, and few were from the Iraqi/Kurdish delegation. At first, a presentation on the topic “Religious educational systems: public and private schools, madrasas” was conducted by three German students, and two Shari’a (SUE students) students. The central point of discussion was about the educational systems and the concern about the religious teaching within the educational system.

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As the German students explained, in Germany catechism is mandatory for the Christians in schools. Non-Christians are excluded but are required to attend courses on human issues instead of Christianity. While in Iraq, Mohammad Abdulghani; a SUE student, spoke about the methodology used in teaching by the Shari’a schools in Iraq.

Mr. Muhamma Abdulghani immitaing the sitting manner in the Shari’a schools, joining him Pfro. Dr. Hafnar.


At the end of the seminar, the students were distributed into groups to carry out a testimonial on two different topics; how do I express my religiosity? Highlighted also were the religious sources consulted, texts read, people consulted and the media used fro more information. This time there was no conclusions presented to the staff.

After that there was an optional invitation to attend a Service at a Protestant Church. During the mass Mr. Rawsan, the coordinator of the CUE group, introduced the delegation to the church attendants. Then three of CUE students, Maryam Al- Saoor, Maryam Benyamen and Adad Alan, recited some blessings and prayers in Syriac language.

Side of the activities of the religious diversity’s seminar

Jul 8, 2019

Visiting the Federal Ministry
for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

The visit was joined this time by the three chancellors of the Iraqi universities: Asst.Prof. Dr. Sabah Al-Malih; CUE chancellor, Dr. Idris Hadi; TIU chancellor, and Prof. Dr. Ahmad Dezayi. It was the first official trip within the program to BMZ in Berlin. Two advisers introduced the BMZ work and cooperation with Iraq.

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During the presentation, they focused on the work of Germany’s commission for global freedom of religion. In addition, they explained shed lignt on the Global Goals of Sustainable Development and how aid is provided to the Iraqi NGOs.

The expressed their concern about the situation in Sinjaar and Nineveh Plain, i.e. the areas that were affected by ISIS attack. At the end of the presentation there was an open discussion during which there was an exchange of information and experiences by the Iraqi team about the situation of the IDPs who have returned to their areas after liberation from ISIS.

The Iraqi/Kurdish delegation in the BMZ

Jul 9, 2019

Staatskanzlei des Landes BrandenburgStaatskanzlei
des Landes Brandenburg

The second visit was made to the chancellery of the state in Potsdam. The aim of this trip was to inform the group about the jobs and the economic situation in in Potsdam in a short presentation.

Finance Ministry

Jul 10, 2019

Geological research center &
Presentation in Potsdam University

Accompanied by a member of staff from each university and the CUE chancellor, the students paid a visit to the research center for geology studies located on a hill in Brandenburg. The center is famous for housing the Einstein tower where he conducted his studies on the theory of relativity.

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The head of international relations at the research centre made a short presentation on the activities and achievements of the center and the obstacles facing scientists in their research works. He referred to some current plans underway.

He pointed out that the biggest trouble that faces the center is that politicians do not give the scientific suggestion their due importance and only realize their failure to do so and take action when issues get complicated at a time when risks could be reduced if they had understood the situation.

After that, he illustrated some projects on which they are working and which are expected to make a big contribution in preserving the environment as, for instance, using cool and heat for the air-conditioning buildings rather than using the conventional cooling systems. Moreover, he said that efforts are made to store the CO2 emissions underground as an alternative to leaving the emissions cause more pollution of the environment.

After that there was a trip to Potsdam University to attend a lecture on behavior evaluation. This was more related to teachers ways in evaluating their courses and student attendance.

The delegation on the research center hill.

Jul 11, 2019

Final Event

The day marked the ending of the visit programme with a barbecue party organized by the Project organizers. Prof. Dr. Hafnar concluded the program in a short speech thanking the participants and the Chancellors for making the program reach a fruitful end.

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After that, certificates were distributed to the participants- students, professors and chancellors who took part in the programme. The Iraqi delegation presented their German counterparts with gifts depicting Kurdish and Iraqi culture.

It is worth mentioning that Dr. Hafner was moved by the group playing music on the violin and singing some German traditional songs. Meanwhile, some German students and Dr. Stefan wore Kurdish traditional clothes as a gesture of diversity and tolerance valued by the project.

pictures from the final event


The program was a successful one. It provided the participants with a great experience on religious diversity and tolerance. The seminars that were made with the participation of both Germans and Iraqis enriched the knowledge and experience of the Iraqi team and helped the members of the visiting team realize the amount of tolerance existing despite the existence of some extremists who cause harm to the tolerance that prevails among the different religious and ethnic groups at a time when law provides protection for all.

Moreover, the program involved Christians, Muslims and atheists’. A spirit of tolerance prevailed the programme and marked a signal of the success of the programme. The Iraqi/ Kurdish participants can make use of the tolerant environment they experienced to help bring about change towards more tolerance in their respective societies and communities at home.

The gesture of hospitality and accommodation shown by the German side along with the experience the Iraqi delegation had about the German culture are expected to help them be potential future leaders with a determination and willing to serve and develop their country.