JULIA SARAC, Maria Ivanova
Sons of Adam
How religious institutions help refugees in Hamburg
Thousands of refugees have arrived in Hamburg. Most of them are sleeping in one of the city's refugee camps. But many of them also find shelter in mosques and churches.
Home far from home
"Our principle is, that we don´t ask for their religious affiliation. Our doors are open for everybody."
A place of worship is linked with a silent and prayerful place. These days everything is different at Islamic Center Al-Nour in the area around the Hamburg railway station. When you enter the premises and cross the bathroom the first thing that catches your eye are the rows of shoes at the entrance to the prayer room. Even if fall just arrived, there are more sandals than closed shoes standing on the wall's white shelves. In the main area with an oriental carpet and green colored pillars, there are more people than usual. Some of the men are sleeping in the corners, some are kneeling on their prayer mats, some are just sitting quietly on the floor, listening to the soft singing of an African man with a Quran in his hands.
Between 100 and 450 refugees find peace, a warm meal and a place to stay overnight at Al-Nour Mosque. Most of them didn´t get their terminal connection at Hamburg Central Station to their final destinations in Sweden or other Scandinavian countries. Men, women and children from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Albania and Somalia find a roof over their heads here. The Imam does not ask them where they have come from or what religious affiliation they have. At Al-Nour Mosque the gates are open to everybody. "We all derived from Adam, and Adam arose out of soil. So we all have one thing in common, our father Adam. That's why the human being is in the foreground and not the religion," Imam Samir El-Rajab explains.
"We all derived from Adam, and Adam arose out of soil. So we all have one thing in common, our father Adam."
A drop in the ocean
"If a person asks for help, we will give him food, drinks and the last shirt but not money."
Sitting on the stairs of Hamburg's biggest refugee camp, the Orthodox Church is the first thing people see. The sun reflects off its golden cross and young boys skate in front of the entrance. In the building next to the church, the Tchaikovsky House, Priest Sergij is working. His door is open, you can hear him constantly speaking on the phone. Sitting behind his massive antique desk in non-official clothes, just a white shirt and a grey knitted slipover, he receives visits from his parishioners.
He speaks about refugees and the situation very calmly. "We feel pity and compassion but will only help those, who will not get help from anybody but us," Priest Sergij says. Though the camp is almost next door, the church does not try to help or communicate with people there. Nevertheless, there are some orthodox believers among the refugees that come to the church. Even without a common language they try to find peace there and ask for communion. "If a person asks for help, we will give him food, drinks and the last shirt. But no money," Priest Sergij says.
"We are all human beings, there is nothing to discuss, we do not need to see a passport for this."
Help from a small group in this Christian community would be "a drop in the sea," he claims. Privately people do help and are always criticizing the situation but aren't criticizing the people. Once there was a party at the refugee camp during the worship and some people got annoyed because they could not hear the Priest. However, by the end, Priest Sergii reminded them that they are all refugees and should be ashamed of forgetting it.
Villa Villekulla
Or simply the good Samaritan of Saint Pauli.
"We had an interesting mixture of supporters,
which would normally never meet each other.
Especially not in a Church."
The wind is colder here than everywhere else in the city. Located at the powerful Elbe River, with the container harbor in the front, the Saint Pauli Church seems like a colorful fortress arising at the entrance of Hamburg. Or maybe a ship stranded on the mainland. The parish hall looks more like the famous Villa Villekulla from Pippi Longstocking than it does an evangelical parsonage. Green and orange walls, personal photographs and a pop-art painting of himself hanging in the corridor. For over 10 years this has been the home of Pastor Wilm.
On the June 2, 2013, Pastor Wilm accommodated over 80 refugees from West-Africa at his church, giving them shelter. Besides providing food, a place to sleep, clean clothes and medical treatment, he also organized German classes and created social programs. There is even a football club called "FC Lampedusa." The proportional distribution of religious affiliation was balanced. One half of the Lampedusa refugees had been Christians and the other half was Muslim.

The relationship was very harmonious between the pastor and the refugees. Amongst the refugees things were similar, even with their varying ethnical and religious backgrounds. It´s not just that the church community supported Pastor Wilm and the Lampedusa refugees, but also many people from the neighborhood offered help – Muslims, Christians, non-believers, members of the Anti-Fascist Action Group, Antifa. "We had an interesting mixture of supporters, which would normally never meet each other. Especially not in a church," Pastor Wilm says.
"When you see a person who is hungry and needs sleep, you are not asking if he is Christian or a Muslim, you only see a human being."
When somebody needs help, everything else becomes less important including your origin, ethnic background and religious affiliation. All three religious leaders insist on the fact that a needy person has to receive help. No matter if you are a Muslim, an orthodox or evangelical Christian, you are a human being. And we are all Adam's sons.

Evangelical Protestant Saint Pauli Church

Pinnasberg 80, 20359 Hamburg

Pastor Sieghard Wilm

Islamic Centar Al-Nour e.V.

Kleiner Pulverteich 17, 20099 Hamburg

Imam Samir El-Rajab

Orthodox Church John of Kronstadt Hamburg

Tschaikowskyplatz 1, 20355 Hamburg

Priester Sergij Baburin

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