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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

September 4, 2008

My first radio interview

[with comments]     Filed under UCG-Germany

As a result of an unusual development I was interviewed today as guest on a radio talk show of the German national shortwave station "Deutsche Welle".

I participated in a discussion that was broadcast at 12:00 noon in the Arabic service of the "Deutsche Welle" on its program "Iraq Today". The subject of the broadcast was "More in common, less confrontation" between the three religions Christianity, Islam and Judaism. I was invited to participate as a representative of Christianity.

The invitation came from the man who is translating our UCG Middle East booklet into Arabic. He was very impressed by what we write in the booklet and viewed me as an objective participant in the discussion. The two other interview guests were Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Professor of Arabic studies at the Bar Elan University in Jerusalem and Dr. Ghanim Aldabagh, head of the cultural department of the Imam Alkhoay Foundation in London.

I was interviewed in German, and my comments were translated into Arabic as a "voiceover". The broadcast lasted 52 minutes and was available on FM radio in the greater Baghdad area and in Basra.

The moderator and the other two talkshow guests spoke Arabic, so their comments were translated for me into German by one of the best simultaneous translators for German/Arabic in Germany, a fellow who used to be the personal translator for former chancellor Gerhard Schröder. When I was hooked up to the telephone hook-up, he asked me to speak a little slower than normal so he could keep up.

I was introduced as the "President" of UCG for Germany and Switzerland.

During the show there was a quiz for the listeners asking "How many days do Muslims have to fast, Christians and Jews?" There were several live phone calls during the program when callers tried to answer the questions. A couple of callers said that Christians have to fast 60 (!) days.

I was asked these questions:

1. Can Christianity participate in solving the dispute between Islam & Judaism?
2. Christianity in the Middle Ages rejected the idea of living with other religions. What is the situation today?
3. Do Christians consider Jerusalem as their Holy City? Do they permit non-Christians to live in it?
4. Is marriage to non-Christians prohibited in Christianity?

I was always the third person asked for my comments. I wondered beforehand whether things might get heated up, since the Israeli fellow is known for speaking his mind. However, the tone of the interview was moderate and respectful.

In answering the questions, I agreed with the other two men where I could and emphasized that the Christianity of the Middle Ages was not the Christianity of the Bible and that one always had to be mindful of that. I was able to make a careful reference to the church-state relationship in Europe in past centuries and how it influenced the development of separation of church and state in western society.

At the end each speaker was asked what the answer to the quiz question was for his religion, and I said for those Christians who keep the biblical festivals it is one day, the Day of Atonement, plus an undetermined number of days since Jesus said "When you fast". The moderator replied that he thought it was 40 days, so he must have been thinking of Jesus’ temptation or perhaps of the Catholic Lent season.

When the broadcast ended after 52 minutes, the translator asked me if I had been able to follow well in German, and I said that he had done a great job. He said that he appreciated me speaking a bit slower and that my thoughts were clear and easy to translate.

After the broadcast, I realized that the nervous minutes I experienced just prior to 12 noon – waiting for the "Deutsche Welle" to call – were unnecessary.

Comment from Erik de Moei:

I read "my first radio interview" and the following words came to my mind: "Well done, good and faithfull servant"!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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