MS Wissenschaft Open to the Public
Exhibition vessel has cast off – carrying an exhibit of the Cluster of Excellence about religious plurality
The MS Wissenschaft (“MS Science”) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research was opened to the public in Berlin on Tuesday with a ship’s christening ceremony. Aboard the exhibition vessel, which will visit 40 cities in 2013, is an interactive survey on the subject of religious plurality by the University of Münster’s Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”.
State Secretary Dr. Georg Schütte said: “With the MS Wissenschaft, we aim to encourage visitors to think about the shiftings brought on by the demographic change. In future, we will live longer, we will be fewer, we will be more diverse.” The chairman of the Steering Committee of Wissenschaft im Dialog (Science in Dialogue, WiD), Prof. Dr. Gerold Wefer, added: “The exhibition shows that the population shift entails plenty of challenges which, however, do not simply come upon us but can be shaped conjointly. This is exactly what we wish to encourage with the MS Wissenschaft.”
The interactive survey of the Cluster of Excellence is entitled, “How do we think about people of a different faith?” By means of a touch screen, teenagers and adults can answer selected questions from the largest representative survey on religious plurality in Europe and compare their own attitude towards people of different faiths with the views held by other Europeans. Another screen provides clear information about the development of religious plurality since 1945 and central results of the Emnid enquiry conducted in five countries by religious sociologist Prof. Dr. Detlef Pollack and his team. The interactive survey was developed by the Cluster of Excellence’s Centre for Research Communication and the Institute for Geoinformatics of the University of Münster.
Focus on Islam
“The brief survey pays particular attention to Islam”, explained Prof. Pollack. Islam has become the non-Christian religion in Germany with the largest number of members and is the subject of highly controversial discussion. “The enquiry showed that Germans have an ambivalent attitude towards religious plurality.” A vast majority of 80 per cent is generally convinced that other religions should be respected. However, only 33 per cent displayed positive attitudes toward Muslims. “The visitors of MS Wissenschaft can test their own attitude towards Muslims and the building of mosques, towards Jews and Buddhists, and whether they see other religions as an asset.”
According to the researcher, the European neighbours have a considerably more positive image of members of non-Christian religions than Germans have. “At the same time, they also maintain far more contact with them. There is a statistical correlation here: those who have more contact with people of other religions are more open-minded.” So far, however, only few Germans seek personal contact. “If both sides approach one another, fears may increasingly be overcome. Conflicts can thus be reduced.”
“The demographic opportunity”
In 2013, the MS Wissenschaft sails under the motto, “All generations in the same boat”. It makes science come alive in an enjoyable way and offers insights into up-to-date research. Until September, the exhibition will present exhibits on the year of science 2013 in 40 German and Austrian cities. Under the title of “The demographic opportunity”, it deals with the population shift, including the increasing plurality of religions and cultures.
Admission to the MS Wissenschaft is free. The floating science centre is a rebuilt inland freighter with an exhibition space of 600 square metres. The Cluster of Excellence will also show a film on board about how sociologists develop a quantitative study on such a sociopolitically delicate issue as the attitude towards people of different faiths.
The ship will drop anchor at the harbour of Münster from 31 May to 3 June. On 2 June, 11 a.m., everybody who is interested is invited to a “Dialogue on deck” under the title of “How do we think about people of different faiths?” The speaker will be Nils Friedrichs, religious sociologist, from Prof. Pollack’s team. The Head of the Centre for Research Communication, Viola van Melis, will host the discussion with the audience. Admission is free. (vvm/han)