Mindfulness and Protestant Christianity are incompatible

"Education for Justice - Income and Expectations" - Lecture at the ceremony of the Comenius Institute in the Friedrichstadtkirche


On the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, the Comenius Institute is holding a conference and a reception at a place that is highlighted for social discourse. This combination of reception and conference shows the self-image of this "Protestant workplace for educational science". The Comenius Institute celebrates itself and its history by working. It can be challenged by the apparent lack of justice in our society. As a place of work for educational science, the institute reacts to the fact, which has been scientifically proven by empirical educational research, that educational success in Germany is more closely linked to social and ethnic origin than in many other countries.

The close connection between good education and career opportunities and the equally close connection between professional activity and participation in social life make the educational issue not only explosive for society, but in a specific way also for the church. Because it touches on the fundamental conviction of a Christian church that people have the same dignity and freedom, with which the demand for equal access to social participation is inextricably linked. If the declared aim of current reform policy is to make people's lives more secure and their confidence in their own and common futures stronger, then the reforms to be pursued must enable education and open up access to work.

In contrast to some tendencies to reduce the social character of our community, the evangelical church is about renewing the commitment to social justice. Indifference to unjust living conditions is incompatible with the Christian faith and damages the identity of the church. In this respect, the Comenius Institute's choice of the topic “Education for Justice” fulfills an original mandate within the framework of the Evangelical Church's responsibility for education.


In the current debate on education, the Protestant Church is challenged in several ways. We can learn from Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon that education is one of the constitutive tasks of Protestantism - and not only from them. The establishment of public schools, to name just this, is due to the express yes to the release of the subject to responsibility from the spirit of the gospel.

We receive confirmation of this connection between Protestantism and education today, for example, from the various church membership studies. In them, however, we are confronted at the same time with a specific “educational dilemma” of the church, which manifests itself in the fact that people with a formally higher education leave the church to a disproportionate extent. The connection between church and education can also be clearly seen in area-specific studies such as the one on the “religion of religion teachers” from the year 2000.

Education and the Christian religion are inextricably linked, especially in the Protestant understanding: The subject is formed in self-perception and self-reflection, through interpretation and self-interpretation. The freedom to express one's opinion about oneself and the world is a condition of the possibility of taking responsibility for oneself and the world. Faith, being understood as a gift of divine grace, is not excluded from this process of interpretation and self-interpretation; rather, it is also the subject of responsible opinion; biblically in this context it is expressly called upon to “give account of the hope that is in us”.

But we are challenged today not only because of the fact that education has been a central issue for the Protestant Church on the basis of its understanding of faith and church since the Reformation. Rather, in addition to shared responsibility for education, e.g. in religious instruction, the large number of educational institutions supported by the Church also makes it imperative to intervene in the current discussion in a clarifying and in-depth manner - and to present one's own position. It cannot be overlooked that in the current discussion about education, the specific issues of Protestant responsibility for education are often given only marginal importance. Questions about religious and ethical education, about knowledge of orientation for shaping individual and social life, about knowledge of faith as the basis for perceiving God, the world and himself are too seldom asked.

It is therefore to be welcomed that the Comenius Institute is continuing a tradition with both the choice of location and the choice of topic. In November 2000, the Protestant and Catholic Churches held the first joint educational congress here in the French Friedrichstadtkirche. The intention to make the common social word of 1997 more concrete in terms of education policy was obvious. And in May of this year we continued these efforts through an education congress of the Evangelical Church in Germany here at the same location.

In their word on the economic and social situation, the churches had made themselves strong "for a future in solidarity and justice". It defines the "right to education and participation in cultural life" as a human right. In order to reduce unemployment, an improvement of the training system is called for. Expenditure on education and training, as the common word goes, is an investment in the future of society.

There were and are a number of good reasons for concentrating on vocational qualifications. Above all, it is the increasingly rapid change in our social and especially our economic system that gives rise to the question of what kind of education we need now and in the future. The world of work is changing rapidly. Globalization contributes to high levels of structural unemployment. We are seeing dramatic examples again in Germany for a way of thinking that focuses on increasing profit by lowering labor costs - and that means by making workers redundant. At the same time, the economy registers its need for flexible and at the same time highly specialized skilled workers. At that time, in 2000, the education congress of the churches, which was closely related to the education forum organized by the federal and state governments, set clear and individual accents. Against the obvious economization of the educational discussion, the churches put a holistic educational concept.

The common advocacy of the churches “for a future in solidarity and justice” had to be renewed. The pace of economic development had increased further. The Internet, for example, was not yet a keyword in the word of the churches. In a very short time, however, it has become a means and at the same time a symbol of globalization and acceleration. Under the sign of acceleration, the question of equal opportunities arose in a completely new way for the education congress in November 2000.

“Tempi, Education in the Age of Acceleration”, was the full title of the Congress at that time, and deliberately used the plural form of the signal word. “Tempi”, the plural, still stands for the recognition of plurality. It is about a plurality of starting points, development phases and development opportunities. From a Christian point of view, thinking in terms of individualized competition has its limits, especially when it comes to the fate of the weak. It is the task of society to create educational institutions that enable individual learning paths and times, and to create cultural milieus in which education can be acquired and tested. The churches share in this responsibility for education.

Like the educational activities of the church as a whole, the program of a Protestant workplace for educational science is to be oriented towards an idea of ​​a political community, which can be summed up in the short formula: The strength of the state is measured by the welfare of the weak. It follows from the Church’s option for those threatened to be marginalized to take a stand and speak to them, e.g. B. in the interest of “young people with poor start-up opportunities” or with the interest in paying greater attention to day-care centers. Both have happened recently.

On the one hand, the holistic approach to education must prove itself in the fact that the life situations and the curriculum vitae in which educational efforts are conveyed are taken into account. However, this holistic approach must also prove itself in the fact that a reduction of the concept of education to the conveyance of dispositive knowledge is refused and the equal importance of orientation knowledge and belief knowledge is expressly recognized. We emphasized this aspect above all at the EKD Education Congress in May 2004. In these contexts, we gratefully made use of the fact that in the statements of the EKD's Chamber of Education from the last decade - under the decisive influence of work from the Comenius Institute - a coherent and coherent Protestant understanding of education was developed, which is also politically effective bring all the effort is worth it.


As the educational science workplace of the Protestant Church, the Comenius Institute has the task of looking for solutions for the different fields of church educational responsibility. This responsibility is related to specific life situations. In line with his claim to redeem contemporaneity, the tasks of the institute also changed with the life situations of the people. In its history, the Comenius Institute has shown itself to be adaptable and capable of development. The programmatic orientation of the institute to the concrete life situations prevents detachment from people and from migrating to an area of ​​scientific research that is remote from people.

The focus of the work program changed. The orientation of the goals to the Christian image of man proved to be a protection against solidification. The Comenius Institute was not spared changing the framework conditions or cutting its resources. Its ability to adapt in terms of content and structure was an important prerequisite for viability and future viability. Just as I recently spoke of a “breathing reform” in a different context, this institute may therefore be called a “breathing institute” in terms of its future viability and viability. His work is measured by whether it serves people and contributes to a recognizable and understandable gain in orientation security and opportunities for freedom. Because it is undeniable that there is a close connection between education and freedom. Education can enable people to make independent use of their freedom.

Education means the connection between knowledge, ability, value awareness, attitude, ability to act and meaning. It is an abbreviation if education is currently understood as an addition process. The acquisition of social skills and the development of value awareness should be attached to cognitive performance. On the other hand, our time needs an integrating understanding of education and upbringing (dimensions of the human p. 70f.). Education as an integration process must interlink technical knowledge and self-knowledge, qualification knowledge and orientation knowledge, aesthetic perception, intuition and fantasy, the ability to use technical means, but also knowledge of faith and religious judgment.

Evangelical understanding of education understands the human being as a relational being. It is precisely for the sake of these relationships that education must not be limited to the external learning of the mastery of means. It also includes practicing these relationships:

- an education for truth and thus for openness to the question of God,

- an education for justice and mercy and thus for a culture of recognition in the coexistence of people,

- an education for an open future, which includes the sensitivity for the preservation of nature and for the life chances of the next generation,

- and finally an education on culture, namely on self-theming with rich prospects, which combines the development of one's own identity with a respectful perception of the foreign.

What the EKD has given to this institute and invested in its work since the founding of the Comenius Institute can be precisely calculated using household data. Certainly more interesting than such numbers is what can count as the product of labor. Most important, however, is the importance of this work for the regional churches, for the EKD - yes, for Protestantism in Germany.

An institute that has been working on, exploring and researching "education" theoretically, practically, empirically and politically for 50 years as a "Protestant workplace for educational science" must make a concrete contribution to the central educational tasks of Protestantism. There are numerous examples from the previous work of the Comenius Institute that illustrate this. I will limit myself to a few examples from the institute's work, which are of particular importance from the point of view of justice, and I want to tie in with further expectations for the future work of the Comenius Institute.

1. The “Religious Education Funding Program for Kindergarten” was a project in the 1970s that, in close cooperation with Diaconal organizations and associations, related the academic discourse on educational issues to a practical field of action. Even then it made suggestions for learning and education in the elementary sector. This happened parallel to the project of the German Youth Institute on the "situation approach" in kindergarten - an attempt already thirty years ago to improve the quality of education in kindergarten and to give all children development and learning opportunities at an early stage.

Since IGLU and PISA it has become clear again how important the early support of children in day care centers is and how much it can serve the integration of disadvantaged children. Just recently, in a new project, together with educators in day-care centers, exemplary learning arrangements were developed that develop the educational requirement “from the children” and focus on the child as an actor in his or her learning. This does not happen as a program or a promise, but with concrete reports, examples and didactic suggestions.

2. The education and religious upbringing of children, young people and adults with disabilities is continuously thematized in events and projects of the Comenius Institute, which are carried out together with others. The “Würzburg Symposium” has now become a regular “forum for curative and religious education”. The income has now been summarized in a “Handbook of Integrative Religious Education”. It not only documents the status of development, but also sets standards for future educational, scientific and religious education activities. Integration is a central element in the creation of justice, of participation in community life.

3. The pluralization of lifestyles and options of biographical orientation means that the differentiated pedagogical handling of heterogeneity has to be developed in a new and different way by learners. Some projects of the Comenius Institute have contributed to this:

The differentiation of learning opportunities for girls and boys in religious education at school and in confirmation work was initiated by the Comenius Institute as a contribution to realizing gender equality.

There are also development projects for free work in religious instruction, for learning workshops and for open teaching. You have given decisive impetus to the question of the individualization of teaching as a way of pedagogical justice in the face of diversity. If children and young people are given options with regard to the means, methods, goals and also the content of their learning, they can gain awareness and responsibility for their own learning.

Dealing with religious heterogeneity also needs to be learned. You don't learn that through direct instruction about the religion of others, but through forms of encounter and discussion with others. The impulses for denominational cooperation in religious education (“Strengthening what is common, clarifying what is different”) and ecumenical learning were taken up by the Comenius Institute and systematised. The Comenius Institute has provided both technical and empirical impulses for interreligious learning, with lasting effectiveness.

The current development of all-day schools is also a new challenge for church educational activities and work with children and young people. Now the cooperation between school and youth work, extracurricular educational institutions and institutions is being put to the test.The Comenius Institute is expected to propose how such cooperation between different educational institutions contributes to improving the learning and educational opportunities of children and young people.

4. Up until the beginning of the eighties, educational science and religious education projects of the Comenius Institute were focused on federal republican action practices, partly also on problems in the churches of the former GDR. Since then, the horizons have been broadened: education is thematized in a European perspective, religious instruction in schools and churches has been expanded to include the European dimension. The Comenius Institute is not only active in structuring and moderating, but also defines the topics of discussion and organizes the corresponding international discourses.

In addition, the internationalization of economic and political relationships requires a “global learning” that guarantees the intercultural ability to act and is based on the vision of a just global society by naming economic dependencies and demanding respect for human rights. The department for developmental education, which is affiliated with the Comenius Institute, has provided important suggestions for this for many years.


The clarification of the fundamentals and basic questions of "education" runs through all epochs of the institute's work. What is largely missing, as far as I know, is the systematic discussion organized in projects with those who are “poorly educated”: people without school or vocational qualifications, school refusal, functionally illiterate people, migrants without adequate language skills, poor children.

Educational poverty affects those who have failed to encourage and challenge. Poor parents in difficult employment in particular are dependent on high-quality educational institutions: day nurseries, day-care centers, all-day schools that provide all children with opportunities to learn and develop their talents. Education issues need to be clarified more than ever in the context of social and labor market policy, problem solutions are to be sought within this horizon if equal opportunities and educational justice are to be taken seriously.

The balancing act between

- Participation in the prevailing educational policy and educational science discourses on the one hand, in which the voice from the evangelical space must make itself heard and be taken seriously as a partner,

- and on the other hand the partisan commitment for those on the fringes of society who do not have a lobby and are excluded from the education system, must be clarified and dealt with anew by the Comenius Institute in every plan and in every project.

The EKD's forms of participation in the general educational discussion and the role of the Comenius Institute have proven themselves and are still effective. However, the Evangelical Church in Germany and with it the Comenius Institute are faced with challenges in the face of changes in church structures, which are only becoming sketchy. But this much is clear: The Comenius Institute will be called upon to relate its activities to the overall horizon of Protestant educational responsibility.

In view of the reduction in support systems in the regional churches, central tasks of concept development in all areas of education will grow to him. It will not be enough to develop educational theory and gain and secure empirical knowledge. The expectations are also based on the provision of instruments for educational management and cooperation in the concrete implementation of the knowledge gained. The EKD needs an institute that is both scientific and practical, that flexibly and at a high level takes up current educational policy issues and develops solutions. As a learning institution, the Comenius Institute has, like hardly any other educational institution, the opportunity to keep realigning itself under changed framework conditions while preserving the unmistakable substance. What was characteristic of the past work of the Comenius Institute justifies hopes for its future work. On behalf of the EKD Council, I express the hope and wish that the institute will participate in the educational responsibility of the Evangelical Church by taking up and working on those questions which the educational political power of Protestantism has to prove to be answering.