KAAD-Seminar “Hospitality” in St. Ottilien
From 21st to 24th of August 29 scholarship holders met in St. Ottilien to identify the different dimensions of hospitality. The seminar was led by Dr. Heinrich Geiger and spiritually accompanied by Father Prof. Ulrich Engel OP. Hospitality as an ethical, social, political and religious concept affects not only the fundamental principles of communities, but of mankind. Prof. Margit Eckholt (Catholic Theology, University of Osnabrück) opened up the seminar by presenting the Christian law of “unconditional hospitality” and, with reference to two lectures of Jacques Derridas in 1996, introduced the principle of “absolute hospitality”. The core idea is to open one’s house not only to the stranger, but also to the unknown, the absolutely different, without demanding reciprocity from him. The subsequent discussion focused on the paradox between the law of “unconditional hospitality” on the one hand and the social rules which define the conditions under which the foreigner may claim or forfeit hospitality rights on the other hand. Conditional rights and duties have always been an inherent part of families, societies and states – from the Greek-Latin to the Jewish-Christian tradition as well as from Kant’s to Hegel’s philosophy. The crucial question turned out to be: Who offers hospitality to whom under which conditions?
The second part of the seminar described hospitality as a key aspect in a Benedictine monastery. Using the example of the Rules of Saint Benedict, Abbot Jeremias Schröder illustrated that “hospitality” in the Christian spirit is defined as unconditional. However, at the same time the reception of a guest in the monastery follows strict guidelines. The porter, the abbot and the commissioned monk are the interfaces between the interior world of the monastery and the exterior world from which the guest is coming. The guest is received at the periphery and cannot directly enter the interior. Initially, his contact is limited to certain individuals.
“Hospitality in Indonesia” was the topic of the third part of the seminar. Prof. Athanasius Bayuseno, Technical University of the Universitas Diponegoro in Semarang, commented on the diversity of ethnic groups in Indonesia and the increasing religious fundamentalism in his home country. His remarks made clear that the concept of hospitality and the fear of loss of control and self-abandonment are connected. Dr. Heinrich Geiger added a report from the Dayak people, the natives of Borneo: a guest is admitted to the interior of the Community only after fulfilling of a certain condition – namely, a proof of trust to the host.
Thanks to Abbot Jeremias Schröder the privilege of access was granted to the seminar participants in the case of the monastery of St. Ottilien.
An excursion to the “holy mountain” Andechs and to Diessen at Lake Ammer completed the program.