To get a first understanding of the topic, the seminar started with brainstorming. This allowed the group to identify the initial problems faced by ethnic minorities in the scholarship holders' countries of origin. Violence and oppression, a lack of opportunities for representation and participation, inadequate access to education and work, and problems in the area of conflict resolution were identified.
Dr Anselm Feldmann, Head of Asia Department, then gave a presentation on his research into transnational social movements in connection with infrastructure projects, using a planned special economic zone in Myanmar as an example. Large-scale infrastructure projects often provide an opportunity to discuss a broad range of issues affecting ethnic minorities. Human rights, land rights, and minority rights all play a major role. However, to be effective, such rights need to be enforceable. That, however, is often a problem. So-called 'Transculturally Competent Individuals' (according to Koehn and Rosenau) help grassroots movements to use resources such as international (non-governmental) organizations or other political options. These intermediaries help ethnic minorities formulate their concerns worldwide, following the respective cultural context, and to be able to embed their efforts for rights, participation, and recognition in global discourses. After the presentation, the participants discussed the extent to which the results of this research could be transferable to other areas.
Next, four grantees presented examples from their home countries. In short presentations, they looked at the situations of ethnic minorities in Myanmar (violence and persecution by the military dictatorship), Palestine (the situation of the Samaritans), the Philippines (situation of the Aetas ethnic group), and Vietnam (resettlement in the course of dam projects).
In a subsequent workshop, the group could identify numerous similarities and differences between issues ethnic minorities face in their respective countries of origin. The group also developed ideas on how these minority groups can overcome such challenges. Among other things, the group identified the rule of law, participation, democratization, and minority rights as important levers for improving the situation of ethnic minorities.
The following day, the group took an interested but also critical look at the exhibition "Ethnological Collections and Asian Art" at the Humboldt Forum. During a special guided tour for visually impaired people, some of our group could experience how visually impaired people perceive the exhibition through specifically designed glasses mimicking a sight impairment. The others in the group guided their partners. Using their tactile sense, they could explore replicas of Asian art. It was a unique way to get into "touch" with Asian culture. Anja Winter, who has a visual impairment herself, was an excellent guide for the tour.
Fr Prof Dr Thomas Eggensperger accompanied the seminar spiritually. The scholarship holders prepared a church service together and prayed for peace in the world and their home countries. Church hymns in different languages highlighted the diversity of the KAAD scholarship holders and made the service a heart-warming experience.
The final reflection showed that many participants were able to gain a better understanding of the situation of ethnic minorities in Asia and the world. The communal interaction during the seminar was also a special testimony to the great sense of community among the KAAD scholarship holders.