Bless Dad these gifts, ”we sang heartily in the early 2000s. Not at Kirchentag, but in our squat in Cologne. We had taken the Catholic Gassenhauer with us from the Himmerod monastery, where we had spent a weekend. I had just returned to our squat with two companions, probably the only one of its kind in Germany who has ever had a cross. If others were allowed to post their beliefs, I was probably allowed to do the same. The next day we were cleared. I went back to the convent to rest. I had already learned that in my turbulent youth, so I could not shock the monks with one stroke.
The Church has always given me support, even during my home career. My mostly left-leaning counselors were amazed that I was going to church. When I realized that, I went even more often. Since my housing in the countryside was part of the educational concept, they had to drive me. I often stayed longer than the fair lasted. They were expecting anger in the car.
How worried they were about my practiced faith was written in reports I stole from their offices. Since they had studied all the young people’s crises and stages of rebellion – and then a snot of going to church throws them off. Others dye their hair and go in horrible clothes to rebel without success. For me, the fair was enough for a successful uprising.
In the days of the home, I swore to God that I would not perish. A sentence came into my head that stayed with me for a long time: You despise my God because he is the only one holding on to me!
Why should I leave an organization that was and is my support? A few squats and interrupted training later I was a writer, with a publisher and a literary award. Bending over my second novel, interrupted by readers’ journeys to an educated middle-class world that listened with horror to my fictional stories about the underclass, I asked myself: Should this be my life now? Then the pastor from Siegburg Youth Prison called: Can you take over our literature workshop?
“Do you trust me to do that?” I asked. “Anyone who keeps fifty young people quiet for an hour during a reading in prison can easily make a literature workshop.” That was in 2006. Since then, I have held literature workshops for disadvantaged people, mostly young people, throughout the German-speaking world. A priest saw a talent in me and did not want it buried.
Our show is the best
Others go to meditation, to yoga, or to a self-discovery group, I to the prayer of the rosary. It costs nothing and the monotonous prayer rituals clear my head after twenty minutes. There is something very reassuring about the Catholic Church, but not boring. I miss something when I have not been to the fair in a long time. An anarchist friend defended me in front of his comrades by saying: where is the damn problem? Miri goes to church and I go to FC Cologne. Singing, incense, kneeling, chanting, candles, jewelry, all the rituals – our show is simply the best.
I know a lot of shit happens in my club. Criminals and cover-ups belong in prison, and the victims receive compensation immediately. I myself have experienced it – not just once – that there is also frolic in ass violin there. But the Catholic Church is my home. The only place in Germany where I have never been a victim of racism because of my dark skin color.
Last April, at half past one in the morning, I suddenly found myself handcuffed on the floor. As could later be read in the police report, a thirteen-year-old had observed two people trying to steal a bicycle. One of them was described by her as a “gypsy type”. According to the protocol, I have black curly hair and a tan complexion.
A policewoman insulted me several times. I was dragged to the front door and the handcuffs were removed. I unlocked it: is it good now? The policeman said yes, but the officer wanted to go to my apartment. I asked for a court order. She stepped aside, called and said she had it now. I did not think so. She snatched the key out of my hand: “What do you want to do, no one still believes in guys like you.”
The two police officers came from the Cologne-Ehrenfelder Wache, which again created negative headlines in November 2021. I went public with my story. The policewoman had to pay 150 euros for coercion and violation. About the racist insults, it was said that she denies it. Her colleagues do not want to have heard anything about it: testimony against testimony.
So much empathy and calm
I experienced this as a writer, Mirijam Günter, in the Cologne district of Ehrenfeld, where an anti-racism flag hangs out of every other window. So far, a mandate from the Cologne Council has not commented on this. Unlike the Jesuit Herbert Graab, who wrote a letter to his Pax Christi group, not just to the police chief. Domkapitular Dominik Meiering took over my lawyer’s fee and to this day absorbs my sadness and anger over this event – with an empathy and calm that makes every thank you look ridiculous.
The police apologized to me in writing. A WDR journalist asked me how the conversation was after a meeting with two representatives of this authority. “Oh,” I said in their presence, “the policeman wanted to know if I had lost faith in the police after this experience. I replied to him that I still only believe in God, and that’s hard enough.”