Dr. mult. Meins G.S. Coetsier | External Digital Contributor to the Project, Germany/Ireland
Dr. mult. Meins G.S. Coetsier (1977) studied philosophy at the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy, a recognized College of the National University of Ireland and was awarded doctorate degrees from Ghent University in Philosophy (2008) and Comparative Science of Culture (2012). After postdoctoral research at Zurich University, he works as a deacon and prison chaplain for the Diocese of Fulda in Germany and as a part-time researcher in theology at Trinity College Dublin. In 2021, Meins successfully defended his PhD in Theology at the Loyola Institute of TCD's School of Religion (Theology and Ecumenics). As author and editor of various academic books he has published several chapters, articles and conference proceedings in theology, philosophy, and culture studies.
Meins’ reflections about our questions
1. What could be understood under the educational concept of a "Living Memorial"?
Living Memorial, rather than being a concept, is arguably a concern – a divine concern. It partakes in the recapturing of reality historically lost to consciousness. The existential authenticity of the letters and diaries of Etty Hillesum (as presented in the music video, see below), for example, can help us to realize that the experience of our attunement to the divine, to You, and of our real encounters and dialogues with one another, are the key to being human.
2. How could such a concept enrich the practice of international youth encounters at historical sites related to National Socialist crimes, particularly by engaging them in more creative ways which promote the construction of global citizenship?
Recapturing reality through the spiritual in art and music enriches our understanding of our human dignity. To inspire Western civilization with this real concern and the perspective on human dignity may also enrich the practice of international youth encounters at historical sites related to National Socialist crimes. Human dignity in terms of a living and creative memorial, deeply experienced, is a divine concern. It not only needs this creativity and openness, but also a cultural resistance to overcome the contemporary forms of racism, antisemitism, religious extremism, and other forms of hostility that inflame violence, bigotry and hatred in society.
3. At the same time, how can one protect the "sacred" narratives and authenticity of these sites from inaccurate/inappropriate interpretation, visitor pressure, ...?
To protect the "sacred" narratives and authenticity of the various sites, we always must try, as best we can, to go back to the human experiences that engendered the sites, the narratives and the symbols in the first place. Rather than conceptualizing, we must give people, especially the youth, a feel of their own dignity and humanity in the process of visiting and being at a memorial and educational site. Music, poetry, literature and art can fulfill that purpose!
Meins’ musical contribution
Searching You (Living Memorials) by Divine Concern: Video
DIVINE CONCERN is a German Prison Music Project of Meins G.S. Coetsier (Vocals and Guitar), Addi Haas (Piano/Accordion/Drums/Percussion) and Tilo Zschorn (Guitar). Inspired by Johnny Cash they go into prison on a regular basis and play music with the inmates. Searching for contemporary forms of religiosity, spirituality and art, they make a Sound behind barbed wire, bringing people from all nations, race, ethnicity and religions together. Their music reflects personal stories of life, death, love and freedom, of sorrow and pain, humor and fun, showing how the divine presence can be found in the unlikeliest corners of the contemporary world.
Divine Concern’s motivation to contribute to the project LIVING MEMORIAL is to remind ourselves and others of the importance of the human search for You – God – as found in the letters and diaries of the Dutch Jew Etty Hillesum (1914-1943). Her spiritual legacy echoes the ´divine concern´ for human life, for dignity and love in the midst of the horrors of the Twentieth Century. She showed that the writing and reading of texts, of poetry and literature, and the singing of a song, can turn out to be an act of empowerment. As Hillesum herself declared: “There is no hidden poet in me, just a little piece of God that might grow into poetry. And a camp needs a poet, one who experiences life there, even there, as a bard and is able to sing about it.” What is significant here, is that she believed these terrible circumstances needed a “song” from an “artist,” a “poet” with a “thinking heart.” From this belief came her resolution to be “the thinking heart of a whole concentration camp.”
Lyrics of “Searching You (Living Memorials)” by Divine Concern:
This dark entry, living memory,
You wanna see… but what will be?
I am Searchin´… Searchin´ for Love. I am Searchin´ for You.
We´re Searchin´… Searchin´ for Love. You´re Searchin´ too.
Well, no concepts for the house, where memory blurs our minds.
Grave Histories forgotten, does anyone see the signs?
Our human freedom and Your dignity ripped off:
Adonai, we need Your mercy … Your mercy from Above.
I am Searchin´… Searchin´ for Love… Searchin´ for You.
We´re Searchin´… Searchin´ for Love… You´re Searchin´ too.
Sjalom Joshua, Ruach Elohim! Your ancient traces, I have seen.
But in these Dark places, where have You been?
Oh, Star Above …Time passes slowly … when you´re Searchin´
…for Redemptive Love.
I am Searchin´… Searchin´ for Love. I am Searchin´…
Searchin´ for You, I do! You´re Searchin´ too.
Our resistance, when the heat is sorest;
is there a light … a light in the deepest forest?
Yeah, we´re digging You out under this rubble,
with a shout…ai… Your memory will not die out … no!
I am Searchin´… Searchin´ for Love.
Searchin´ for You … Searchin´ for Love.
You´re Searchin´ too.
Free us from that prison of hatred inside. Keep us alive …
We need peace among the nations, peace in our hearts.
Is there a poss…possibility for another start?
After all the ages, of violence and despair…
Only Your Love, Adonai – You know –
clears the air … Love is fair [sigh]
Remembering Etty Hillesum (1914-1943)
Songtext & Composer: Meins G.S. Coetsier
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