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Goals and Visions

Beim Konzert SOS - Save Our Souls 2019 in der Kölner Philharmonie versammelte Hans Mörtter viele Verbündete auf der Bühne / Foto: Simin Kianmehr
Beim Konzert SOS - Save Our Souls 2019 in der Kölner Philharmonie versammelte Hans Mörtter viele Verbündete auf der Bühne / / Foto: Simin Kianmehr

Premise: Everyone has a right to dignity, to happiness, to a fulfilled life. Regardless of birth, situation and place in life.

Hans Mörtter
Taking Responsibility

The association is committed to this and is working on a new global unifying narrative of being human on the basis of universal values, Article 1 of Germany’s Basic Law says: "Human dignity shall be inviolable" – Extract from the association's statutes. According to our statutes, we have set ourselves several goals, four of which we present in more detail here:

Eliminating Homelessness

This is no utopia, but a vision and not a very ambitious one. I was in Finland in November 2023, where most of the homeless were housed in apartments. I was able to spend a day on a guided tour in Helsinki about this subject to see for myself. Over 80% of formerly homeless people have their own apartment there, not shared or temporary accommodation. The last sentence has been deleted

To achieve this, political will is required. And it is we who must provide it. I began this work a long time ago with Vringstreff and ensured that the Cologne City Council launched the campaign Housing First, which provides homeless people with their own apartments. As a result, 21 people have already been housed through Vringstreff in the last one-and-a-half years. One of them has found a permanent job and got his life in order, although this is by no means a prerequisite. We are following up on it. That is why I travelled to Helsinki – to pick up ideas on how it works for them and how it could perhaps be implemented throughout Europe. The key is consideration and respect!


20 Jahre MenschenSinfonieOrchester mit Hans Mörtter und Palmitessa / Foto: Bernd Stang
20 Jahre MenschenSinfonieOrchester mit Hans Mörtter und Palmitessa / Foto: Bernd Stang
Working with Refugees

Work with refugees, who have been through so much on their often years-long flight, takes place on several levels. I have visited the Greek island of Samos four times to find out about the situation in the refugee camp there. It was evident that we immediately had to organise a collection of winter clothing for 4,000 refugees; they were walking around in flipflops. There is still a great deal more to do. In general, how can we ensure humane conditions in the refugee camps at our external EU borders? How can we ensure that the children and young people there receive education and training so that they can later find a foothold somewhere? How can jobs be found for them in the labour market? There are people sitting in camps on Samos who have skills that are needed, e.g. in Paris or Cologne. Structures and placement opportunities need to be created.

When I visited two refugee camps in Sudan in January 2023, I met people who had been waiting for decades to move on. That’s appalling! Something must be done. There are so many NGOs doing fantastic work at the external borders that we can learn from. I became acquainted with an activist, and we now work closely together. Her NGO could be a solution to many of the problems at the borders. What they are doing on a small scale could be expanded. We aim to tackle this together.

We also want to ensure that refugees are provided with mobile phones at the borders. When they cross the ocean, their mobile phones are often ruined by the salt water and salty air. I had not known that. On Samos, the NGO runs a refugee workshop that repairs mobile phones. So we are collecting mobile phones here to distribute them at the borders through various NGOs and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). We plan to set up the logistics for this. The basis is already in place. It will allow the refugees to keep in touch with their families and provide each other with support and information.

We must demand action from the politicians. In Germany, refugees are not permitted to work for the first few years. That is a waste of energy and potential. But they need to earn money. I know some who send so much money home that they go hungry here. Their families expect it because they all got together to contribute to paying for their relatives to escape to Europe. They are ambassadors for their families, and they suffer on account of the calls for help that they receive from home.

Abolishing Child Poverty

One must wonder how it can be that this still exists. It is a matter of concern that basic social security for children is still not a matter of course. The politicians are hesitant. It is asserted that the mothers waste money on drink. This shows such disrespect for mothers in our society. The statutory pension system also penalises mothers who have raised children. They should be rewarded for it, not penalised. But no one protests. It is important to keep fighting, but above all to work on our perception of humanity. I know enough mothers who go hungry so that their children have something to eat. There may be some alcoholics who drink the money away, but that is not the rule. The image that someone who is poor is a failure is a distortion. This is why, since 2006, in addition to giving assistance to individuals, we have been running the annual Christmas wish campaign for disadvantaged children. 


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Weihnachtsaktion Lutherkirche / Foto Simin Kianmehr


The Climate Crisis

Here we have teamed up with the German meteorologist Karsten Schwanke and other experts who are seeking solutions for how we can survive what is coming our way. In 2022, we organised an event on this topic at the “Kölner Philharmonie” (Cologne Philharmonic Hall) (link). Measures for appropriate urban development (“sponge cities”), education and consciousness-raising are among those being discussed. We are planning an event at Cologne Zoo in 2024 together with AG Arsch Huh e. V. and Theo Pagel, the director of Cologne Zoo, on the topic of species extinction.

These are a lot of projects. They cannot all happen at the same time, but there is much potential for development. We see the basis as lying in very close collaboration with art and culture, because these are the facilitators. This is very important, which is why on 11.09.2024 the fifth event will be held in the “Kölner Philharmonie” (SOS-SaveOurSouls and Glow up Cologne) and others at other locations.


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Save Our Souls 2022, Finale des Benefizkonzert in der Kölner Philarmonie mit Hans Mörtter und Karsten Schwanke / Foto: Timo Lessig


Ways out of the Loss of Empathy

It is terrible that, due to the excessive burdens placed on people, we are experiencing a loss of empathy and have been doing so for some time. This loss of empathy arises from the fact that we are exposed to too many horrors, too much war, too much pandemic, too much climate disaster, the fear of a possible nuclear war. This leads to a fear of being unable to bear it, resulting in a decision to not want to see it anymore. At some point, one can no longer cope with it emotionally. One automatically switches off.

But we can only bring about change if we show solidarity and empathy by recognising suffering and taking responsibility. By doing nothing, people become increasingly impotent and may end up in depression. I have experienced that helping others is a way out of impotence, because when I take action, I am no longer powerless. It is really quite simple. It opens one’s eyes to what is possible, even if it seems impossible at first. But then I must also do something about it and set out on the path. If I abandon feeling, I can feel for neither myself nor others. A society without empathy is ultimately a society incapable of relationships.

The refusal to enter into a relationship means that one cannot feel oneself. Adorno and others have defined humanness through the fact that the human is a social being. And that is what is at stake right now. If we set ourselves a far-reaching goal and refuse to be held back, we can make progress in alliances with others. We do not wait for a solution, but act on our own initiative to improve the situation, without presumptuousness, in broad alliances and through learning by doing.

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