tv Focus on Europe PBS January 30, 2017 7:30pm-8:01pm PST
michelle: hello, and welcome to the first "focus on europe" for the new year. i'm michelle henery. unfortunately, here in europe, 2017 begins much as the last year ended, blighted by acts of terror. many of the attackers are young men, some who were impressionable and vulnerable to being radicalized. in germany, a group called the salafists which adheres to a strict, traditional interpretation of the koran, were known for distributing the islamic religious text in pedestrian areas. they said they wanted to spread their religion. but many only wanted to recruit young men for the islamic state, say the police. relations between russia and the west are at a low because of
differences over ukraine and syria. but that hasn't stopped president putin from wanting to spread his country's influence into europe. in october, a new russian orthodox cathedral, only steps from the eiffel tower, opened in paris. but it was to the dismay of many members of france's large, western-orienated russian orthodox community, like daniel struve. his family fled to paris from lenin's soviet union because there was no place for the church in his classless society. but daniel wonders if there is any place for the type of church that seems to mix a political agenda with religious practice. >> paris's new russian orthodox holy trinity cathedral stands tall, on the banks of the seine, close to the eiffel tower. after nine years of diplomatic haggling, it was consecrated with much pomp and circumstance by patriarch kirill of moscow,
with french representatives in attendance. daniel struve's grandparents fled to paris because of their faith. his grandfather had run afoul of vladimir lenin's bolsheviks and had to leave the soviet union. struve senses no affinity with the russian state orthodox church. he feels more at home in this western-oriented orthodox congregation in a paris courtyard. daniel: as a child of russian emigrees, i wasn't able to travel to the soviet union. so my tie to russia has been this church here, that was built by emigrees. >> the icons were painted by defectors from josef stalin's regime. hundreds of them came to france and made paris a spiritual hub of the western-oriented orthodox
faith. and france welcomed the mostly highly educated immigrants with open arms. orthodox christians have about thirty houses of worship around the french capital -- and another cathedral. so, struve insists, a new one isn't really needed. daniel: i was opposed to a cathedral that would be entirely financed and maintained by funding from the russian government. that'll end up as a problem for us. it'll be used to apply ideological and political pressure on the orthodox parishes in france, and we don't want that. >> it was france's ex-president, nicolas sarkozy, who approved construction of the cathedral in the inner city, in contrast to the russian embassy, which is further away from the center. and later, it was not politically expedient for president francois hollande to
stop the project. >> the russians and the french did each other favors. the russians placed orders for mistral-class warships, which created jobs at the troubled shipyards in saint nazaire. in return, the french accepted the status of a diplomatic building for the russian cathedral, which is not at all normal. >> for some years now, the patriarch of moscow has claimed authority over the ecclesiastical buildings of the western-oriented orthodox congregations in all of france, saying they were built with russian money. but there is opposition, especially in paris. critics say the church buildings were largely financed by private donations. struve says this is well documented. daniel: we're actually lucky putin wasn't more subtle about it. that would've been far more
dangerous for our congregations. now, the descendents of the emigrees, who'd rather not conform to this new russia, have to work out for themselves where they stand and what they want. >> worshipers in the western-oriented orthodox church aren't all ethnic russians. many non-russian french have also joined. and they stand behind the priests who refuse to disseminate any political content reflecting russian president putin's interests. these congregations have long been a thorn in the side of the russian orthodox church. >> there are so many great thinkers in paris. but some of them have obscured the word of god and even spoken disdainfully of god, because they've been so blinded by human ideas. >> that view also receives support in france. the russian-french cultural society extolls the virtues of
the new cathedral. >> for us, it's great. we always had to apply for grants from the city of paris. we don't have that kind of money ourselves. now, we're getting space for our events for free. i don't have to pay anything at all. >> to daniel struve, the price for returning to the russian state church's fold is too high. and there's the family tradition. his father was a well-known publisher in paris and the first to print aleksandr solzhenitsyn's "gulag archipelago," a detailed exposure of soviet labor camps that put one of the first cracks in the foundation of the soviet union. the family conducted an intensive discussion of christianity with the dissident. >> christianity means freedom. that's one of the few commandments of the new
testament. but the idea of freedom, especially in religious questions, is quite a problem in today's russia. that's why i've got the impression that we haven't yet completed our mission here. >> from exile, struve's family once stood up for freedom of worship in the soviet union. now, he sees his mission as unchanged, but the battlefield has come home to paris. michelle: mino and his beloved dog luna spend their days foraging in the hills of northern italy for something more valuable than gold. he is a truffle hunter and his quarry is the rare, and highly prized white truffle. unlike the black truffle, it can't be cultivated, and is found buried only in few places like the dense forests of alba. the demand for white truffles far outstrips the supply and as a result, a war between legal truffel collectors and unscrupulous fortune hunters has broken out.
>> they work in the dark, truffle hunters, or trifulao, as they're called in the piedmont dialect. they are shy creatures, always on the move with only their dog at their side. the search for this valuable fungus has something mystical about it, even today. >> when you find a truffle, it's an overpowering feeling. you break the earth with your own hands, and this incredibly intense smell wafts up that's really overwhelming. it doesn't matter what size or shape the truffle is. >> mino's companion is luna, a cocker spaniel. the two are inseparable. northwest italy's piedmont region is renowned for its history, culture, excellent wines and, of course, its
truffles. it's a veritable land of plenty. but in winter, things take a nasty turn here in the idyllic woodlands around alba. that's when the white truffle season comes. mino is still on the go, even in the early hours of the morning when the woods are still shrouded in fog. he's angry about the so-called truffle wars. >> it's gotten so bad that dogs are being poisoned. eight dogs were poisoned within the space of three weeks in this region alone. that's incredibly painful for us. we've reached a point that was unthinkable for us until recently. this is no longer war. this is personal vindictiveness. but who's the target? >> alba's forestry police are trying to find out who's responsible. they patrol the region, keeping a look-out for unlicensed
hunters. but it's not easy to cover so many square kilometers with just five men. >> this is the kind of area with lots of truffle hunters. dense woodland. the truffle hunters are very secretive. they often try to elude our patrols. this car definitely belongs to a truffle hunter. what else could he be doing here? we'll have to proceed on foot. >> deeper in the forest, they meet two trifulao on their way home. they say they haven't found very much. their papers are in order, they've paid their license fees. they, too, talk about a truffle war. >> i put on his muzzle just in case. it'd be dreadful if anything
happened to my dog. >> i don't care wether they've paid the license tax, but if they dig out the truffles when they're still green, that's the real competition. this has been going on for years. >> the forestry police are even more concerned about this practice than about the cases of poisoning. some hunters are unearthing the truffles before they're ripe, destroying the fungus and its host plant. the ecosystems that produce white truffles are very sensitive. >> this is damage they've left behind, this hole here and several more back there. the entire area has been destroyed by these diggers. >> it's all about money, a lot of money. white truffles are worth their weight in gold. especially fine specimens can even cost two or three times as much. some people will go to extremes to get their hands on them. poisoned bait, ground glass mixed into minced meat, and even
strychnine scattered in the woods. and it's not just dogs who suffer. >> here's a sheep. it probably ate some of the poisoned bait they scattered in the woods. and it came here to die. >> mino says the economic crisis in italy is one reason why more people are turning to truffle hunting. but more and more hunting grounds are being privately leased and are no longer open to freelance trifulao like him. >> in the past, 10% of truffle areas were private. today, half of them are. you can pay your license, but now you don't know where to go. >> but mino is going to carry on. he learned the trade from his grandfather and can't imagine life without it, and his son is following in his footsteps.
>> why is hunting truffles a passion? you have to know where to look and when. every plant has its own time. it's not like all of them suddenly grow all at once. so how do you acquire this knowledge? through experience. but if you suddenly decide at the age of 50 that you want to hunt truffles and make lots of money, and you scatter poison so people don't go there, then you've got it all wrong. then you're just an imbecile. >> mino and some of his colleagues are planning to offer courses on truffle hunting and the ethics of truffle hunting. maybe that will help. michelle: a young man was likely responsible for the christmas terror attack in berlin. another young man murdered dozens of people on new year's eve in istanbul and more young men were the perpetrators of attacks throughout france last year.
the islamic state has made no secret of their desire to target and recruit young men to their cause. german security services are trying to establish possible ties to the growth in radical islamists. one such link involves a conservative salafist group called "true religion," which authorities have attempted to legally ban. but so far they have had little success. >> the police raid against the islamists began in the early morning. in mid-november, a total of about 600 officers searched 190 homes, offices, and storage rooms that belonged to the "true religion" group. the group is well-known for handing out free copies of the qur'an on the streets of large german cities. they shot videos of themselves doing this, and then posted the material online. one of the main targets in the police raid in bonn was an islamic preacher, ibrahim abu naji, a palestinian who's said
to play a leading role in the islamist movement in germany. in his sermons, abu naji has often attacked non-muslim religious faiths. here, he's teaching a religion course for children. >> christians and jews are non-believers. will people who read the bible ever go to paradise? never. they will spend eternity in hell. if a jew says "i want to study the torah instead of the qur'an," will he ever get to paradise? no. he will spend eternity in hell. >> abu naji has had a few run-ins with the german authorities. in february 2016, he was convicted of welfare fraud. he's said to have illegally received payments totalling 53,000. >> i know for a fact that if you do not accept islam you will be punished forever in hell. allah says that in the qur'an.
is that considered hate speech? do i hate you? >> in 2011, abu naji started the free qur'ans project called read with funding from sources in germany and the middle east. the people who hand out the qur'ans don't seem very threatening, but they are committed salafists nevertheless. what's your opinion of isis? >> do you want a qur'an? >> islamic state. they've executed western journalists. what do you think of that? >> do you want a qur'an, or what? >> so you have no opinion on isis. >> do you want a qur'an? >> what is your opinion on i.s.? >> do you want a qur'an? i've got many languages.
>> during the raid against "true religion," the police were also looking for bilal gumus, seen here on the right. gumus is said to be the head of the true religion organization in the frankfurt area. he recruited young people and has a criminal record. he spent two years in jail. >> when i was in prison, i met so many people who had converted to islam, including gypsies, and guys from poland. and it was logical for them to convert, because islam is the true religion. >> gumus was recently charged with helping a young german jihadist travel to syria in 2013. at the time, enes u. was 16-years-old. he'd joined the true religion group the year before. enes became more and more radical in his political views. his teacher at school noticed this. one day, the teacher took enes and some other students to a mosque so they could learn more about islam.
>> enes wasn't happy with the imam's interpretation of islam. it wasn't strict enough for him. he asked the imam where he had studied. when the imam said, "in turkey," enes said his teaching wasn't strict enough. >> then, enes decided that he wanted to become a jihadi, and fight for allah. in september 2013, enes attended a rally led by pierre vogel, who is perhaps germany's best-known islamist. vogel is a persuasive public speaker, and radical in his views. >> i testify that only allah, the all-powerful, deserves to be worshipped, and no other. >> one day later, enes left for turkey, where he joined a training camp for jihadists.
after a month, he was sent into battle in syria. it's not clear which islamist group he was fighting for. what is clear is that he was wounded during fighting in aleppo, and later died. he was buried in turkey. >> enes was killed a week after he arrived in aleppo. don't you feel guilty? >> i'm sorry it happened, but there's nothing i can do. >> but you paid for his plane ticket. >> stop making allegations. i feel bad when people are killed. >> german authorities believe that bilal gumus may have helped others to travel to fight for islam. investigators spotted gumus hanging around outside a frankfurt train station. he's talking to three men who left for syria later in the day. gumus hasn't worked with the "true religion" group for a while, but he and pierre vogel did develop an educational app about islam. abu naji considers himself an
international player. on facebook, he's posted pictures of people giving away qur'ans all over the world. and he's filed suit against the ban of his campaign in germany. michelle: aljona goes to sleep every night to the sound of gunfire. she is one of thousands of people in eastern ukraine who have no choice but to live with the war between russian separatists and government troops. whose concerns and needs are muted by the ongoing political and military battle. but she is now also one of the many displaced people, volunteers and soldiers who are performing on stage to share their own stories of war and hope. by voicing their trauma, they also become a voice for those who would otherwise go unheard. >> this theater project is titled "children and soldiers." dance is an essential part of it. 16-year-old alyona is taking care of the choreography.
the director comes from germany, but he's been working in ukraine for many years. >> speak up and listen to each other. >> popasna is a town in ukraine's donbass region. all roads leading east are blocked. the combat zone is just beyond. every night, alyona can hear the artillery from her home. but today, all she can think of is the premiere. >> her grandmother nina asks what they'll be putting on this evening, a play? a poetry reading? no, says alyona. we'll be telling stories. alright, says her grandmother. by the way, our boy sleeps back there. her little brother matvey will also be appearing in one of alyona's stories this evening. some of the actors come from the checkpoint at the edge of town. the soldiers keep a goose they've named after president-elect donald trump.
>> as soon as trump does something bad to ukraine, we'll eat him. until then, he can live. >> lieutenant pastushok shows us his quarters, a dugout. he says, only because of the theater project has he finally gotten to know the local young people. >> we mainly run into older civilians here. and these older people have been annoying me for three years now. i'm sick of explaining to them that we're not americans, and these are not american guns. >> popasna's house of culture. everybody's a bit nervous ahead of the premiere. the young people and the soldiers have together developed and rehearsed a documentary theatrical presentation. >> we'll be talking about why a war is raging here. and there are people in our group who have differing views, but that's exactly why it's so important for us to use theater to create a forum where these differing views can be
expressed. >> it's curtain time. some of the spectators have come straight from the front, still carrying their guns. word has gotten around that soldiers are here, telling stories about life in the field and the time away from their families. lieutenant pastushok has written a song about the longing he feels during the cold nights in the bunker. other stories are very different, stories of the horrors of war. alyona's brother listens as she tells about how deathly afraid she was for him one time.
>> when a shell hit very close to us, i looked at him and all at once, he fell silent. he was silent. i don't know for how long, maybe ten or twenty seconds. >> it turned out alright, though, her brother found his voice again. some of the actors talk about the dead and injured, among them an uncle who was killed by a shell. on stage, she says, it feels like she's throwing off a great burden. she feels a sense of relief and peace. the physical traumas are released through dance. the emotional ones through language. the theater project is far more than entertainment, it's therapy for the wounds of war. >> i see this as a kind of therapy, if it actually works. i think, now everyone here knows
they're not alone with either their suffering or their joy. >> for a moment on a stage in popasna, eastern ukraine, the political why's and wherefores no longer matter. michelle: it's good to see that despite having to endure years of unrest, the people of eastern ukraine have not yet given up hope. that's it for today. thank you for watching. be sure to visit our new facebook page, d.w. stories, to find out more about the show. for now, it's goodbye for me and the hole team.
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