Berlin is a major metropolitan city-state and is the capital of Germany. It is the second most populous city in Europe with upwards of 3.5 million documented residents. To give you some perspective, it is a bit smaller in area than Dallas but with roughly three times as many people. There are another 2.3 million residents in the small outlying municipalities of Berlin-Brandenburg.
Berlin is sectioned off into 12 boroughs, each with its own mayor and borough council, and then further divided into 96 districts. Because most people get around the city either with public transportation or by walking/biking, people tend to spend their personal lives in a radius that is easily accessible. Decades of socio-political influences have shaped who lives where in the city, and over time this has created many distinct subcultures, meaning your experience in one part of Berlin can be quite different even from the next district over.
A City Reunited
When Germany was divided after WWII, the city of Berlin was as well. Families and loved ones found themselves suddenly separated by the heavily guarded Berlin Wall. Many people picture the wall as simply cutting through the middle of the city, but since Berlin was located within the DDR (East Germany) those living in West Berlin were actually surrounded by the Berlin Wall, cutting them off from East Berlin and the rest of East Germany. The city’s division was like a smaller version of the rest of Germany, with West Berlin having British, French, and U.S.-occupied zones, and East Berlin being occupied by the Soviets.
The Berlin wall was reopened a year before official reunification in 1990. Most of the wall has been removed but parts of it remain today as historic landmarks. Even this many years later, the former occupied zones can still be felt by observing the culture and architecture of different parts of the city.
Faith in Flux
Germany’s history has greatly influenced its religious landscape. The former DDR (generally the large, dark blue area on the map) is one of the least religious regions in the world, and Berlin is often referred to as “the atheist capital of Europe.”
In Berlin, roughly 60% of people have no religious affiliation. 28% of people are registered with either one of the State Churches (Lutheran or Catholic). However, being registered with the State Church isn’t necessarily reflective of a person’s faith or activity in a church, and there are many cultural reasons why one would be registered with the State Church regardless of personal belief. Beyond that, the remaining population mostly consists of followers of Islam, followed by about 3% of Christians with affiliations outside the State Churches (mostly Eastern Orthodox) and then a small number of other faiths.
Our sources in Berlin estimate that approximately 1% of the city’s population have a personal faith in Jesus.
Many Nations, One Location
About 1 million people living in the area have foreign backgrounds originating from over 180 different countries, mostly from elsewhere in Europe and the Middle East but with notable populations from all over the globe. In particular, Berlin has the largest Turkish and Vietnamese populations outside of their respective countries. With the high rates of refugees arriving from the Middle East and parts of Africa, as well as people from around the world immigrating for other reasons, the multicultural landscape of Berlin continues to diversify. The districts of Kreuzberg and Neukölln are known for being the most diverse areas of Berlin, although you can easily meet people from all over the world throughout the city.