The German bishops have appealed for a verbal de-escalation of tensions, more dialogue and mutual respect now that the country’s election campaign is over.
The news that the right-wing nationalist AfD (Alternative for Germany) won almost 13 per cent of the votes and is now the third largest political force in Germany has deeply shocked many Germans. It is all the more astounding as the AfD was only formed four years ago.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party CSU (Christian Social Union) lost almost 10 per cent of their support, their worst result in almost 70 years. The Social Democrats, Mrs Merkel’s coalition partner since 2013, saw their share of the vote drop by over 5 per cent to 21 per cent and have announced that they will go into opposition.
On Monday, the president of the German bishops’ conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, cautioned against “black and white” thinking and warned the Bundestag not to allow MPs to use a “language of hatred and marginalisation”.
The Church would not completely stay out politics in future, Cardinal Marx said. Subjects such as the refugee issue, how to deal with foreign cultures, poverty, protecting life from beginning to end and promoting marriage and the family remained significant issues for the Church on which it would continue to speak out. The shift to the right, which was evident not only in Germany but also in Europe and the United States, was “deeply worrying”, the cardinal said.
The former Bishop of Dresden and now Archbishop of Berlin, Heiner Koch, said people were increasingly frightened of change, especially in eastern Germany, where up to 30 per cent of the population voted for the AfD. For these people, digitalisation threatened their jobs and refugees threatened their home country.
It was “most distressing” that the AfD had achieved its best results in Saxony where it had even beaten the CDU and was now the strongest party, the director of the Catholic Academy in Dresden, Thomas Arnold, told katholisch.de. The reason for the AfD’s success, he regretted, was that people in Saxony were against Mrs Merkel’s refugee policy. Christian views should be voiced more strongly and the Church should seek dialogue with members of the AfD, Mr Arnold said.
PICTURE: More than a thousand people took to the streets of Berlin to protest against the AfD on 25 September. The openly racist and sexist AfD (Alternative for Germany) will take office in the national parliament. They turned out the be third strongest party and therefore become leader of the opposition