German churches condemn right-wing party wanting minaret ban

By on April 26, 2010

Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in Germany have condemned a far-right party campaigning for a ban on minarets in forthcoming elections in the country’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. The Pro North Rhine-Westphalia Party is campaigning on an anti-Islam platform, and is calling for the banning of all minarets in Europe. Its symbol is a mosque with a red line crossed through it.”The positions taken by Pro-NRW are not compatible with our Christian faith,” the Protestant and Catholic churches in the region said in a joint statement.The party’s Web site states that Islam is “at odds with Western European values”. North Rhine-Westphalia is home to Germany’s biggest Muslim community.Opinion polls in advance of the May 9 election, however, suggest that Pro-NRW has little chance of being elected to the regional parliament.”This group selectively stirs up prejudices against Islam, blames foreigners sweepingly for the social problems in the cities and suburbs and tries to portray integration policies, as well as the churches’ commitment to a dialogue of religions, as wrong and dangerous,” said the March 25 church statement. It was issued by the Evangelical Church of Westphalia and the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, with the Catholic dioceses of Munster and Essen.Signatories included the Rev. Nikolaus Schneider, who heads the Rhineland church, and is chairperson of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the umbrella of the country’s 24 million Protestants.According to an April 21 opinion poll published by weekly news magazine Stern, support among voters is divided between the right-of-centre Christian Democratic Union (38 percent), the liberal Free Democratic Party (eight percent), the Green party (nine percent), the Left party (six percent) and the left-of-centre Social Democratic Party (34 percent).The campaign for Pro-NRW follows a November 2009 Swiss referendum in which about 57.5 percent of those who voted supported a ban on the construction of minarets being added to the country’s constitution.In Germany, church groups joined trade unions and political activists among an estimated 5000 people who staged a peaceful demonstration on March 28 outside the country’s largest mosque in Duisburg to protest against a rally there by extreme-right groups.The rally was to have been the culmination of a weekend conference hosted by Pro-NRW in nearby Gelsenkirchen for representatives from other countries to discuss a European Union-wide ban on minarets similar to the Swiss action. News reports said the right-wing rally was outnumbered by counter demonstrators.

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