German religious leaders warn of division, growing social inequality

German religious leaders warn of division, growing social inequality

Lutheran Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, president of the Protestant Church in Germany, and Bishop Georg Batzing of Limburg, president of the German bishops' conference, are pictured in an early May photo. In a message marking the Oct. 3 German Unity Day, the two leaders issued a warning about division and growing social inequality in Germany. (Credit: CNS photo/Christian Ditsch, epd, pool via KNA.)

In a message marking the Oct. 3 German Unity Day, churches in Germany issued a warning about the divisive forces in society.

BONN, Germany — In a message marking the Oct. 3 German Unity Day, churches in Germany issued a warning about the divisive forces in society.

“We are observing rising gaps, caused not just by the corona pandemic but also by escalating social inequalities and a polarizing public discourse,” the ecumenical message by the churches said Oct. 2 to mark the 30th anniversary of German reunification.

The German Catholic news agency KNA reported that Bishop Georg Batzing of Limburg, president of the German bishops’ conference, and Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, council president of the Protestant Church in Germany, also stressed in a statement the importance of the “high values of democratic freedom and of solidaric cohesion” in society.

German Unity Day recalls the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 to end the Cold War, which was followed a year later — Oct. 3, 1990 — by the German Democratic Republic becoming unified with the Federal Republic of Germany. The unification ended the four-decade separation of the two German states.

Batzing and Bedford-Strohm said that “unity amid variety” required mutual respect, interest and solidarity. The two church leaders spoke strongly against trends toward division in society.

“If we consider how the division of Germany had its roots in the catastrophe of National Socialism, then this drifting apart of society in the form of a growing nationalism and of yet further aggressive anti-Semitism would be shown to be particularly fatal,” they said.

In addition, peoples’ differing life stories still remained to be told, the leaders said. Listening to one another must be a basic position by which people with different stories from East and West may encounter each other.

Peaceful protest, candles and prayers helped pave the way for German reunification 30 years ago, the two church leaders said. “Today we are challenged by the corona pandemic. Like the people back then, today we have faith in the power of God.”

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