Top German Protestant Leader Urges Creation of Church Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism
The head of one of Germany’s leading Evangelical churches has called on his fellow Protestant clerics to appoint a special representative to challenge rising antisemitism in the country.
In an extensive interview on Tuesday published on the website of his EKKW Church — a Lutheran group that is a key component of the broader Protestant church in Germany — Bishop Martin Hein encouraged the country’s 22 million Protestants to step up the fight against anti-Jewish bigotry.
Hein observed that the recent admission of federal antisemitism commissioner Felix Klein that, in his view, it was not safe for Jews to wear a kippah “everywhere all the time in Germany” had resonated hugely with many Christians.
“It is obvious that the threat to Jewish fellow citizens in our country does not only emanate from people who have come to us from Arab countries,” Hein said. “A large number of the attacks take place from the right-wing extremist side. For far too long we have dealt with the issue of antisemitism in passing — often in view of the complex political relations with Israel.”
Hein argued that at a minimum, the EKD — a national body that administratively unites Germany’s various Protestant denominations — “should clearly position itself against any form of antisemitism.”
Continued the bishop emphatically: “At the political level the EKD Council should set up a commission for questions of antisemitism. It must — and as soon as possible! — appoint a representative of the EKD against antisemitism!”
Antisemitic hate crimes in Germany rose by 20 percent in 2018. One of the sharper political controversies to emerge from this data has concerned the tendency of German law enforcement agencies to categorize antisemitic offenses as the work of the far right. In May, Marcel Luthe — a member of Berlin’s state parliament for the liberal FDP Party — disclosed that up to 60 percent of antisemitic offenses in the German capital had been incorrectly blamed by police on the far right, thereby diminishing the role played by Islamists and militant anti-Zionists in attacking Jewish targets.
Among those urging support for Bishop Hein’s call for a church antisemitism commissioner was the EU’s coordinator against antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein.
“Excellent initiative,” von Schnurbein commented on Twitter. “Bishop Martin Hein proposes Special envoy on antisemitism for EKD to prevent and speak out against Jew-hatred on behalf of the Protestant Church in Germany.”