Ecumenical News International

Political and religious leaders call for commitment to oppose hate

Gauck: "We will not let ourselves be divided through hate"

January 09, 2015

Berlin (epd). After the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo political and religious leaders have called for the defence of fundamental democratic values. "Our democracy is stronger than terror," said German President Joachim Gauck on Friday in Berlin. In the direction of rightwing populists, who want to instrumentalize the attack for their own purposes, Gauck declared: "We will not allow ourselves to be divided through hate." Christians, Jews and Muslims have meanwhile condemned the attack in a joint manifesto.

Gauck called the attack, presumably carried out by Islamists, an "abominable crime" and an attack on freedom. To the perpetrators of such actions and those who wanted to exploit them politically he declared: "We are shaken by the attack but it does not shake our convictions."

In reaction to the attack, SPD party leader Sigmar Gabriel wanted to send a collective signal against violence. In a letter to all parties represented in the German parliament and to the Free Democrats he called for a demonstration. "The perfidious plan of terrorists to drive a wedge into our society must not become reality," he wrote.

A manifesto of religious leaders published on Friday by the tabloid Bild states, "No one shall kill in the name of God." They declare that the murders are an attack on freedom of thought and belief, and also on tolerance and compassion. The high-ranking representatives call for prayers to be offered for the victims in churches, synagogues and mosques. Signatories are the Alois Glück, President of the Central Committee of German Catholics, Wolfgang Huber, former chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, chair of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, along with Charlotte Knobloch, former president and Stephan Kramer, former general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) praised the appeal of the religious communities. "An open and free society is the best response to terrorist hate," he said. In view of calls for strict laws, the minister warned against symbolic political action. The balance between freedom and security must not be given up, he said. Nonetheless, Maas announced that it would in future be a crime to leave Germany for training to carry out terror attacks; likewise new legislation making it illegal to finance terrorism was to be introduced.
Christine Lambrecht, SPD party manager, advocated a debate in parliament on the attack and its consequences. The German parliament will commemorate the victims next Thursday. Flags on federal public buildings will hang at half-mast until Saturday.
On Wednesday heavily armed men invaded the newsroom of "Charlie Hebdo" in Paris and shot twelve people. Another eleven were injured.

According to the latest TV survey, half the German population believes that the Paris attack will soon be followed by one in Germany. Three months ago this percentage was noticeably higher at 59%.



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