Ecumenical News International

Prayer and remembrance at services for oppressed and persecuted Christians

March 02, 2015

Volker Jung, the president of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau, has expressed horror at the killing of Syrian Christians by the terrorist group "Islamic State" (IS). In a service in Darmstadt Jung called for everything to be done to ensure that "religious freedom worldwide is guaranteed". At the same time, he urged people in Germany to stand up more strongly for a peaceful living together of religions.

For the second Sunday in Lent (Reminiscere) the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) had called for special prayers for Christians who are oppressed and persecuted for their faith. According to a report on religious freedom in the world by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany, the Christians in the Middle East and North Africa are in particular danger.

During the most recent IS killings in Hasakah Province in northeast Syria, at least 15 Christians were killed and probably over 300 kidnapped. "We pray for our sisters and brothers," said Jung, who is also chair of the EKD's advisory commission on migration and integration. At the same time, political leaders worldwide should consider what can be done "to stop this havoc". The Muslims living peacefully in Germany should in no way be linked with the IS actions, Jung declared.

The Reminiscere Sunday sermon in Hanover's Market Church was given by Margot Käßmann, special envoy of the EKD Council for the Reformation anniversary in 2017. The former Lutheran bishop of Hannover encouraged people to tackle evil in the world with more trust in God. Anyone who believes in overcoming evil is considered naïve in view of violence and terror. "The images of the so-called IS fighters madly killing people and destroying cultural monuments show the grimace of evil." You feel as though you are looking straight into the face of the devil, Käßmann said.

Käßmann stressed that she had no better answers than others. But she was impressed by the biblical injunction to overcome evil with good. "It becomes clear again and again that, if anything is to change, people's hearts and minds have to be touched, indeed won." Precisely the Germans should not forget how human beings can be led astray by the power of evil, Käßmann underlined, with reference to the persecution of the Jews under National Socialism. That evil had also been real and visible, she declared.

 Markus Dröge, bishop of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia, also spoke on the topic of guilt and crime in German history.  He recalled the genocide of the Armenians 100 years ago. "We see ourselves as responsible for ensuring that the genocide of the Armenian people is not forgotten or even denied," he said in Berlin's St Mary's church. "After all, Germans were also involved in that."

24 April marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the massacre of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. To this day, Turkey refuses to acknowledge that the crimes causing the deaths of up to one million people in 1915/16 were genocide. Germany and the Ottoman Empire were allies in the First World War. A century ago the European great powers, primarily the German empire, regarded their own interests as more important than "protesting on behalf of the millions who were forced to flee and lose their lives in such numbers", declared Dröge in the presence of Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian, primate of the German diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church. (epd/

Intercessions for oppressed and persecuted Christians Reminiscere 2015



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