Ecumenical News International

Chair of EKD Council Bedford-Strohm warns against "quick fixes" as proposed by rightwing populists

January 29, 2016

Munich (epd). The Lutheran bishop of Bavaria, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, has intervened in the current German debate about refugees to call for the preservation of social justice. The social balance must be retained, he believes, which is why the rising expenditure for refugees must by no means lead to cuts in current social spending. The chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) was speaking yesterday at the Munich Press Club. With its present high tax revenues, Germany is so "blessed" that the refugee question could also be resolved without cutting social spending. At the same time, Bedford-Strohm warned against losing sight of the growing gap between rich and poor in Germany. The divide must not be allowed to widen further, he stated.

In the refugee discussion he warned against falling for the "simple answers" of rightwing populists. In this complex and emotional topic there were no quick fixes, said the EKD Council chair. There had to be more objectivity in the "overheated" discussion. Facts had to be checked in all directions and also stated, he asserted. Failing to do so would only play the card of rightwing populists. At present there were unfortunately too many rumours, said Bedford-Strohm, referring to the story invented by a volunteer about a refugee who had allegedly starved to death while waiting for an appointment outside the Berlin social security office. Bedford-Strohm also criticized the social networks: they had created bubbles, particularly after the events in Cologne. Users only operated in spaces in which their own opinion was affirmed, he said, and were not receptive to counter-arguments.

Facts sometimes speak another language than your own conviction

Bedford-Strohm saw the criminal statistics as a reliable source of information. They must be taken seriously - regardless of whether they matched our own convictions, he said. If the statistics prove that in certain areas there are more offenders with a migration background, that had to be accepted. Equally, it had to be accepted if there were no differences between Germans and migrants.

A "military dimension" was not to be excluded either, the bishop commented, in order to prevent persecution and displacement. And again he called for secure "protection zones" in Iraq in order to oppose the Islamic State. In the long run, however, the causes of refugee movements could only be combated on a world scale, he stated. That included establishing a more just economic and trade order, helping e.g. farmers in Africa to make an adequate living. In order to focus on the global impact of decisions, all government decisions should be checked in terms of their "One-World compatibility", Bedford-Strohm declared.



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