In an interview with the internet portal Qantara.de, the President of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau Volker Jung spoke about German Muslims and the churches’ answers to the challenges of a changing society. He pointed out how Germany has become a migration society, where there are fully integrated immigrants, born and raised in Germany, as well as problematic groups, and underlined the role which could be played by the Church in this change.
In a culturally and religiously diverse environment, intercultural and interreligious competences would contribute to social peace, Dr Jung said. He envisioned the intercultural facilities of the Evangelical church slowly opening up the gates to Muslim employees, for instance as nursery school teachers. Precondition for employment would be the sharing of a basic set of values. Interreligious cooperation serving to prepare Muslim medical staff for hospitals and psychological information centers would bring together Muslim and Christian clerics and young people from different background.
The chairman of the Protestant Church Nikolaus Schneider has criticised Islam in Germany, stating that Islam appeared “in our society unimpressed by Enlightenment and criticism of religion”. The Central Council of Muslims strongly disapproved of the remark. General Secretary Nurhan Soykan said that no one had the right to criticise a religion and to evaluate whether or not it needed Enlightenment. The Council’s chairman Aiman Mazyek expressed his understanding for the fact that Church officials saw Islam as a challenge, pointing out that Islam practiced monotheism in its purest form, cherished Jesus and Mary, but would not allow a prophet (Jesus) to be crucified – Mazyek’s interpretation being that Islam could be understood by many as an enlightened form of Christianity.
Schneider later explained that he called for an academic Islam, one that is scientifically dealt with at universities in order to study the history and also the Enlightenment as it took place in Germany, so that Islam would arrive at a historical-critical perspective on its own faith. He very much welcomes the education of imams at German universities.
Dutch Protestants and Muslims have joined in preparing a joint statement criticizing the yet-to-be-released film by Geert Wilders. The Protestant Church and two umbrella organizations of the Muslim community in the Netherlands (CGI/Contact Group Muslims and Government CMO) have committed to the joint statement. “Although our freedom of speech allows the publication of this film, we consider such provocation undesirable… (it is) reprehensible if the sacred (elements) in our religions are ridiculed and our faith offended. We therefore forcefully reject it if the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed are treated with contempt and slandered.”
The Indonesian foreign ministry warned Dutch lawmakers to forbid the release of an anti-Islam film, saying it could destroy interfaith harmony. Ministry spokesperson Kristianto Legowo said at a press conference that “(The film) will be an obstacle to attempts that we and other countries have initiated. We do not want this to occur. The Indonesian Council of Churches has also asked the Protestant Church in the Netherlands to lobby the Dutch prime minister to intervene, so as to prevent very great problems that may arise after the film’s release. The Protestant Church sent Wilders a letter in January asking to meet with him, but has not yet received a reply. In a statement on March 5th, the church said “Freedom of speech is great, but when we see what immense consequences Wilder’s film could have, also and especially abroad, then surely he has to consider not releasing the film.”
The President of the church office of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), Hermann Barth, opposes a common prayer of Christians and Muslims. In doing so, Barth argued, important traditions would get lost.