Wolfgang Pax and Jörn Dulige have worked hand in hand for years. The first is a priest and he represents the four Catholic dioceses of Hesse, Germany, with the regional government, in Wiesbaden, as well as with trade unions and political parties. The second is a pastor and holds the same function for the Protestant Church.
For years, the two religious have joined forces to make the voice of their institutions heard, in a region where 36% of the population belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 24% to the Catholic Church and 32% say they have no confession. .
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“In this time of secularization and estrangement from the Churches, we can only succeed together, despite certain differences between Catholics and Protestants”, recognizes Jörn Dulige, during a meeting with his colleague.
“We regularly meet with deputies and regional ministers to discuss private schools, kindergartens, the pandemic, the reception of refugees, etc. “, explains Wolfgang Pax. “Our goal is to ensure that Christian values remain alive”, he sums up.
Churches consulted regularly
The participation of the two Churches in the political process, regional and national, is acquired in a Federal Republic created after the Second World War by personalities imbued with Christian values, such as Konrad Adenauer. However, their influence tends to diminish.
“They recognize this with reluctance but they can no longer impose themes as in the 1970s with nuclear disarmament or dialogue with the Eastern bloc”, notes the sociologist of religions Detlef Pollack of the University of Münster. “Their ability to shape society is declining, especially in their stronghold in the West. The sexual abuse scandal has greatly damaged the image of the Catholic Church, which has decided to be more discreet. “
Wolfgang Pax and Jörn Dulige admit themselves that they do not “To be able to impose their views on all subjects” but find that their opinion “Is never neglected”. “We are consulted on various topics”, explains the Protestant representative. “A minister recently asked us to find out whether the digitization process was endangering the socialization of Germans. “
An evolution of values
On the ground, the regional deputy Frank-Tilo Becher notes the ambiguity that religion brings to his work in the regional parliament of Hesse. This Protestant pastor, who entered politics in 2017 for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), is now targeting the town hall of his town, Giessen. “I don’t openly display my faith because that’s not always an advantage. Rather, I put forward the more universal notions of living together. In dealing with people, on the other hand, being a pastor helps me. People remember that I baptized their child, buried their parent ”, he observes.
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The behavior of voters and churches have also evolved. “Before, Catholics voted overwhelmingly for the Christian Democrats of the CDU-CSU and the Protestants for the SPD. It is no longer systematic ”, recalls sociologist Detlef Pollack. “In the years 1960-1970, the notion of order predominated. Now, these are the values of tolerance, openness, social justice. The Churches have adapted ”, he adds.
“Some parties are closer to us depending on the theme”
Wolfgang Pax and Jörn Dulige confirm the central role played by themes such as the reception of refugees. “We recently sent a letter to the Minister of the Interior of Hesse asking for a ban on deportations to Afghanistan from Frankfurt airport”, notes the Protestant representative.
“Some parties are closer to us depending on the theme”, adds his Catholic colleague. “The CDU is more open on private school issues, the Greens on the climate issue. “ What if the two men say “Put an equal distance between each party”, only the far-right AfD party is problematic for them.
The two Churches are reluctant to forge links with a formation which nevertheless wants to be the true representative of Western Christian values. “Apart from a small group of Christians, the majority of AfD voters are without religion but united by an anti-Islam sentiment”, notes political scientist Detlef Pollack.
A key role with local authorities
The question of Islam, precisely, is gaining importance in a country where 5 to 6% of the population are now Muslims. In Hesse, the majority of them are of Turkish origin, but the community includes many Syrians, Afghans, North Africans and Pakistanis.
In the capital, Wiesbaden, the small Ahmadiyya community – a movement derived from Islam – funded the construction of a new mosque, the only one in town with a minaret. Of Pakistani origin, she has established herself as a central partner of the regional government with regard to Islamic religion courses offered in public schools.
“We participate in the development of course content”, explains the young 29-year-old imam, Ferhad Ghaffar, in his brand new mosque. “The goal is to be as neutral as possible, so that this course can reach as many Muslims as possible. “ This key role played with the local authorities, the community owes, among other things, to its financial and political independence and to its sermons in German. The authorities’ relations with the Turkish federation Ditib, considered too closely linked to Ankara, have however deteriorated.
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The political weight of Muslims remains difficult to establish. “Before, they voted mainly social democrats and ecologists, parties for which the themes of integration predominate. But as for Christians, their vote is becoming less systematic ”, notes Detlef Pollack.
Angela Merkel, her commitment hailed
On the far right, the AfD uses the theme of Islam as a foil. The other parties put forward the map of multiculturalism. Muslims themselves are very active vis-à-vis the AfD. Thus, the Ahmadiyya community launched in 2017 a major campaign entitled “We are all Germany”, including a large poster sits at the entrance of the Mubarak Mosque.
“Some of our members got scared when the anti-Islam Pegida movement was created. We must be active ”, acknowledges Ferhad Ghaffar, also welcoming the commitment of Angela Merkel. “That the Chancellor says that Islam is part of Germany has given us courage”, explains the imam.
What record does the chancellor, daughter of a pastor, leave in terms of Christian values, on the eve of her departure from German politics? For Wolfgang Pax, his action in 2015, in favor of refugees, will remain the culmination of his chancellery. “Thanks to her, Germany saw that Christian values were a reality”, rejoices the priest. An opinion supported by his colleague, Jörn Dulige. “She will definitely be missed! “
Sensitive societal reforms for Angela Merkel
During the sixteen years of power of Angela Merkel,several societal reforms have been passed.
Parental leave entered into force in 2007, followed in 2013 by a right to obtain a place in a crèche for children aged 1 to 3. The objective was to support mothers in the pursuit of their careers.
Marriage for same-sex couples was adopted in the Bundestag in June 2017, in a flash vote in which the Chancellor authorized her party’s deputies to vote in their hearts and souls. She herself had spoken out against it. Sixteen years after having obtained the right to unite in a civil union, same-sex couples are now treated like heterosexual couples by the tax authorities and can adopt a child. But surrogacy is prohibited in Germany,
The question of assisted suicide also gave Angela Merkel a hard time. In 2015, the Bundestag voted to ban “commercial promotion of suicide” and prohibited associations from facilitating this practice. But in 2020, the Constitutional Court considers this law unconstitutional and calls on the authorities to review their copy. She argues of “the right to take one’s own life and seek help.” No new text has yet been approved.