With around 100 activities such as the writing of a ‘climate bible’ and a human chain in the city, climate change was one of the most debated topics of the 38th Kirchentag, the large annual gathering of German Protestants . More than 50,000 people responded to the slogan “It’s time! Hope, act”, chosen by the organizers, lay representatives of the Protestant Church of Germany (EKD), for these five days of prayer, songs and conferences organized this year in Nuremberg, Bavaria.
The highlight of the rally which ended on Sunday June 11: a meeting between the Minister for the Climate, the ecologist Robert Habeck, and an activist from the “Last generation” movement. For a year and a half, this collective has been carrying out punchy actions, sticking in particular to asphalt, to denounce the government’s inactivity in climate matters. While these actions are usually prosecuted for “disturbing public order”, two prosecutors have recently been investigating the possible formation of a “criminal organization”.
“By inviting representatives of the latest generation, we are not showing solidarity with him but we are contributing to the debate”, explains Kristin Jahn, secretary general of the Kirchentag. The subject, however, divides the 19 million German Protestants who, according to a recent survey, would be 57% to reject the actions of this collective.
“I understand their message but not their methods”
In November, the Last Generation spokeswoman was invited to give a speech at the Synod of the Protestant Church, which brought strong criticism to the EKD leadership. “I understand their message but not their methods,” says Barbara, in her sixties, who came to participate in the Kirchentag in Nuremberg. Other Protestants support these activists, such as the Gethsemane parish in Berlin, which organizes a meal with them every week.
Theologian Kristin Jahn is concerned about the concept of Last Generation, contrary to the message of hope of the Gospel. “Defining oneself as the last generation indicates a desperation on the part of these activists in their capacity for action. I am grateful to them for protesting, but we need to encourage each other to move forward together on this crucial issue,” explains the Secretary General of the Kirchentag.
Thomas de Maizière, president of these Protestant Days and former Christian Democrat minister, is also critical. “Do these actions advance their cause or do they harm it? “, he confides to La Croix. “I consider that the law has done more for the climate cause than the pressure of these activists”, he adds in reference to a decision of the German Constitutional Court which, in 2021, pleaded the notion of “fundamental rights of people”. future generations” to criticize the action of the government.
Driving on the highways at 80 km/h instead of 100 km/h?
More broadly, the organizers of the Kirchentag have sought to play the “green” card with organic, local and seasonal meals and incentives for participants to come to Nuremberg by train. Protestant religious institutions are also moving forward on the subject, even if it remains slow, as many parishioners regret.
In November, the synod of the EKD, which brings together twenty regional Churches, approved binding climate objectives with a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions from its institutions by 2035. If that means no longer heating churches and buildings fossil fuels, another more controversial measure has been approved: the EKD calls on its staff to limit their speed to 100 km/h on motorways and 80 km/h on other roads. To date, two bishops have said they refuse to do so.
“I would like a little less symbolic politics on the part of my Church”, comments Barbara Becker, an elected Bavarian, member of the EKD. “It is useful to influence people to change their attitude and as Christians we have a duty to preserve our land, but alone here in Germany we will not have enough impact. I would like our Church to use its international network more to advance the climate cause,” she said, regretting that “on this point, it is not involved enough.”
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