3 - 2003
Evangelical Church warns about a mixing of the religions
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has warned about a mixing of the religions. An ecumenism of religions similar to the ecumenism between the Churches is the wrong direction, state the guidelines "Christian faith and non-Christian religions" presented by the EKD Council in Hanover. The differences between individual faiths must be respected and not become blurred. A common prayer by Christians and Muslims is therefore not possible.
At the same time, however, one wants to encourage the "necessary dialogue" between the religions, said EKD Council Chairman, Manfred Kock. Nevertheless, this will only be successful if one accepts "the other in his strangeness and peculiarity". Other religions often have a different image of the world and people to that of Christianity. The 22-page document was prepared by the EKD Advisory Commission for Theology under the leadership of the theology professors Eberhard Jüngel (Tübingen) and Dorothea Wendebourg (Berlin).
The rooting of people in their own religious and cultural traditions has weakened in Europe, conceded the EKD. In their search for the meaning of life, people often select for themselves aspects of various religions. Christians however could not have a "clear conscience" about the religious practices of other religions such as taking part in rites of sacrifice or calling on spirits, in order to collect religious experience.
As ever more people in Europe belong to non-Christian religions, the Churches are challenged to clarify their relationship to other religions, said the EKD. Also legal questions, such as the protection of animals, marriage rights or military service are evaluated differently by various religious groups. The text therefore takes up one of the themes long neglected by Protestant theology, said the Vice-President of the EKD Church Office, Hermann Barth.
The Catholic Church had warned about religious freedom in the Vatican document "Dominus Jesus" in the year 2000. At the same time, the distinction between the Catholic Church and the Churches of the Reformation was emphasised, which triggered the continuing ill feeling between Protestants and Rome. A fundamentally positive attitude to non-Christian religions is represented by the statement "Nostra aetate" produced by the second Vatican Council (1962-1965): "The Catholic Church does not reject all that for these religions is true and holy."
The theological guidelines "Christian faith and non-Christian religions" are published as EKD Text 77. The document can be viewed on the Internet at www.ekd.de. (See also documentation page 24.)
Religions in Germany
Of the approximately 82 million German population, about a third is Catholic (32.3%) and a third Protestant (32.1%). As well as many Christians of other denominations, there are about 3.1 million Muslims and about 100,000 Jews. According to the statistics of the German Buddhist Union, there are about 100,000 German Buddhists. To this can be added approximately 120,000 Asian Buddhists living here, mainly from Vietnam and Thailand. Estimates say there are about 100,000 Hindus, mainly from Asia.
The number of Muslims living in Germany, according to the statistics of the Islam archive (Soest), has slightly reduced due to the return of refugees to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. The number of Muslims with a German passport, according to the statistics from the latest qualifying date (15. May 2003), is 732,000, of which 12,400 are ethnic Germans.
The Roman-Catholic Church has about 26.7 million members. The Evangelical Church in Germany represents about 26.45 million people. The third largest Christian denominational family are the Orthodox Churches with around 1.2 million Christians. The Evangelical Free Churches, such as the Baptists, Methodists and the Salvation Army, number about 300,000. Christians of other disciplines represent organisations such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, the New Apostolic Church and the Mormons.