“Finding refuge in all times of need”

In the Council’s report to the EKD Synod Annette Kurschus takes a stand on antisemitism, migration, climate change and the power of trust in God

During the first plenary of the Synod of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD – Protestant Church in Germany) today (Sunday 12 November) Praeses Annette Kurschus commented on the current crises in Germany and worldwide, and at the same time spotlighted the power of trust in God.

“Rarely was hope so faint and weakened, rarely were our certainties so unstable and crumbling as in these times, when one crisis follows another and disasters keep piling up,” Kurschus said. The world needs the abundance of steadiness and hope and certainty that comes into life through the biblical psalms and prayers, she added. This particularly applied to the atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel. She was horrified, she said, “at how rapidly people glossed over them with brash contextualizing; how the usual speech bubbles were mouthed without dissent. As though the world was hardly touched by this slaughtering of Jews.” Hamas is not a liberation movement, she declared. “It is an anti-Semitic terrorist organisation that wants to eradicate Jewish life wherever it meets it. And it is a deadly scourge for the suffering people in Gaza.” The attack by Hamas was, at the same time, an attack on the Palestinians working for peace and understanding. “It is foolish, and so I won’t go along with it, to force solidarity with Israel and empathy with the Palestinian victims into an either-or alternative.” It was “not failing to show solidarity with Israel to call for moderation under international law, and humanitarian measures to protect the civilian population. Political actors must do their utmost to create safe areas and time slots, and to meet people’s basic needs,” the Council chair said.

In Germany, church attention must focus on the disturbing anti-Semitism, the anxiety and sadness of Jews in our neighbourhoods: “They must not have a shadow of doubt that they can count on the churches. There are trustful contacts at all levels; we stand by Jews and ask how we can assist them. We may not tire in doing so – indeed, we must step up our efforts.”

At the same time, Annette Kurschus called for resistance to anti-Muslim sentiment. The attempt to pass off hatred of Muslims as an Israel-friendly position is pure racism, she stated. “And our faith urges us to speak out against that, loudly and clearly.”

In her report the Council Chair reaffirmed the church’s commitment to refugees. She said that church and diaconal ministries had worked intensively and untiringly for refugees since 2015 and before, and since 2022 for those coming from Ukraine; with language courses in the parish rooms and community clothing banks; with psychosocial counselling in accommodation centres and a nation-wide civil society reception programme in cooperation with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. 

“We not only know what we are talking about – we know many of those about whom people have recently been talking in a way that profoundly shocked me.” In a deceitful distortion of language, the drowning migrants were turned into a ‘flood’ and the shipwrecked were turned into a ‘wave’ that will allegedly wash over us. “There is talk of ‘numbers’ that must now be urgently ‘reduced’. As though it were a matter of a moderately difficult mathematical exercise. Anyone talking about migration is talking about human beings and so ultimately about themselves, about their own Christian or Humanist view of what it means to be human, and about how seriously they take it. Speaking for myself, I will not be talked out of compassion and will continue to remind others to show compassion,” Kurschus maintained.

In the climate debate the societal climate was as overheated as the climate itself, she continued. The apocalypse was being evoked to scare people, whereas it was time to go forward calmly and consistently. The biblical apocalypse, by contrast, is “talk of protest and hope in view of a world in which everything seems to be plunging into chaos. It gives us an unsparing view of the world as it is. With all its horrors and abominations and abysses.” And, she added, it uncovers causes and responsibilities. “In terms of both its root causes and its impacts, the ecological crisis is a problem of social justice. It is not only just but also wise to hold both of them together in our thinking, regionally and globally – taking the apocalypse seriously and remaining calmly confident,” Annette Kurschus suggested.

With an eye to the study on church membership to be presented to Synod on Tuesday, the Council Chair underlined the importance of faith for building human trust. “Evidently faith produces something like a strengthening advance of trust, forming a kind of power bank for living.” Only a church that - in its whole life - gives people time to develop trust in God has understood where the heart of its mission lies, she noted. “For that to happen, we ourselves first need to trust in the divine power that sustains us.”

The oral report by EKD Council Chair Annette Kurschus is accessible in German at https://www.ekd.de/ratsbericht-synode-2023-80397.htm.

Live streaming of the EKD Synod proceedings is available on www.ekd.de/stream.

Ulm, 12 November 2023

EKD Press Office
Carsten Splitt

About the EKD Synod:  The EKD Synod, with the Council and Church Conference, is one of the three governing bodies of the EKD. It is convening from 12 to 15 November in Ulm. In accordance with the EKD’s constitution, the 13th Synod has 128 members. The assignments of Synod include drafting declarations and decisions on contemporary questions and accompanying the work of the EKD Council by issuing guidelines. Synod also discusses and adopts the budget and church laws. Synod is chaired by a body of moderators (presidium), under its president Anna-Nicole Heinrich. She is also a member of the 15-person EKD Council. Chair of the EKD Council is Annette Kurschus. The EKD is a community of 20 Lutheran, Reformed and United regional churches in Germany. 19.2 million Protestants belong to one of the 12,700 congregations.