Humanity and human solidarity come to the fore

EKD Council chair Heinrich Bedford-Strohm at New Year

Happy New Year! That is what we have been calling to one another lately. That means - in spite of our personal problems or the worrying state of the world - we look forward to a new start.

It is makes sense not to let the old year elapse without paying attention. We need rhythms in life. Looking back and forward at the turn of the year helps us to live more consciously. There is much that we can look back on this year. That applies to us personally. It may be something sad, like the loss of a person we miss so badly, or something joyful, like a new love in our life or the birth of a child.

That also applies to our country and to the world. What we lamented and what we were grateful for were in fact, very close together. There was probably no one who was not touched by the images of the bombed cities in Syria and the children crying among the ruins. And we sympathised with the situation of the many people who had fled to neighbouring countries or set out to find refuge in Europe. Some here were frightened by that. Many were given strength that we would not have thought possible. The spontaneous readiness to help that surfaced here impressed the world. Those with responsibility in politics and civil society together ensured that hardly anyone now associates the name “Germany” with violence and war.
Instead, humanity and human solidarity have come to the fore.

That is reason to be very grateful. Gratitude goes hand in hand with humility. It will encourage more people to do likewise in Europe if we do not moralise but show, quite practically, that integration can succeed - even with high numbers of refugees and different religious and cultural backgrounds. And the appalling rise in violence against refugee hostels and their residents shows how much there is still to do here in order to perpetuate a stance of humanity and compassion in Germany.

We must make it clear: rightwing extremism and populism is fuelling people’s fears and sabotaging sympathy instead of reinforcing it. At any rate, such attitudes have nothing whatever to do with Christianity.

Lived Christianity means for 2016: understanding that loving God and our neighbour always goes together. Noticing how blessed most of us are in our country. Opening our hearts for those who are less blessed, whether they have always lived here or are newcomers. Finally, living from the confidence founded in the certainty that we go into this year 2016 sheltered and sustained by the God who gave us life and accompanies us every day.

The source of this certainty is expressed in the annual watchword for 2016: God says: “As a mother comforts her child I will comfort you” (Is 66:13). Whoever has encountered the firm basis connected with this promise can call to others with a full heart: A happy and blessed New Year!

EKD Press Office
Kerstin Kipp