Rome (NEV), 26 June 2019 – Participating in a Kirchentag is a unique and powerful experience. Those who have been there talk about tens of thousands of people, who come from all over Germany and around the world to participate in conferences, bible studies, worship services and concerts organised by the German Protestant Churches. They talk about how incredible it is to see so many Protestants gathered in one place. They talk about people singing hymns on public transport, on the streets and in the squares. They talk about the thousands of social initiatives that orbit around the evangelical churches. Those who have been there will tell you that they have seen all these things and you will think they are exaggerating, that it must be an amplified perception of those who are a minority in Italy, accustomed to events of a different magnitude.
Then you find yourself in that dimension. 10 thousand people present at a bible study. 20 thousand in a square for a musical event of solidarity, 60 thousand at the final worship in a stadium, for a total of about 130 thousand participants. But not only are the numbers impressive, but also the variety of guests (including the Chancellor Angela Merkel), the depth of the contents, level of the debates, and the sincere involvement of organisers and attendees. This year’s Kirchentag, a real festival of protestant churches, and one of the most important events in Germany, was held from 19 to 23 June in Dortmund in the region of Westfalia. The general theme was that of trust with reference to the chosen verse, “What confidence is there wherein you trust?” (2 Kings 18:19). In a social-political moment where it seems that trust is losing out to resignation, disinterest and discouragement, the Kirchentag wanted to send a message of commitment and awareness. The wide-ranging focus was in fact on “Migration, Integration and Reception” which saw hundreds of guests participating in conferences, moments of reflection, prayer meetings and even artistic performances. Important messages were delivered by some German mayors who made themselves available to welcome the people saved by SeaWatch, and by the Mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, who talked about decriminalising rescues at sea and making cities “safe harbours” of reception and respect for human rights.
Mediterranean Hope – the FCEI Refugee and Migrant Programme has played an important role in this context. In one of the closing concerts, in front of a square full of people, the MH coordinator Paolo Naso, interviewed by the pastor Ulrich Moeller, a key figure in the Westfalia Protestant church, was able to testify to the situation in Italy, to the commitment of the churches, and the Humanitarian Corridor project. Brandishing a thermal blanket he also expressed his heartfelt solidarity with the crew and people on board the SeaWatch, and with all those in Lampedusa, and now many other Italian cities who for days have been standing up for humanity. On stage there was a vivid and touching testimony by Yasmine Abdulazeem, a young Syrian woman who arrived in Italy with the Humanitarian Corridors in 2016. In addition to these initiatives, MH also had a stand in the large Market of Opportunities which could be visited in the expo district of Dortmund. The main activities took place in this area, while the project was presented in the adjacent Global Garden set up by Westfalia. MH was also chosen among the international guests of the Westfalia Protestant Church, which in the days prior to the beginning of the Kirchentag organised a conference on “Church and Migration” aimed at discussing the experiences and actions of different churches on the subject.
The presence of MH and of a wonderful Italian delegation of pastors, theology students, representatives of diaconal institutes and executives, establishes a close and rich relationship with the sister protestant churches of Germany. Participating in such an important event makes you feel like you’re part of a much larger family, much more varied, much stronger and more determined than what you could have imagined, reviving your confidence in the future and the churches.