Unemployment Threatens 'Entire Community,' German Church Leaders Say

HANOVER, Germany—The leaders of Germany's main Protestant and Catholic Churches have made a joint appeal for urgent action to tackle the issue of unemployment, warning that unemployment poses “a serious threat for the entire community.”

In a statement released Feb. 25, Manfred Kock, leader of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), and Bishop Karl Lehmann, president of the German (Catholic) Bishops' Conference, said that the current high level of unemployment in Germany was “unacceptable.”

Earlier this month, unemployed people staged protests throughout Germany after the release of figures showing that unemployment in the country had reached a post-war high of 4.8 million.

The two Church leaders made their appeal to mark the first anniversary, Feb. 28, of a major joint statement by the EKD and the Catholic Church in Germany on the “economic and social situation of Germany.”

They said that the publication of this statement a year ago had stimulated a “broad discussion” in politics, economics, and society. However, “the consensus that is necessary to take common steps to overcome high rates of unemployment in Germany” had not been achieved.

Last year's statement had been issued because of the existence of “high unemployment, increasing poverty, and the difficulties and problems in consolidating the welfare state,” the Church leaders said. Since then, the problems facing Germany had worsened. “Unemployment has reached an alarmingly high level. The situation of many young people has deteriorated further, and their position in society remains difficult,” the Church leaders said.

They also warned that “competition and globalization” were weakening the “internal coherence” of society and its “ethical rules.” Last year's joint statement, they said, was a call for a “social and ecological” economy in which human beings were the measure and “not simply the market.”

This week's statement comes at a sensitive time in Germany, which faces a general election later this year, when Chancellor Helmut Kohl will defend his record after 16 years in power.