Priest who spoke up for refugees in Germany quits after death threats

The priest said he had received numerous written and verbal death threats, including a letter that advised him: 'Off to Auschwitz with you'

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The Independent Online

An African Catholic priest says he has resigned from his parish in a Bavarian town because he had received numerous death threats and was told to “get off to Auschwitz” after he tried to speak up for the rights of war refugees in Germany.

Olivier Ndjimbi-Tshiende’s resignation was the latest incident in a growing wave of abuse and violence directed against migrants and refugees in Germany. It followed big gains by the recently formed xenophobic Alternative for Germany in local elections at the weekend.

Father Ndjimbi, 66, who is Congolese, took up his ministry at St Martin’s church in the small suburban town of Zorneding, east of Munich, in 2012. He used his sermon on Sunday to tell shocked parishioners that he would be leaving his post in April.

“You cannot imagine what I have experienced here,” he told a Munich newspaper. “The pressure is too great and I am tired.”

The priest said he had received numerous written and verbal death threats and hate mail, including a letter that advised him: “Off to Auschwitz with you.” He said he was warned by a local resident: “We’ll get you after early evening Mass.”

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The hate-mail campaign followed a bitter public row about the more than one million refugees who have fled to Germany during 2015. It involved Father Ndjimbi and local members of Bavaria’s ruling Christian Social Union, which is a sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives.

The dispute erupted after Sylvia Bohrer, who until recently was the local chair of her party, described the refugees as “invaders”. Father Ndjimbi expressed his outrage at the description. But his criticism merely served to anger other CSU politicians, including Ms Bohrer’s deputy, Josef Haindl, who described the priest as “unser Neger” – which translates as “our nigger” or “our Negro”,

Both Mr Haindl and Ms Bohrer were obliged to resign from their party posts after their outbursts. Father Ndjimbi said he had received no apology for the comments. Mr Haindl was reported to have told party colleagues that he never used the word. He was not available for comment on Monday.

A CSU spokesman said he bitterly regretted Father Ndjimbi’s resignation and blamed “psychopaths” for the death threats and racist abuse he suffered. The CSU is strongly opposed to Ms Merkel’s open-door refugee policies and has demanded border controls.

Father Ndjimbi’s resignation coincided with major gains for another of Ms Merkel’s opponents in local council elections in the state of Hesse at the weekend. The AfD, which last month called for the shooting of illegal refugees at Germany’s borders, secured 16 per cent of the vote in the normally staid conservative town of Wiesbaden. The party also notched up double figures elsewhere in the state.

With recent polls showing that 81 per cent of Germans think Ms Merkel’s government has “lost control” of the refugee crisis, the AfD’s performance is expected to be mirrored in key elections in the states of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and east Saxony-Anhalt this Sunday.

Last month, protesters in eastern Germany blocked the path of a bus carrying refugees and their children.  There have been more than 200 attacks against refugee targets over the past 12 months.