eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


  • March 2016 : Towards the end of the “welcoming culture” (Willkommenskultur) in Germany ?

We can remember images of the outburst of solidarity and generosity of the German population - a sign of this welcoming culture (Willkommenskultur) - greeting floods of refugees in Munich station during summer 2015, while at the same time other European countries were already making preparations to close their borders. The German government announced as of September 2015 that it was going to release an additional six billion euros to take care of asylum applicants and refugees in 2016. This massive commitment by Germany to welcome migrants mainly originating from Syria and Iraq can be explained in particular by economic and demographic reasons, but it is also a moral obligation for Chancellor Angela Merkel. We cannot, however, ignore that the continuous flow of migrants is fuelling growing doubts among a section of the population about the Chancellor’s migration policy and Germany’s capacity to integrate such migrants socially, economically and culturally. We also cannot ignore that recurring attacks and xenophobic violence targeting reception centres for asylum applicants or migrants’ accommodation have continued to multiply in recent months.

In this increasingly explosive context, it is legitimate to wonder whether the theft, violence and sexual attacks to which hundreds of German women were subjected on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and in other large cities in the country do not spell the end for the Willkommenskultur in Germany. Many issues relating to these attacks have not been cleared up to date, but Cologne’s public prosecutor nevertheless revealed in February that more than 1,000 complaints had been recorded (of which about half for sexual offences) and that among the 73 suspects under investigation, the police had identified 30 Algerians, 27 Morrocans, 4 Iraqis, 3 Tunisians, 3 Germans, 3 Syrians, 1 Libyan, 1 Iranian and 1 Montenegrin, a very large majority of whom had come to Germany in 2015. The foreign origin of the attackers and their religious affiliation to Islam, used to explain the violence which occurred on New Year’s Eve, provoked violent debates in the media and on social networks. Beyond the traumatism which such an event represents in the very multicultural city of Cologne and more widely in Germany, we may wonder about the reasons for which these events were initially hushed up or played down by the Cologne police (see Presseportal) or by certain media. Through self-censure, keeping silent to avoid being accused of Islamophobia and denying that problems relating to integration are not only of an economic order, are we not risking playing into the hands of individuals or xenophobic groups, the anti-Muslim Pegida movement (“Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”) or of the populist AfD (“Alternative for Germany”) Party, whose rise does not seem to be slowing in advance of the upcoming regional elections in three Länder on 13 March next year ?

Faced with the immense challenge that the refugee crisis represents, it is important not to be content with moral posturing nor yielding to invective, but to enable debates on economic, demographic and cultural (religion, values…) issues to take place in total freedom.

For further information, see Die Zeit et Die Welt.

  • February 2016 : Church tax and exits from the Church

Since 2010, there has been an increase in “exits from the Church”, i.e. the number of members of the Protestant or Catholic Churches who state they want to leave this institution (in 2012, this phenomenon prompted a decree of the Episcopal Conference and a decision of the Federal Administrative Court, see the current debates 2012).

An “exit from the Church”, or Kirchenaustritt, is a purely administrative act. To be struck off the registers of believers, one needs only go to the Civil Registry or the District Court, depending on one’s Land of residence. It should be recalled that in Germany, religious communities can charge a religious tax, Kirchensteuer, which is deducted from income at the source and paid to the corresponding Church by the tax office. In 2013, the Churches reportedly collected nearly 10 billion in taxes in this manner. Record figures were reached in 2014 with more than 217,000 departures from the Catholic church and some 270,000 from the Protestant church (in 2012, they recorded 118,000 and 138,000 departures respectively). According to the explanations put forward, some members of the Churches had reportedly anticipated from 2014 the new tax regulation that came into effect on 1 January 2015, which extends the Church tax to capital income for earnings greater than 801 euros for a single person and 1602 euros for a couple. This reform has not sat well with the faithful, many seeing it as collusion between the Churches and the banks, since it is the banks that deduct the tax directly from the accounts of those of their clients who belong to a Church, via an automatic collection procedure, using information received from the tax authorities about their clients’ religious affiliation. Yet this measure should probably be seen only as a trigger, revealing the increasingly frayed ties between the faithful and the institutional churches.

For more information, see : Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung et Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.

D 5 avril 2016    ASylvie Toscer-Angot

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