“Fridays for future” at the kirchentag: energetic nodding of the head

Of course, climate protection is also on the agenda at this year’s Kirchentag. But often only those who are already in agreement talk to each other.

Luisa Neubauer met with broad agreement on climate protection at the Kirchentag Photo: imago-images/epd

"The people who have contributed the least are the first victims of climate change," says Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany. And adds, "One part of humanity lives at the expense of the other part. This must stop." Great applause in the packed exhibition hall in Dortmund.

In the year of Fridays for Future, several events at the Protestant Church Congress are dedicated to the topics of climate change and environmental protection. Moderator Ines Pohl asks the self-critical bishop: "Shouldn’t the church also offer civil resistance?" Bedford-Strohm wants to know what this should look like.

But that is what the Ende Gelande alliance has been demonstrating for several years. Parallel to the church congress in the Ruhr area, thousands of young activists in the neighboring Rhineland want to disrupt the infrastructure of open-cast lignite mines this weekend for the fifth year in a row.

Once again, the mass action addresses the opencast mines of the energy giant RWE, which came under massive criticism last year with the planned clearing of the last remnants of the Hambach Forest. Climate protection must happen now, time is pressing and political decisions are too slow, is the message both at Ende Gelande and in several speeches at the Kirchentag. These are the interfaces where Christians and climate activists meet.

Words of praise from the German President

The students’ protests of Fridays for Future are also joining forces with Ende Gelande this weekend. They are planning a large protest on the edge of the Garzweiler open pit mine. Co-organizer Luisa Neubauer made a stopover at the Kirchentag beforehand – for the "Taskforce Hope", as she said in her interjection on the panel "Environment, Climate and Justice – Act Today".

She urged Kirchentag visitors* to join in the strike for climate protection – "after all, it wouldn’t be the first time that the church has been involved in a revolution. I’m counting on you" – broad smiles, minutes of applause and standing ovations for the student, the Kirchentag visitors are fans. Next to Luisa Neubauer stood Eckart von Hirschhausen, one of the celebrities who is scientifically committed to climate protection with the Scientists for Future initiative.

Luisa Neubauer

"It would not be the first time that the church has been involved in a revolution.

Those who were missing from the podium with Neubauer, Hirschhausen and Bedford-Strohm were the politicians. At the opening service, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier found words of praise for the student protests, but a real confrontation with the activists was not to follow. NRW Minister President Armin Laschet also came to welcome the Kirchentag visitors in Dortmund. But some of his first words were: structural change, coal, jobs. Of course, after all, we are here in Dortmund, in the Ruhr region.

In fact, in the past, Laschet repeatedly represented the economic interests of the energy company RWE in the discussion about a rapid lignite phase-out, condemned activists from the occupation of the Hambach Forest, and voiced criticism of the Fridays for Future movement.

What does it take? A courageous policy!

So he did not come to the panel with Neubauer and the others, who were basically already in agreement beforehand. So the church congress visitors heard an impressive statement from the Swedish scientist Professor Johan Rockstrom of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, how urgent climate protection is and what possibilities there would be in the field of renewable energies, if the political will were there.

Church congresses among evangelical Christians means taking seriously what is negotiated, discussed, mulled over and directly brought up for discussion there.

In Dortmund the focus is on topics such as migration, feminism, climate and the environment. Typical taz topics, in other words.

That’s why we are also accompanying the Kirchentag: on site and with four daily special pages in the newspaper. The taz Panter Foundation has sent 9 young journalists to the Ruhr region for this purpose.

And what about the topic of sustainability at the Kirchentag away from the podium? For the most part, there are organic catering stands in front of the Westfalenhalle, there is less disposable crockery than at other major events, and the Kirchentag ticket allows the use of local transport, so that cars are left standing wherever possible. However, the Kirchentag does not create sufficient awareness of the fact that a clear reduction in meat consumption would also be useful for climate protection. A large part of the food on offer is grilled, and people are biting into sausages everywhere.

The long applause, energetic nodding of heads and murmuring in the hall at the end of the panel show: The participating Christians and the young climate activists already agree – what is missing for climate protection: courageous politics – and that needs courageous politicians.