A Congolese-born priest has quit his parish in Bavaria after enduring anonymous murder threats and racist remarks from two local politicians. The state's Green party has called on premier Horst Seehofer to intervene.
A stand by Olivier Ndijimbi-Tshiende (pictured above) last year against local anti-migrant rhetoric culminated on Monday in multiple assurances by Bavaria's governing conservatives that their Christian Social Union (CSU) party stood for tolerance and human rights.
Premier Seehofer, who for months has railed publicly against Merkel's open policy toward refugees, reacted to the scandal involving two chastised CSU members in the town of Zorneding - on the southeastern fringe of Munich's metro train system - by saying that Bavarian police must investigate the case fully, using the full weight of the law.
"I condemn this totally," said Seehofer. "Nil tolerance is the benchmark in Bavaria."
The opposition Greens leader in Bavaria's assembly Margarete Bause called on Seehofer to visit Zorneding and show his personal support for Ndjimbi-Tschiende, who, via his secretary, said on Monday he needed a quiet time out.
Archdiocese backs pastor
Munich's archdiocese, headed by the chairman of Germany's Catholic Bishops' Conference, the liberal Cardinal Reinhard Marx, said Ndjimbi-Tschiende had been subjected to "numerous murder threats and utterly vile racist insults."
Some reports spoke of five threats. These included a postcard received by Ndjimbi-Tschiende in November containing a reference to Auschwitz, according to police.
Archdiocese spokesman Bernard Kellner denied rumors that managerial issues had prompted the 66-year-old philosophy professor and naturalized German to announce his resignation as local pastor on Sunday, effective from April 1.
"We are shocked and saddened about the [murder] threats," said Zorneding's congregation on the website of the church, St. Martin, on Monday.
Mayor Piet Mayr, himself a CSU representative, told Bavarian public radio that he was genuinely sorry and was sure that the town's 9,000 residents harbored no general malice.
Pastor objected to commentary
Last October as Germany debated the onset of Europe's refugee crisis, both Ndjimbi-Tschiende and his supporting Catholic parish committee objected to a commentary in a political party publication written by local CSU chairwoman Sylvia Boher.
She had gone further than Seehofer in criticizing Chancellor Angela Merkel by claiming that "'Bavaria is currently being overrun" by an "invasion" and describing the three-term chancellor as a "FDJ functionary," a reference to Merkel's youth movement training in the former communist East Germany.
Insults from Boher's second-in-charge, local CSU deputy chairman, Johann Haindl, including the word "nigger," resulted in censure from powerful CSU district head Ilse Aigner.
Boher and Haindl were removed from their chairmanship roles. Boher kept her town council mandate. Haidl quit his seat, according to the German news agency DPA.
Condemnation from Aigner
On Monday, Aigner, who is currently an economy minister in Seehofer's Bavarian cabinet, said she severely condemned the turn of events in Zorneding and deeply regretted Ndjimbi-Tschiende's resignation.
Upper Bavaria's police headquarters based in Ingolstadt on Monday played down reports that the intimidation amounted to murder threats, saying it had no leads on who had authored the postcard and two further letters received in January by Ndjimbi-Tschiende.
The Catholic news agency KNA said Bavaria's Staatschutz security service was probing the case on the grounds of slander, incitement to racial hatred and intimidation.
'Human dignity and tolerance'
CSU General Secretary Andreas Scheuer on Monday said he condemned the threats against Ndjimbi-Tschiende in the sharpest terms.
"The CSU stands for human dignity and tolerance," said Scheuer.
Studied philosopy in Munich
Ndjimbi-Tschiende, who originates from Sintu in the Atlantic coastal region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, studied philosophy in Munich between 1986 and 2001 and began work as pastor at Zorneding's St. Martins church in 2012.
The congregation on its website said Monday Ndjimbi-Tschiende was not available for interviews, adding that a private petition had been started to persuade him to stay in Zorneding.
ipj/jil (KNA, dpa, AFD, AP)