German President Christian Wullf used his annual Christmas speech to remind the country of the Christian message of tolerance and understanding.
"Respect and recognition for those who are different"
President Christian Wulff used his first annual Christmas speech to call on his fellow Germans to show social involvement and mutual respect.
"Solidarity, understanding and getting along with one another: We need this in our families, in our private lives and in society," Wulff said. "This won’t happen on its own, we need to work at it."
The president noted that Christmas is a time when everyone seeks to spend time with those who are near and dear to them, while at the same time focusing on helping the less fortunate.
Around 190 guests were present for the recording of the speech at Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the president, among them, schoolchildren, scouts, and police officers. The president singled out those who do voluntary work - in its many forms - for particular praise.
While the state can help those in need through financial support, he said, it can't provide the necessary human touch.
"Encouragement, a pat on the shoulder and reaching out a helping hand is important for humanity and needs people to do it," he said. "And by the way, people engaged in voluntary work in society live longer."
More than 2,000 years on, the desire for peace remains
Wulff also reaffirmed his commitment to Germany’s multicultural society, describing Germany as "free and diverse." The president highlighted the many differences between citizens, in terms of religion, education, and their hopes and dreams.
"In order for such a diverse society to continue to thrive in the long term, we need one thing above all, respect," he said. "Respect for those who are different while at the same time recognizing them for their achievements."
Germany as a role model
The president noted that Germany is well respected in the world for its peaceful and tolerant society, and its reliability when dealing with other nations, both great and small. And he said Germany was prepared to take on greater responsibilities beyond its borders, including within Europe. At the same time, though, Germany he said, expected the same from its partners.
"We trust in a united Europe and the influence that Europe can have," he said.
The president then used his speech to thank not only the many German soldiers, policemen and aid workers who are serving abroad, but also their families, who are unable to see their loved ones at this special time of year.
Before extending Christmas wishes to all Germans, the president alluded to the Christmas story, saying that the desire for peace on earth expressed at Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago remained a constant, even today.
Author: Andreas Illmer
Editor: Chuck Penfold