In his message to Germans living abroad, President Horst Köhler refers to his trips to Africa and the Baltic states, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two and the need for reform in Germany.
President Horst Köhler and the chairman of the African Union Alpha Oumar Konare´ in Addis Abeba in mid-December 2004.
At the time of Advent last year, my wife and I were still living in Washington and, as was customary, our relatives in Saxony sent us a genuine Dresden Stollen, our traditional Christmas cake. We had been looking forward to it, and, sitting, enjoying an Advent coffee, we began to feel a little homesick. Perhaps you are also feeling a particularly strong connection with your homeland at this time of year – your relatives, your friends, your language, and, of course, the way in which your country celebrates Christmas.
A few days ago, I returned from a visit to Africa. I saw extreme hardship and misery, hunger, serious disease and the results of civil war. However, I was impressed by how well the people were coping with their fate. There is so much kindness and zest for life there, and, in spite of everything, strength and courage. You know, it becomes especially clear at Christmas that we are living in one world, and not a first, second or third world. Christmas is also a time to be aware that we are not alone on this earth and that we ought to care for each other, both worldwide and at home.
For we in Germany also have a great deal to do. Our task is to preserve our traditional strengths, but also to rethink in certain areas. This we have begun to do. And in my many encounters with people I have continually felt a spirit of innovation and initiative. We must all pull together. I have a good feeling that we in Germany will make it.
Recently, I was in the Baltic. In the market place of Tallinn I met Estonian students in a mood of buoyant optimism. I felt here what it means to us all to have overcome the division of Europe. Freedom gives people hope, awakens creativity and opens new doors.
In May 2005, we will look back on the end of the war sixty years ago. We have every reason to be grateful that, since then, we have been able to live in a peaceful and free Europe. It is our obligation to continue to commit ourselves fully to peace and freedom. Every one of us can play a part in this – everywhere in the world.
Many of you live abroad and some who have their roots in Germany have lived in other countries for a long time – perhaps for generations. At the same time, you are part of the country and are ambassadors. It may be that you feel this particularly strongly around Christmas time.
I don’t know if you have Stollen where you are, but however you are celebrating Christmas, my wife and I are thinking of you all this evening. May you have a happy Christmas, God bless you, and all good wishes for the coming year.