Christians protesting against mining in Germany have been arrested and identified by police.
– “A stronghold in times of trouble”
This past Monday, on All Souls’ Day, members of the Christian-led campaign “Leave the church(es) in the village” gathered for a protest against local lignite mining on a road between the villages of Keyenberg and Lützerath, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The group had already celebrated a Mass Monday morning near Lützerath, and later processed to the site of their protest, singing and praying and carrying a yellow cross.
The aim of the service, procession and protest – the last held under the slogan “A stronghold in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:9) -was to stop the felling of trees to make way for the expansion of the Garzweiler surface mine, managed by energy multinational RWE.
But local police moved in to stop the protest and to arrest and identify the around activists for gathering illegally and refusing to voluntarily leave RWE property.
– “Fear grows… We cannot and will not accept that”
According to information provided by “Leave the church(es) in the village”, the clearing of trees along the road they protested on “poses an acute threat” to the inhabitants of the villages of Keyenberg and Lützerath.
“Until now, the trees represented a green protective line for the villages and guaranteed a certain distance between the excavators and Keyenberg and Lützerath. When these trees fall, fear grows among the villagers. We cannot and will not accept that”, the activists denounced.
Explaining their ptotest Monday, the members of “Leave the church(es) in the village” said that “as Christians we want to express our solidarity with the villagers and set an example for the necessary protection of the trees”.
– Theologian: Church should “stand up for climate justice and resistance against environmental destruction”
The protests of the “Leave the church(es) in the village” movement date back to 2018, when the church and the entirety of the local village of Immerath was demolished to make way for the Garzweiler mine.
In June this year, the campaign launched a petition denouncing that the churches and villages of Lützerath, Keyenberg, Kuckum and Berverath are likewise under threat from RWE.
The churches in those last three places have already been sold to the energy giant, despite at least 6,000 people signing on to prevent the transfer. The dioceses of Cologne and Aachen have so far ignored their pleas.
Theologian Julia Lis, a supporter of the “Leave the church(es) in the village” campaign, said in June that Christians and the institutional Church should stand by people “who are fighting for the preservation of the villages and thus also… stand up for climate justice and resistance against environmental destruction”. “”Churches are important places of community”, she added.
The petition against the destruction of villages and churches in the Rhenish mining district – which as of this Thursday had gathered over 2,800 signatures – asks:
“Can a company like RWE – a major contributor to global climate destruction – be the ‘owner’ of a church? We say no! We do not accept this right of ownership. Churches are the house of God and of the community that gathers in them”.
“The bishops of Cologne and Aachen made a mistake when they sold the churches. But like all of us, the institutional Church has the opportunity to revise wrong decisions, to reflect and turn back”, the petition continues.
The manifesto appeals to local Church authorities to protect the local villages and churches, to “reflect on your Christian mission to preserve creation”, to “show solidarity with the worldwide movement for climate justice” and to “send a signal of hope: for an end to destruction, for a good life for all in abundance”.