German Catholics are appealing to citizens not to vote for the “right-wing extremist” AfD or ‘Alternative for Germany’ political party, denouncing that the group has no place in a mature democracy.

– AfD “clearly” not democratic: Cologne Diocesan Council managing director

The managing director of the Cologne Diocesan Council, Norbert Michels, sounded the alarm on the AfD in an August 18 interview with diocesan website Domradio.de.

That was ahead of local elections September 13 in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, of which Cologne is the largest city.

Warning that this year it will be “particularly difficult” to discern who to vote for in the coronavirus-imposed absence of a normal election campaign, Michels urged citizens to have a close read of the programs of the different political parties.

But the Cologne archdiocesan representative said that the local Church had prepared and sent out materials “which says we vote in different colours. This is to say that we want to vote for the democratic parties”.

“I would expressly warn against voting for parties that take on the guise of democratic parties, but are in fact not democratic. And that clearly includes the AfD”, Michels stressed.

– “The AfD does not want certain people in our country… this has nothing to do with democracy”

Pressed for the reasons why he was encouraging voters to boycott the AfD, Cologne archdiocesan representative Michels explained “it has to do with things like human rights. If the AfD does not want certain people in our country, then I say quite clearly that this has nothing to do with democracy”.

“We as Christians have to stand up and say: ‘Wait a minute, that’s not how it works!’ All people are not only equal before us, but above all, equal before God. So we are obliged to show our colours”, Michels said.

Pleading with politicians “to behave like democrats” and to attach more importance in their programs “to the environment and the preservation of creation”, the Cologne Diocesan Council director urged voters to keep in mind the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals when going to the polls.

“For example, it’s about family-friendly living… [and] nature-loving economies. It’s about creating an equal standard of living for all people. It’s about ensuring that all young people receive education”, Michels explained.

Acknowledging that “at the moment it is difficult” under COVID-19 for Christians to stand up to human rights violations, populism and racism, Michels nonetheless encouraged Catholics “to demonstrate with two, three, four, five people and say: ‘It doesn’t work that way'”.

Particularly with regard to racism, the Cologne archdiocesan representative urged believers “to get up and say: ‘This is the limit'”. Whoever is singled out for the colour of their skin “is a person who is loved by God, who must be respected by us as well as all other people”.

– Catholic associations in Aachen: “NOT the AfD!”

Michels’ strong words against the AfD came just days after Catholic associations in the city of Aachen, also in North Rhine-Westphalia, prepared and distributed posters clamouring: “We vote! NOT the AfD!”

Accusing the AfD of “right-wing hate, populism and group-focused enmity” in contradiction with Christian values, the Aachen Catholic groups denounced the party’s nationalistic and racist reinterpretation of ideas like ‘tradition’ and ‘homeland’.

“We do not want right-wing extremists and inhumane parties to have a say in our town halls”, the Council of Aachen Catholic associations insisted.

With 89 seats in the 709-member parliament, the AfD is the largest opposition group in Germany’s Bundestag.

Though it portrays itself as a bastion of traditional Christian values, the AfD’s principal political pitch is against the “Islamification” of Germany and the promise to achieve “negative immigration” into the country.

More on Novena on German Church warnings against the AfD:

17/2/20: Churches stand up to far-right in Dresden: “We need peacemakers, not pyromaniacs”

14/2/20: Münster diocese bans far-right AfD members from Church leadership roles

19/12/19: German Church leaders condemn far-right: “Nationalism and Catholicism are mutually exclusive”

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.