Pastor Olivier Ndjimbi-Tshiende, age 66, of Congolese origin, now serving at St Martin’s Catholic church in Zorneding, near Munich, has decided to resign after receiving several racist death threats because of his race and the work he was doing in order to help refugees.
The pastor received postcards which read “off to Auschwitz” and was even the target of racial slurs coming from local politicians from the conservative faction of the Christian Social Union.
After criticizing statements by local CSU leader Sylvia Boher, who according to an article on BBC spoke of an “invasion” of Eritrean “refugees from military service”, the pastor was warned by another CSU member, Johann Haindl, to moderate his statements. Haindl reportedly also used the word “neger” to address Tshiende.
In response to that, Boher declared according to an article published in Quartz magazine that “My colleague and I were deeply disappointed about how the press saw us because it’s not a racist word, it’s just the other way around. Neger does not mean any bad thing. They don’t understand our language and culture.”
The town of Zorneding, population 9,000, received about 50 African refugees in the past year. Angelika Burwick, local refugee advocate, declared that “I think what happened with the priest is not Christian, let alone human. He was always there when you asked for help and was very wise in dealing with people.”
Police are reportedly investigating if there is any link between Boher and Haindl’s remarks and the death threats that the pastor has received. Meanwhile, a petition calling for Tshiende to stay has gained more than 55,000 signatures in a short period of time, and there is even a vigil being organized in order to show solidarity with him.