Prominent Lutheran warns of dangers for democracy in arbitrary justice

By Stephen Brown
4 May 2013

The hunger strike at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay shows how the credibility of a democracy is threatened by the denial of justice, Margot Kässmann, one of Germany's most prominent Protestants, has warned.

"For 11 years people have been interned there, without charge and without trial," said Kässmann in an address on 2 May to 7000 people at the German Protestant Kirchentag (church congress) in Hamburg.

Guantanamo is an example of arbitrary justice that should be unthinkable in democracies based on the rule of law, she said. Another example is the treatment of asylum seekers, assigned to compulsory residence far from city centres, prohibited from employment, and unable to learn the language of the country in which they are living.

"This may not be illegal in the strict sense, but it is nevertheless perceived as arbitrary justice," said Kässmann, former head of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the country's main Protestant grouping.

"We need to ask whether the law in our country should mean that people are not allowed to move freely, to work to to go to school," she said.

More than 115,000 people are attending the 1-5 May Kirchentag, a once-every-two-year event and Germany's largest regular Protestant gathering.

In her address, Kässmann was expounding a parable of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke in which an unjust judge finally offers justice to a poor widow because she refuses to give up her demands.

"She got on his nerves ... And sometimes you have to get on people's nerves," said K?ssmann. "I hope that Christians are willing to get on people's nerves when it is a question of legality, human dignity, justice, peace and the integrity of creation."

Kässmann, a former Lutheran bishop of Hanover, is now the special representative of the EKD for the 500th anniversary in 2017 of the Lutheran Reformation.

Web: http://www.kirchentag.de/en/en.html

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© Stephen Brown is an experienced ecumenical and current affairs journalist. He is an Ekklesia associate, and reporting directly from the Kirchentag for us.

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