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Nigerian priest leaves German parish over death threats

Father Dr. Patrick Asomugha/Photo: Bistum Speyer

 

A Nigerian Roman Catholic priest has been forced to give up his parish in Germany after a series of racist acts including death threats.

Father Dr. Patrick Asomugha will step down from his parish in Queidersbach, a town of some 3,000 inhabitants in the western state of Rhineland Palatinate, on Monday (20 April) after “massive” intimidation against him, said Vicar General Andreas Sturm, of the diocese of Speyer, in a statement released on Friday.

“The concern for the protection and health of Father Asomugha makes this step unavoidable,” said Sturm. “What has happened in Queidersbach is not only un-Christian, it lacks any humanity”, Sturm continued.

Since the middle of last year there have been repeated hostilities against the priest from Nigeria. First of all he is said to have been racially insulted. In addition to two break-ins into the parsonage with considerable material damage, the tyres of his car were punctured, among other things.

According to the diocese, unknown persons had left a death threat on the priest’s garage door in March. In addition, two days later, two glass bottles with alcoholic contents were smashed in front of the entrance door of the parsonage, where pastor Asomugha also lives.

“Under these circumstances, I can no longer fulfil my duties as a priest in Queidersbach,” said Asomugha, who had been head of the parish of Saint Francis of Assisi since August 2017.

The source of the threats has not been identified, leaving the church with little option.

“It would be irresponsible to continue exposing Father Asomugha to the threat,” said the diocese.

“I would have thought it unthinkable that a brother who comes from other parts of the world and works here should be threatened. But we see no other possibility than to take him out to protect him. It would be irresponsible to continue exposing pastor Asomugha to this threat,” said Sturm. “It’s not that it’s the Queidersbach people here, but a few crazy people who are there, who have no consideration here, but it’s not about the majority of the local people,” he emphasised. Last October, there was also a solidarity service for the African priest in Queidersbach at which about 600 people gave a sign against racism.

The local Catholic youth organisation expressed their “deep shame” and said it was “horrified to see that because of their skin color, origin or other characteristics, people can no longer exercise their professional activity or have to leave their employment,” Sturm said.

Ralph Simgen (CDU), the mayor of Queidersbach, finds it very sad that it has come so far and that Pastor Asomugha is now leaving the congregation: “I am very sorry about all this development. For me as mayor the problem is of course that Queidersbach is in a very bad position. And almost all of us here stand behind our pastor. I can understand that he is leaving the parish, but I personally am very sorry.”

Patrick Asomugha is due to take up a new post in the Speyer diocese later this summer.

In 2016, a German-Congolese Catholic priest left his Bavarian parish to protest against the racist attacks against him, also punctuated by death threats, due to his support for the reception of foreign refugees.

Germany is undergoing an upsurge in anti-migrant feeling, linked with the rise of the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party which is now the main opposition force in the Bundestag with 89 elected officials.

In February, 12 men were arrested across Germany on suspicion of planning attacks on mosques and a week later a racist gunman killed nine people in a lone attack in Hanau.

Two people died in an attack on a synagogue in the city of Halle last October and a pro-migrant politician was murdered at his home in June 2019.

Sola Jolaoso

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