Members of the AfD already sit in the NRW state parliament. Father Antonius Hamers, head of the Catholic Office in North Rhine-Westphalia, on experiences in dealing with the AfD, the churches’ willingness to talk and the limits of dialogue.
Interviewer: In NRW, you are responsible for the Catholic Church’s dialogue with politicians. Now we have the AfD in parliament, both on the Rhine and in Berlin. What is in store for us? Is there a constructive cooperation possible?
Antonius Hamers (head of the Catholic Office NRW): In North Rhine-Westphalia we have had first talks with individual members of the AfD party. That was so far completely in order. I have made it clear again and again where we see diffrences. But I don’t think that the AfD parliamentary group in the NRW state parliament is necessarily comparable with what is coming at the federal level. The statements of some future deputies are indeed going in a nationalistic direction. In the NRW state parliament there are also only 16 deputies, in the Bundestag there will be over 90. So it will be an even greater challenge for the Bundestag.
Interviewer: Certainly one can say that the atmosphere will change, it will be rougher in parliament. Perhaps also in society?
Hamers: In view of the election results, something obviously needs to be done about the dialogue in society. The success of the AfD in eastern Germany in particular shows that there are many people who no longer feel represented by the moderate parties. A few things have to happen. If the two fringes on the left and on the right together are stronger than the SPD, then that is already dramatic. So it is an important task for the politicians of the moderate parties to make more of an effort to engage in dialogue with the people they have not been able to reach in recent years.
Interviewer: AfD is a party that invokes the Christian West. How should we as Christians deal with this concretely??
Hamers: We in NRW do not withdraw from talks with the AfD, but at the same time we must make the differences clear. We should do the same at the federal level. Against certain positions, of course, we have to oppose quite clearly. But we also have to look within our own ranks to see what the political mood is there. Among Christians, we must always advocate avoiding positions that are incompatible with our Christian image of humanity.
The questions were asked by Renardo Schlegelmilch.