The churches warned against the impoverishment of individual communities, especially in the Ruhr region. The financial crisis of cities and municipalities has the consequence that already structurally weak areas are now hit even harder, said the Bishop of Essen, Franz-Josef Overbeck, on Tuesday evening in Dusseldorf.
The President of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland, Nikolaus Schneider, emphasized the importance of the communities for the whole of society and the fabric of the state. They are the places where people feel that a commitment "to the state" is worthwhile, he said. This identification is in danger, said the president. Schneider and Overbeck spoke at the Social Ethics Colloquium of the North Rhine-Westphalia Study Group Church/Economy.
Overbeck cited the integration of people with a migration background as one of the pressing problems in the Ruhr region. In some municipalities there are worrying radicalization tendencies that endanger the common good. The churches in particular tried to counteract this. They sought "paths of reconciliation" with those who distanced themselves from radical ambitions. In addition, the churches are particularly involved in family welfare, daycare centers and schools, as well as marriage, family and life counseling. In some areas, only the Catholic Church is able to maintain basic hospital services.
Schneider referred to the special knowledge of the churches "about the living situation of the people on the spot". They could bring this even more than before into the planning of politics and administration, said the president self-critically. Another starting point for supporting state tasks is the "great potential of people who are willing to do voluntary work". In addition to providing material support, the churches also work to convince people of their faith, for example by educating them in self-esteem, non-violence and public spirit.
Church help indispensable
However, it must be remembered that the "crisis of the cities is also a crisis of the churches," Schneider clarified. The decline in population, especially in the Ruhr region and Sauerland, is accompanied by a drop in the number of believers. Overbeck stressed that because of the lack of money, the church, too, could do some things "only in an exemplary way".
Gelsenkirchen's mayor Frank Baranowski (SPD) called on the churches not to withdraw from the area. If they do not continue their commitment, for example, to daycare centers and schools, the cities "can no longer be helped. According to Schneider, this is why the state should think about reducing the churches' own contribution to their facilities. The financial resources thus freed up could and would be used by the churches in other ways for the community, said the Praeses to an audience of around 100 from business, politics and the church.
The organizing study group is supported by members of the Catholic dioceses in NRW, the Rhenish, Westphalian and Lippe state churches, as well as the Bildungswerk der NRW-Wirtschaft and the NRW state association of business associations.