Black German priest quits diocese after death threats, racial insults

Olivier Ndjimbi-Tshiende © Stefan Rossmann
A black German Catholic priest has given up his diocese in an Upper Bavarian town after receiving numerous death threats and racial insults. The pater was told to “get off to Auschwitz” after trying to speak up for refugees in Germany. 

Father Olivier Ndjimbi-Tshiende, 66, a Congolese-born Catholic priest, took up his ministry at St. Martin’s church in the small suburban town of Zorneding, east of Munich, in 2012. He used his last Sunday mass to tell shocked parishioners that he would be leaving his post in April.

“You cannot imagine what I have experienced here,” he said. “The burden is too great and I am exhausted.”

The priest said he had received numerous written and verbal death threats and hate mail, including a letter that told him: “Off to Auschwitz with you.” According to Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, he was once warned by a local resident: “We’ll get you after early evening mass.”

The hate-mail campaign came amid the growing refugee crisis that Germany is facing. The heated debate on migrants involved Father Ndjimbi-Tshiende and local members of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), a sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU).

Sylvia Boher, who until recently was the local CSU chair in Zorneding, described migrants arriving in Bavaria as “invaders” and accused Eritrean refugees of trying to escape mandatory military service by fleeing to Germany. 

Father Ndjimbi-Tshiende expressed his outrage at the description, but this only served to anger other local CSU politicians, including Boher’s deputy, Josef Haindl, who allegedly referred to the priest as “unser Neger” in an article for Ebersberger Zeitung – roughly translated as “our ni**er” or “our Negro” – Badische Zeitung newspaper reported. 

Both Boher and Haindl were forced to step down from their party positions after, but the priest said he had received no apology for the comments. 

CSU party chief and Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer said on Monday the death threats were “fully unacceptable,” urging “zero tolerance in Bavaria” towards similar cases. The center-right CSU is demanding a drastic change in the government’s refugee policy and claims the number of asylum seekers is too high to manage. 

Piet Mayr, mayor of Zorneding, told media his town is “quite a normal community” and “not a Nazi-spot,” blasting “psychopaths” for the death threats received by the priest. 

Father Ndjimbi-Tshiende is planning to leave the town in April, according to a statement from the Munich archdiocese, which expressed regret at his decision. Explaining that the priest does not want any interviews to be given, the statement says he abandons his post with a “feeling of relief,” having no “bitterness about his time in Zorneding.”