Germany's Gauck: Christmas Equally Important for Muslims, Jews, Atheists
Christmas Eve has begun in Germany with the release of President Joachim Gauck's address, his first since assuming office in March.
Germany's former Protestant pastor, turned head of state, said many people yearned for the Nativity message of peace as symbolized by the Christ child in the crib because worldwide "in reality so much discord, so much warfare, prevails," Deutsche Welle reported.
President Gauck's televised address, his first since assuming office in March and released on Monday initially as text, is to be broadcast nationwide on the evening of Christmas Day, Tuesday.
Christmas, he said, was equally important for Muslims, Jews, and people of other faiths as well as atheists because for them too it was a festival of contemplation and charity.
Germany, said Gauck, offered asylum to persecuted foreigners with an "open heart," although it would never be able to take in all those who wanted to come.
Referring to his visit last week to German soldiers deployed as NATO personnel in northern Afghanistan, Gauck said he was impressed by the way the troops were tackling terrorism while protecting and assisting the local population.
The trip, he said, had reminded him that 60 years of peace in Europe were precious, thanks to the idea of a united Europe.
"Only too rightly did the European Union receive (this year's) Nobel Peace Prize," Gauck said. "The next question though is whether our political resolve will be able to keep together what is so economically and culturally diverse."
Despite the euro zone debt crisis, Germany had coped with the situation well and remained stable, Gauck said.
"Radical parties have not been able to profit from situations in which part of the population is unsettled."
"They are unsettled in the face of a way of living that has become faster, incomprehensible and instable. The gap between poor and rich is widening and climate change requires new answers as does demographic aging."
"We are gravely concerned about violence - at railway stations and on the street, where people are attacked because they have black hair or dark skin," said Gauck, referring to past attacks by xenophobic extremists within Germany.
Gauck said his thanks went therefore to a multitude of dedicated women and men who through their efforts wanted to make Germany more "endearing and humane."
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