The massive annual Protestant Christian event in Germany - the Protestant Kirchentag (Church Convention) - has commenced on Wednesday 25th May. More than 100,000 people from all over Germany and the world are expected to flock to Hanover to renew their faith in the midst of the declining spirituality across Europe.
Germany, home to the Religious Reformation in the 16th century initiated by Martin Luther, is a country where Protestant churches once blossomed. However, according to recent figures, German churches have experienced a drastic fall in church attendance, a similar trend to most European countries. The German newspaper Deutsche Welle suggested that some 1,424 people joined the Church in 2003, compared to 11,232 who turned their back on it.
Nevertheless, the Protestant Church Convention is expected to renew national interest in religious values. Not only has it drawn the support of believers, it is also backed by many of the country’s leading politicians. Yesterday’s grant opening ceremony was addressed by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and German President Horst Koehler.
The bishop of Hanover, Margot Kassmann spoke to Deutsche Welle, "The Protestant Church is based on values with a future." He was glad that both Schroeder and Koehler are Protestants and the Convention provided them a platform to discuss the best way forward for the country.
According to Deutsche Welle, Kohler said the event could help Germans gather strength for the social changes heading their way, while Convention President Eckardt Nagel proposed that the event was like taking "a stand against society's current depression and pessimism."
The theme of the Convention this year is "When your child, asks, in time to come..." It features over 2,500 talks on topics ranging from globalisation and social equality, to spirituality and faith with an aim to blaze a trail for values designed to kick-start change in Germany.
This year, an increased number of young participants have been observed, which could be part of a wider trend. Especially in the eastern states, religion took a back seat during communist times, but now it comes to a greater expression.
The 30th German Protestant Church Convention will close on Saturday 29th May.