Dresden protests: Christians march against anti-Islamisation 'pinstriped Nazis'

Scenes from Monday's demonstration called by anti-immigration group PEGIDA in Dresden. Several thousands opponents of Germany's policy towards asylum seekers and Islam took part.

Christians and others in Germany have joined forces to fight for a pro-immigration stance against the growing anti-Islamisation protests.

While more than 10,000 people marched in Dresden last night under the banner of Pegida, Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West, a further 5,000 marched alongside them in opposition to the anti-immigration platform.

Around 600 Christians joined those marching against Pegida after meeting to pray for peace at the Kreuzkirche, or Church of the Cross, in Dresden city centre.

Lutheran Superintendent for Dresden, Christian Behr, the pastor at the Kreuzkirche, told Christian Today: "We want to say it's not important [to be] against, we want to be pro-immigrants and pro-Muslims in our area."

He said the protests against Islamisation and immigration were founded on fear.

"Most people don't know people from other countries. There is a great fear of foreigners," he said. Behr said people were also worried that Islamist violence seen around the world could reach Germany.

About 200 Pegida protestors began meeting in the eastern city nine weeks ago as a peaceful campaign against immigration, but last night's meeting attracted more than 10,000 people carrying German flags and signs with slogans such as "No Sharia in Europe" and "Against religious fanaticism".

They have been dubbed the 'pinstriped Nazis', though Pegida has tried to distance itself from far-right groups. Pegida admits it is not "politically correct" but treats Nazi ideology with the same contempt it treats Islamic State, with the advertisement for last night's protest on Facebook depicting a Swastika alongside the black IS flag in a rubbish bin.


In a 19-point position paper Pegida also claims to support asylum for refugees fleeing war, and religious freedom, including welcoming Muslims who are integrated in German society. But they say they are against Islamist fundamentalism and any hint of Sharia law in Germany, claiming they want to protect Germany's Judaeo-Christian heritage.

Lutz Bachmann, a 41-year-old graphic designer who runs his own PR agency, and who has admitted to previous criminal convictions, instigated the Pegida protests in October in response to plans to open 14 centres for refugees in Dresden.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas described the protests as "a shame for Germany".

Christians were among thousands of counter protestors present during Pegida's demonstration.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said "There's freedom of assembly in Germany, but there's no place for incitement and lies about people who come to us from other countries. Everyone [who attends] needs to be careful that they are not taken advantage of by the people who organise such events."

Germany's immigration figures are now second only to the United States, and around 200,000 people have tried to seek asylum in Germany this year, partly due to the influx from Syria. However in Dresden, the number of immigrants is one of the lowest in the country.

The church in Dresden has been meeting to pray for peace on Monday evenings for the past 30 years, with the latest controversies leading to a surge in numbers.