Germany: Congregation backs priest driven out by death threats for defending refugees

The Congolese priest had been preaching in the parish near Munich since

Local people have rallied to the support of a Congolese-born priest in Bavaria who resigned after receiving death threats after speaking up for refugees.

Oliver Ndjimbi-Tshiende resigned after tensions erupted between him and two local politicians from the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) party. The 66-year-old priest had criticised local CSU leader Sylvia Boher who had spoken of an "invasion" of Eritrean "refugees from military service".

The comments were made in reference to a surge in the number of Eritreans seeking asylum in Germany as they flee spending years in military service for awful pay and appalling conditions.

After Ndjimbi-Tshiende's intervention another CSU politician, Johann Haindl, racially abused the priest, who announced his resignation from the parish of Zorneding, near Munich, on Sunday.

According to The Associated Press, two small cardboard banners have been placed on the ground next to Ndjimbi-Tshiende's mailbox, reading "solidarity with the priest" and "arrest those who threatened the murder".

Zorneding's deputy mayor, Bianka Poschenrieder, told AP: "I don't know why he now left in such a rush. It actually seemed like things had calmed down in recent weeks."

She condemned the threats against the priest: "For our community this is very sad and I personally find it horrendous that these death threats have succeeded in pushing our priest out." She said community officials, parishioners and police planned a candlelight vigil on Wednesday night to show their solidarity with the priest.

Bavaria state governor Horst Seehofer also condemned the death threats against the Congolese priest as "unacceptable".

Munich prosecutors say the priest was sent three threatening letters, one with the message "We will send you to Auschwitz", which is regarded as a murder threat.

Germany has struggled under the numbers of asylum seekers making their way into the country and the issue has become deeply divisive politically.