Appeals against hatred at memorial service following Berlin attack


There were calls for a determined stance against hatred and division on Tuesday evening at a memorial at Berlin's Protestant Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the site of a terrorist attack on a Christmas market a day earlier.

"The power of reconciliation is stronger than hatred," Bishop Markus Droege told the congregation. "We will not allow ourselves to be led into inhumanity by terror."

The church, with its steeple destroyed during World War II, was the centre of a Christmas market through which an as-of-yet unidentified driver ploughed a lorry the previous evening, killing 12 people and injuring dozens.

The battle-scarred church was the right symbol for this dark day, Droege said, adding that Berlin with its war ruins does not cover up or hide its wounds from the past or the present. Among the those listening were leading figures from the German government including President Joachim Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller plus high-ranking officials from the Protestant and Catholic churches, but also leaders from Jewish, Orthodox and Muslim communities.  

The city's mayor later admonished Berlin to hold on to its multicultural togetherness. "We will not let cosmopolitan Berlin be taken by such a cowardly attack, by fear and terror," Mueller said.

Condolences were expressed outside the church as well as outside Germany, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for one expressing his condolences to Merkel by telephone, the Anadolu news agency reported from sources in the president's office in Ankara.

Wellwishers also laid flowers and candles in makeshift memorials outside, including messages that read "you will not win our hatred" and "Terror must not win."

"I am so sad that that has happened here. It really upsets me all over again," a softly spoken French woman told journalists earlier in front of the church, referring to a similar attack in Nice in the summer.

Some 400 people said prayers for the victims of the attack at the city's Catholic cathedral earlier in the day.

Archbishop Heiner Koch called on the congregation to stick together in this hour of extreme need. "Let's close ranks in this night of the terror attack," he said.

It did not help the victims to sugarcoat or trivialise the situation, he said, nor should people trade accusations and become divided by them. Koch thanked the security forces and emergency services for their tireless efforts in saving and taking care of the victims.

The French parliament in Paris held a minute's silence on Tuesday for the Berlin Christmas market victims. National Assembly President Claude Bartolone recalled that a lorry had also been used to kill 86 people during French National Day celebrations on 14 July in the Mediterranean resort of Nice.

One or more of the perpetrators may still be on the loose, police said on Tuesday, after admitting they were uncertain whether a 23-year-old Pakistani suspect taken into police custody was in fact the driver of the vehicle. The suspect has since been released.    (dpa)

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