Neo-Nazis suddenly cause trouble in Sulfeld, Schleswig-Holstein, last fall. Pastor Steffen Paar begins to get involved. His efforts have set things in motion in the village.
When Pastor Steffen Paar returns from his vacation last fall, he almost doesn't recognize his congregation. Neo-Nazis cause trouble in Sulfeld and have even beaten up a woman. Many residents of the 3.000-inhabitant villages in Schleswig-Holstein are afraid. The evangelical clergyman does not hesitate for long and begins to get involved. Among other things, it is thanks to his efforts that the situation has calmed down somewhat three months later. But no one in the village will forget what happened so quickly.
Attempt by far-right network
In order: In October, stickers with right-wing extremist slogans were suddenly emblazoned on signs, street lamps and bus stops in Sulfeld. As it turns out, a group around the neo-Nazi Bernd T, who is considered ready for violence, is behind it. behind, who shortly before moved back to his hometown, the nearby town of Bad Segeberg. He is trying to establish a right-wing extremist network and has gathered some supporters around him to do so, according to security authorities. Three of them live in Sulfeld at the time. When villagers organize a cleanup to scrape off the stickers, one of the neo-Nazis shows up. He sprays irritant gas in a man's face and knocks out a woman. The village falls into a kind of paralysis of shock.
When Paar learns of this, he publicly condemns the acts on the Facebook page of his church congregation. He writes to the e-mail address given on the stickers and offers the neo-Nazis a talk. One morning, he finds a sticker on his parsonage as well. On Reformation Day, the pastor pleads in his sermon for a tolerant and open society. Afterward, police say, some 250 Sulfeld residents marched through their village in a public walk to show they will not be intimidated. When they return to the church, the tires are slashed on four cars in the parking lot.
Talks with frightened villagers
Couple is not discouraged. He will speak at a rally in Bad Segeberg and serve hot drinks at the Sulfeld marketplace under the slogan "Brown coffee instead of brown sentiment". At the same time, he conducts pastoral counseling talks with frightened villagers.
For Paar, getting involved was not a big question. The 39-year-old, who styles his hair up and wears colorful sneakers, was previously considered a contrarian in his church. Some time ago, he already made a name for himself with the "Pastor to go" campaign, in which parishioners were able to "borrow" him for house and garden work, for example. The professedly homosexual clergyman made headlines when he married his life partner. On the door of the parsonage where they live together, there is now a colorful sign saying "Colorful not brown".
For his commitment against the right, he has received support from many people in Sulfeld, but also from his regional church. Even from Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) there was praise via Twitter for the commitment of the Sulfelder, who have organized numerous other actions since the incidents in October. However, Paar has also received criticism from the village. "Some people have said to me: You're going too far out on a limb." However, this did not deter the pastor: "As a church representative, I see it as my responsibility to show very clear edges," he says. Although he could not convert the right-wing extremists. "But I can provide clarity by calling a spade a spade, and help overcome fears".
Concert with Sebastian Krumbiegel
Despite several requests from Paar, there is no meeting with the neo-Nazis. Although Bernd T. back to him, and the two even make an appointment. "But he canceled that one half an hour before," the pastor reports disappointedly. Couple chats with other right-wingers on the internet instead. "That helped me understand their attitude," he says. "I still do not share this ideology, but these people have the same concerns as we do: the family, the children, their own well-being."
In the meantime, one of the three neo-Nazis is in custody because he was involved in a brawl elsewhere; another woman has moved away from Sulfeld. "A follower of the scene continues to live here, but is not conspicuous," says Paar. In the village in the meantime a "healthy serenity" had returned.
A reason to retire, however, he said, was not. In his sermons, Paar wants to continue to promote peaceful coexistence. In February, he plans a concert in his church under the motto "Colorful Future" with Sebastian Krumbiegel, the singer of the band "Die Prinzen". He would also like to organize regular discussion meetings. "A lot of things have come up in the village as a result of dealing with the ie of right-wing extremism. People who didn't know each other before suddenly talk to each other. I would like to continue this."