Accompanied by violent protests, the missionary youth congress "Christival" opened in Bremen on Wednesday evening. During the opening ceremony, about 100 black-masked youths threw firecrackers, tore down a barrier fence and stormed towards the stage. Stewards and police officers managed to push them back. To the congress under the motto "Jesus moves" the theologically conservative organizers expect until Sunday about 16.000 permanent participants from all over Germany.
An alliance "No Christival" had called for the demonstration against the congress, because they accuse the organizers of Christian fundamentalist positions. The Christival discriminates against homosexuals and women seeking abortion, said co-organizer Claudia Albrecht. Extremely conservative world views are spread in modern garb and with pop culture. According to police, around 500 demonstrators took part in the protest march. Other estimates put the figure at 1.000 participants from. Further rallies of the critics are planned for Saturday.Two of the violent protesters were arrested by police. Preliminary proceedings were initiated against the 18- and 19-year-old young men for breach of the peace. One officer was slightly injured during the arrest. During the opening show on stage, congress opponents hung a banner on the roof of the neighboring exhibition center with the words "Christival abort", but it was soon removed again.Months ago, a controversy arose over seminars against homosexuality and abortion, which made headlines throughout Germany.A course under the heading "Understanding Homosexuality – Opportunity for Change" has since been canceled. A seminar against abortion is scheduled for Saturday. The event was organized by the Heidelberg-based association "Die Birke" (The Birch). "The distinguishing mark of Christians is love" Berlin-based cabaret artist and evangelist Torsten Hebel called about 10.000 opening guests urged to be tolerant of Christival critics. "The distinguishing mark of Christians is love," he said. "This means showing respect to other people, even if they have a different opinion." He warned visitors against a "Christian cuddle corner". "You are not here for yourselves. Let's develop social relevance and use our penetrating power."Leading representatives of Protestant regional churches had declared their solidarity with the Christival before the event began. The chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Bishop Wolfgang Huber of Berlin, plans to visit the festival this Friday. The congress is aimed mainly at young people between 16 and 26 years old who volunteer in church and society. The program includes more than 300 seminars, Bible studies and other activities.