A Nigerian priest in Germany has been forced to leave his parish over concern for his safety after his car and house were attacked and he received a death threat.
Catholic officials in Germany say the priest, Patrick Asomugha, who is the head of a parish in Queidersbach, a small municipality in western Germany, will leave his post this week.
“Concerns for the safety and wellbeing of pastor Asomugha makes this step unavoidable,” Andreas Sturm, vicar general for the Speyer diocese’s bishop, said in a statement. “It would be irresponsible to continue exposing pastor Asomugha to the threat.”
Asomugha has been head of the parish in Queidersbach since 2017 but his worries began last year after his parish house was broken into by unknown persons.
He subsequently faced racist remarks during church services. According to reports from local media, parents last June were overheard saying: “I won’t let my child be baptized by a black man.”
During communion service, one parishioner is also reported to have said: “I’m not taking anything from those dirty black hands.”
Last fall, Asomugha’s car tires were slashed and this followed with a death threat posted on his garage door. Two days later, unknown persons smashed bottles against the door of his parish house.
“The attack against me have made it almost impossible to lead a normal parish life in Queidersbach,” Asomugha said in a statement.
Church officials say that he had earlier called for peace among people in the community in the wake of racist attacks. Last October, his church even held a “solidarity mass” over these concerns to drum home the need for unity. Nevertheless, the attacks continued.
“Under these circumstances, I can no longer fulfil my duties as a pastor in Queidersbach,” Asomugha said in a statement.
The diocese of Speyer said he would be given a new role during the course of the summer. The local Catholic youth organization, which expressed its “deep shame” over the development, said it was “horrified to see that because of their skin color, origin or other characteristics, people can no longer exercise their professional activity or have to leave their employment”.
In recent years, there have been concerns that Germany is failing in its anti-racism efforts, given the many recent racially motivated attacks in the country.
In 2016, Congolese priest Olivier Ndjimbi Tshiende had to leave his post in Bavaria, Germany, after threats on him due to his race and his work with refugees.