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German pastor who set himself on fire was ‘worried about Islam’


A retired Protestant pastor in Germany has died after dousing himself with petrol and setting himself on fire, leaving behind a note saying he was worried about the spread of Islam.

Roland Weisselberg, aged 73, died in a special clinic on 1 November after setting himself alight the previous day at a service in the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt in eastern Germany to mark Reformation Day.

Bishop Axel Noack, who heads the regional Protestant church that includes Erfurt, said he was deeply shocked at the news about Weisselberg’s death.

Erfurt’s Protestant provost, the Rev. Elfriede Begrich, said after meeting Weisselberg’s widow that he had left a letter where he wrote that he was "concerned about the spread of Islam in Germany". She said that in recent years Weisselberg had repeatedly called on the church to deal more intensively with Islam.

Onlookers reported that before he covered himself in petrol, Weisselberg had stated, "Jesus and Oskar".  This was assumed to be a reference to Oskar Bruesewitz, a Protestant pastor who burned himself alive in 1976 in protest against the communist government that ruled East Germany until 1989.

Bishop Noack acknowledged failures in the way that churches had related to other religions and cultures, and, especially in eastern Germany, there was little "experience of dealing with each other in everyday life".

At his retirement in 1989, Weisselberg was pastor of the Windischholzhausen district of Erfurt, the capital of the regional state of Thuringia.

(c) Ecumenical News International