Several Cabinet ministers have issued uncompromising statements condemning xenophobia and calling for tolerance. This is a clear response to the Pegida movement. In her New Year address Angela Merkel roundly condemned Pegida demonstrations. In the meantime thousands of people have taken to the streets to demonstrate in favour of peaceful coexistence.
In her New Year address Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens not to join the Pegida (German acronym from ‘patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the western world) protests. "Do not follow those who urge you to do so! All too often their hearts are cold, and nurse prejudices or even hatred," she declared.
"Some people have started to shout once again on Monday, 'We are the people'. But what they really mean is – you don’t belong, because of the colour of your skin or your religion," explained the Chancellor. She stressed that it is the most normal and natural thing in the world to help people who turn to us for help and shelter. "That is perhaps the greatest compliment anybody can pay our country – the children of those who have suffered persecution can grow up here free of fear."
In an open letter organised by the daily newspaper Bildzeitung on 6 January actors, sports personalities, prominent members of the business community, representatives of the churches, politicians and other celebrities, including several Cabinet ministers, spoke out forcibly against Pegida.
Federal Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel offered his assurances that Germany is a cosmopolitan and liberal society. "That is something we can be proud of. Anyone who tries to exploit vague fears or fuel xenophobia, does not speak for the majority!"
Federal Family Affairs Minister Manuela Schwesig said, "The people coming to us now are fleeing the barbaric terror of the IS, fleeing war against their families. In Germany there is no place for racism, hatred or anti-Muslim aggression. That is why I say, ‘No to Pegida!’".
Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier reasserted that Pegida not only harms Germany, but that it is projecting a very negative image of the country. "We must make it very clear that those shouting their slogans in a few streets are a tiny minority with a loud voice."
Germany benefits enormously from its open and cosmopolitan society, declared Ursula von der Leyen in her statement. The Federal Defence Minister is firmly convinced that, "Anybody advocating marginalisation and exclusion, anybody closing their hearts to people in need has not only totally failed to understand Christian principles and beliefs, but has also not understood the diversity of our own cultural roots."
"Slogans cannot change the facts of the matter – Germany needs immigrants," says Federal Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. "And we must open our hearts to refugees facing desperate situations."
The Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, Aydan Özoguz, also took a clear stance against Pegida. "Nobody should project their fears or concerns as a package onto other people. We must be aware that diversity has helped make this country the prosperous society it is today."
On 15 December the Chancellor warned people not to let themselves be used by the initiators of movements like Pegida. Of course people are free to demonstrate in Germany, " but there is no place here for stirring up hatred and telling lies about people who have come to us from other countries," she said during the visit of Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to the Federal Chancellery.
Federal Economics Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel also issued a warning against the actions of Pegida. "We cannot accept this rabble rousing against minorities which can explode into violence," he said on 17 December in the newspaper Bildzeitung.
Nevertheless many people feel uncertain and have joined the demonstrations because they believe that the government is not taking seriously their vague fears of "excessive immigration". "We must take them seriously and enter into dialogue with them, without sacrificing any clarity in the debate," declared the minister.