The Benedictine monastery in Kirchschletten in Upper Franconia bears the contemplative name "Maria Frieden". But Abbess Mechthild Thürmer is not granted peace there. The Bamberg district court opened proceedings against them for "aiding and abetting illegal residence".
In the spheres of the superior, something like that means: church asylum. In 2018, she and her eleven co-sisters offered protection to an Eritrean woman who was threatened with deportation to Italy. Her husband was already tolerated in Germany, the couple had just had a child. In Italy, the nun feared, the woman would have had to sleep under bridges, exposed to sexual assault. The nun appealed against a penalty order for 2500 euros. "Helping people in need" is not a criminal offense. The trial was scheduled for last Friday, the date has been postponed. The prosecutor considers the abbess to be a repeat offender and now wants to bundle the violations in one process.
Around 30 people received protection in Maria Frieden, not all cases come before the judge. The court wants to punish the fact that she still grants church asylum to a young woman from Nigeria to this day, although such proceedings in Bavaria are mostly discontinued because of insignificance or the accused accept the punishment. The African had fled her homeland because of forced marriage and circumcision and set foot on European soil in Italy.
The fact that Mechthild Thürmer upholds church asylum so much has to do with European deportation policy. It plays on time: Germany is only allowed to refer those seeking protection back to the responsible EU countries from which they entered within a certain period of time. Afterwards, the asylum application must be examined here. A deportation is then suspended, as was the case with the Eritrean woman.
Inquiries to the Federal Minister of the Interior to suspend the Nigerian woman's deportation went unanswered. Thürmer denies having committed a crime. From her point of view, everything was correct: she informed the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, as well as the immigration office and her church. In doing so, she adhered to the guidelines.
Since the fourth century, the churches have provided protection from distress, regardless of whether a person has committed an aton. It is mercy that prevails here over earthly law.
As of the beginning of July this year, there are currently 357 active church asylums with at least 550 people, including 125 children. 308 of the church asylums are so-called Dublin cases. The superior is committed to ensuring that the transfer to the country of entry is suspended in cases of hardship. But church asylum is not anchored in the law. The nun must be supported by another authority with far-reaching moral credibility.
Churches have provided protection from distress since the fourth century.
Unexpected support came from the Vatican in Rome: The Curia Cardinal Michael Czerny, who is active in the development agency for the topics of migration and flight, praised the steadfastness of the German abbess and said at an Internet seminar to an English magazine: "God bless her!"
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