Farmers use their tractors and hold a rally blocking access to the Riebeckplatz on the first day of a week of protests on Jan. 8, 2024, in central Halle (Saale), Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. / Credit: Craig Stennett/Getty Images

CNA Newsroom, Jan 8, 2024 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

As farmers kicked off a week of protests Monday, causing widespread disruption across autobahns and other roads in Germany, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference issued a call for unity and peace amid a climate of growing social unrest. 

“In times of challenge and change, it is crucial that we stand together and bridge our differences through dialogue and mutual understanding,” Bishop Georg Bätzing said, according to CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The bishops’ conference president’s comments came before a backdrop of growing discontent in Germany, as the ruling coalition under Chancellor Olaf Scholz faces dwindling support amid a stagnating economy. 

According to a statement from the German Farmers’ Association, a “week of action” will take place throughout Germany from Jan. 8–12, during which agriculture and the transport industry will demonstrate together under the motto “Too much is too much! Now is the time to stop!” A major demonstration is planned for Jan. 15 in Berlin, the German capital.

Bätzing, bishop of Limburg, appealed for unity on Dec 8: “It is our common duty to ensure a just and sustainable future, while firmly rejecting violence and radicalism,” he emphasized.

The call for unity by Bätzing comes as Germany grapples with growing divisions. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck of the Greens suggested protests could be exploited by “extremists,” German state media reported after a ferry carrying the Greens politician last week was refused landing by protesters. 

Despite such rhetoric, further protests have been announced, with the German rail system expecting massive disruptions as the country’s train drivers’ union is gearing up for a strike later this week.  

This means cars and trains carrying millions of commuters across Europe’s most populous nation will likely face massive disruptions this week.

The farmers’ protests have prompted the government to walk back some of the planned cuts to agricultural subsidies, particularly on agricultural diesel. However, this has failed to quell unrest in Germany, which echoes a broader pattern of agricultural and social discontent across Europe. 

In recent months, farmers in the Netherlands and other countries have similarly taken to the streets, protesting against various government policies perceived as harmful to their livelihoods. These protests often concern environmental regulations, trade agreements, and agricultural subsidies. 

Bätzing appealed for peaceful resolutions on Monday: “Let us approach each other and find solutions together that serve the good of all. We must not allow mistrust and anger to gain the upper hand.”

“Instead, strengthened by our faith, we should take the path of peace and cooperation,” the bishop urged. 

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