Chapels in Germany are closed, but outcry reopens them

By June 21, 2006

Germany (MNN) — The international soccer association FIFA closed and sealed the chapels in two world cup venues, only to be forced to reopen them. The Olympic stadium in Berlin and the arena Auf Schalke in Gelsenkirchen are the only soccer venues with chapels in Germany. According to reports FIFA cited security concerns and respect for those of non-Christian religions as the reasons for the closure.

However, in response to widespread Christian protests FIFA reopened the chapel in Berlin. The surprising move came shortly before the Ecuador vs. Germany match on Tuesday.

Operation Mobilization is a part of the Kick Off 2006, an evangelistic campaign centered around the World Cup. OM’s Martin Bateman says having chapels in football (soccer) stadiums is just German culture. “To close them was almost like over the top political correctness I think from the authorities in football, worrying about what the world would think. There’s been a bit of an outcry about it and people have been a bit shocked that they could go so far. It’s good to know they opened up.”

MNN talked to Bateman at Joshua Church in Hamburg where they’re telecasting the games as part of their World Cup outreach. He says literature distribution is key to what they’re doing. “We’ve been distributing brochures and information which has testimonies of some of the Christian players. You may notice in some of the more famous teams, in Brazil, there are three players in the starting 11 who are strong believers in Jesus and give witness to that.”

Bateman says just wearing a national shirt gives you opportunity to share your faith. “People will see your shirt representing Sweden, or England, and want to talk to you. And, you have great opportunity just to share why you’re here — the international volunteers come to serve Jesus.”

Being non-German also helps, says Bateman, especially when they’re talking to students at a nearby school. “They’re willing to hear something about Jesus from somebody who’s a foreigner, rather than hear it from a German. They say, ‘Oh, you’re a German you work for the church, you’re supposed to say this, but the foreigners — oh wow!’ It’s more interesting to hear it from us.”

In the meantime, Bateman is asking Christians worldwide to pray for this outreach because the potential is incredible. “Nine of the nations that are in the World Cup have less the one-percent Christians in their nations and yet they’ve sent thousands of supporters to these championships. And so, we want to interact with those as well and have a chance to share our faith with people who sometimes in their own country won’t hear about Jesus.”

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