Christival, a periodical gathering of Protestant Christian youth in Germany founded in 1976, was meant to be a chance for likeminded young people to meet up and celebrate their faith.
But thousands of attendees at this year's festival in the northern city of Bremen found themselves under siege by leftist extremists determined to protest what they saw as Christian intolerance to homosexuality and abortion.
“There have never been disruptions of this kind in the entire history of the event,” Christival spokesman Steve Volke told The Local on Tuesday. “They tried to storm the festival area. They threw beer bottles at participants. The whole five days of the festival there was always something happening.”
Running from April 30 to May 4, the festival attracted 16,000 youths for speeches, prayer and other religious activities.
Some 230 seminars explored Protestant theology and other issues, but two, in particular, riled the leftists. One titled “Sex is God's Idea – Abortion too?” was held on Saturday, but another, “Understanding Homosexuality – a Chance to Change” was cancelled, according to Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.
The Berlin daily reported that Ulrich Parzany, head of European missionary group ProChrist, had his speech interrupted by two women who kissed near the pulpit while other protestors handed out leaflets labelled "No Christival."
“The mood was stirred up beforehand that it was a festival against homosexuality and abortion,” said Volke. “But it was two seminars out of 230 – and complete nonsense to call it a fundamentalist Christian youth gathering.”
He said the protestors also managed to hack the festival's website so thoroughly that it didn't function properly for the duration of the event. Instead of finding information about Christival, visitors to the site saw a message reading: “We know that faith in God is curable ... we were once strictly religious. Now that's gone.”
“They were real pros,” Volke said. “As soon as we got it back up they hacked it again.”
But he stressed that organizers still considered the festival a success and that participants simply turned the other cheek to the leftist protestors.
One possible reason for the unprecedented disruptions to the Christian youth festival could be Bremen's proximity to Hamburg, where hundreds of anarchist and leftist protestors gathered on May 1 to demonstrate against a neo-Nazi march. The northern port city experienced some of its worst May Day rioting in years, and several people were arrested.