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Vicar fired for marrying Muslim finally ordained

Julie Colthorpe · 3 Jun 2014, 12:22

Published: 03 Jun 2014 12:22 GMT+02:00

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Carmen Häcker made national headlines in 2011 after she was forced to leave her training course at her church in Baden-Württemberg.

The 31-year-old had always planned to become a vicar and a year before starting her training she spent a year in Bangladesh, where she met and fell in love with Monir Kahn, a Muslim.

Häcker wanted to complete her training in Germany but Kahn was unable to get a tourist visa to Germany, even though her parents were prepared to act as guarantors.

In the end they offered to pay €9,000 for a nine month visa for Italy. “It wasn't exactly around the corner but at least it was on the same continent,” she told the Welt newspaper.

After nine months the visa ran out. Rather than risk Monir's return to Bangladesh, where they may have not seen each other for years, they decided to get married.

Häcker knew this would cause problems with her church as older members of the congregation had already reacted with scepticism towards her Muslim boyfriend. Even the vicar who was training her had warned that the relationship could cause difficulties.

She hoped the church leadership would make an exemption for her. But her hopes were dashed.

She was told that marrying a Muslim was not compatible with the principles of the national church. In spite of this, Häcker and Monir soon got married in Denmark, to avoid causing problems with Monir's visa.

Shortly after the wedding she received a letter with her dismissal. In Evangelist churches the spouse of a vicar must be Christian.

After her dismissal there were protests from her colleagues, who wrote to the church asking for the decision to be reviewed. Her father, who remains a pastor at the church that dismissed his daughter, also wrote to his superior and Häcker herself filed an official complaint.

The media soon picked up on the story and it went nationwide.

“I never asked for this attention,” she told the Welt. “But without the media, I wouldn't have become a vicar.”

Thanks to the attention her story aroused, she was made an offer by a church in the Berlin district Zehlendorf to continue her training there. The church allows vicars to marry non-Christians and she withdrew her complaint and moved to Berlin.

Häcker finished her training in November 2013 and on May 25th this year she was ordained together with 15 other colleagues at the St. Peter and Paul Church in Görlitz on the Polish border.

Häcker, who was ordained in front of 300 people by the Bishop Markus Dröge from the Evangelical Church in Berlin, said she and her husband were very happy living in multicultural Berlin, where she now works at the parish church in the south-east district of Lichtenrade.

“I enjoy the diversity here,” she said. “I fit in here.”

Her husband often comes to the services she gives. “He can pray in the Church just as he would do in a Mosque,” she told the Welt.

SEE ALSO: Gay clergy win right to live with partners

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Julie Colthorpe (julie.colthorpe@thelocal.com)

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