The authors of the report estimate that at least 3,500 people have sexually abused at least 2,000 people and say that these figures are only "the tip of the iceberg".

At least 1,259 staff working for the Protestant Church in Germany sexually abused more than 2,000 people, according to a report by an independent organization.

The findings came from a review of documents and records from regional churches and the social welfare organization Diakonie.

The authors of the report estimate that the actual number of perpetrators could be much higher, German news agency dpa reported.

Martin Wazlawik of the University of Hannover, who led the study on sexual violence in the Protestant Church in Germany, described the figures as "the tip of the iceberg".

The Protestant Church launched the study in 2020 and allocated 3.6 million euros for its financing.

The aim was to analyze the internal structure of the church that leads to violence and abuse of power.

The EKD, which represents 19.2 million Protestant Christians in Germany through 20 regional churches, expressed its sympathy to the victims during the presentation of the study in Hanover.

Bishop Kirsten Fehrs of Hamburg, President of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), apologized to the victims.

"As an institution, we too have committed countless crimes against countless people," Fehrs said, adding that she was "deeply shocked" by the overall picture revealed by the study.

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A 2018 report had also revealed records of sexual abuse by clergy members of the Catholic Church in Germany.

That year, the report revealed that between 1946 and 2014, at least 3,677 people had been abused by Catholic clergy, more than half of the victims were 13 years old or younger, and almost a third had served as altar boys.