Ecumenical News International

Prayers And Candles Brought Berlin Wall Down

German Churches Commemorate 20th Anniversary With Thanksgiving

November 9, 2009

Berlin, November 9 (idea) ­ Prayers and candles brought the Berlin wall down. They proved stronger than the powers of a decaying Communist dictatorship in East Germany.

The churches in Germany are commemorating the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin wall November 9 with thanksgiving. In 1989 prayer meetings for peace had developed into a mass movement for change in East Germany, which culminated in massive street demonstrations in Leipzig and other cities in 1989.

Finally, the regime's spokesman Guenther Schabowski announced at a press conference in Berlin, November 9, that East Germans would be free to cross the border checkpoints immediately. The resulting mass movement to West Berlin and West Germany brought down the wall after 28 years and led the way to re-unification on October 3, 1990.

Germany's President Horst Koehler and Chancellor Angela Merkel attended an ecumenical worship service in Berlin's Gethsemane-Church, one of the centers of the peaceful revolution in 1989. The Protestant Bishop of Berlin, Wolfgang Huber, praised the courage shown by East Germans who had confronted the brutal might of the regime with candles and prayers.

The chairman of the Roman Catholic German Bishop's Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, called on Christians to continue their bridge building efforts between East and West. The events of November 1989 challenged Germans to continue to show solidarity with people yearning for freedom.

The leader of the (mainline) Protestant Churches in Germany, Margot Kaessmann, proposed to make November 9 a national holiday in Germany. She referred not only to the triumph of the peaceful revolution in East Germany, which still seemed like a "miracle" to her, but also to the national day of shame: On November 9, 1938, Nazis had set hundreds of synagogues and Jewish houses ablaze.

As Kaessmann pointed out, the churches in Germany have made their commitment to reconciliation their central focus ­ reconciliation with Jews and the European nations. The 51-year-old Bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Hanover, was elected chair of the Council of the Protestant Churches in Germany October 28.

Evangelical leaders have warned against a nostalgic glorification of the East German Communist regime. Speaking at a conference in commemoration of the fall of the Berlin wall in Glauchau, November 8, the chairman of the evangelical fellowships in Saxony, Prof. Johannes Berthold, recalled the violent and unjust nature of the regime.

The Stasi ­ the East German Secret Service ­ had more than 90,000 spies on its payroll ­ far more than the 15,000 spies of the infamous Nazi organization Gestapo. The demise of the East German dictatorship had been inevitable, said Berthold, but the revolution without bloodshed and violence was "a miracle indeed". Berthold: "Angels kept the lion's throat shut."



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