Twenty years ago today, the Berlin Wall fell. Im sure Im not the first source today to remind you of that. It was one of the more hopeful moments of my middle school career, and rather memorable even in small-town Kentucky and without the Internet. Thenand even nowI couldnt really appreciate the depth of the significance of this event for Germany and the rest of the world.
One fascinating piece of the story being remembered this week is the role of the church in the fall. Pastor Christian Fuhrer of St. Nikolai Evangelical Lutheran Church in (at that time) East Germany was interviewed by PBS Deborah Potter about serving during that season. Fuhrer remembers, In [East Germany], the church provided the only free space. Everything that could not be discussed in public could be discussed in church, and in this way the church represented a unique spiritual and physical space in which people were free.
The church began weekly prayer vigils for peace in the early 1980s, a practice that led to the spread of the Gospel as well as the spread of hope for peace and justice. In October of 1989, despite previous violence against protestors, the post-prayer meeting peace walk through Leipzig left the police baffledand non-resistantas 70,000 candle-bearers marched by.
What was their motivation to pray, to risk, to march for peace and justice? Fuhrer answers, We did it because the church has to do it.
Yes, blessed are the peacemakers. And blessed is free space.
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