15 June 2009

Erfurt remembers more than 3 decades of ecumenical peace prayers

Earlier in this blog I wrote about the peace prayers in Leipzig - even older than the prayers in the GDR's second city are the ecumenical prayers for peace in the Lorenzkirche in Erfurt - said to be the oldest prayers of their kind in the former GDR.

The first ecumenical peace prayer took place in December 1978: the reason was the introduction of pre-military education in GDR schools. This militarisation of educational institutions and society unsettled many people in the GDR and a number of Erfurt citizens gathered to pray together, something made possible by the then Catholic bishop of Erfurt, Hugo Aufderbeck who enabled the prayers to take place in the Lorenzkirche.

From these peace prayers in 1978 there is a direct line of continuity to the GDR's Ecumenical Assembly of 1988 and 1989 both in the ecumenical dimension, and the continuing militarisation of society as a catalyst for disaffection and dissent. The peace prayers in Erfurt also highlight another dimension of the Ecumenical Assembly sometimes overlooked - as well as being a de-facto political event it was also a gathering with long standing and deep spiritual roots.

Following the peace prayers on 18 June, "Zeitzeugen" will look back at the prayers as one of the roots of the peaceful revolution on 1989.

"In autumn 1989 the peace prayers became for a for public debate," recalls Aribert Rothe, director of Erfurt's Protestant city academy, "Meister Eckhart". "Many people found them to be a source of encouragement and motivation for their action. This event is intended to recall the impact of the prayers, and the fact this this power still exists. More than ever there is a need for peace prayers."


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