5 November 2009

Candles - church - controversy

I am off to Erfurt today for a conference on writing the history of the churches in the GDR: "Candles - church - controversy". Twenty years after the events of 1989, the meeting is to ask whether the history of the churches in the GDR has now been " ausgeforscht" - fully researched. In the immediate years after 1989 there was an explosion of interest in the role of the churches in the GDR, seen as being a motor for the changes of 1989. Then came the time of the opening of the Stasi archives, when the Protestant church, at least its leaders, far from being seen as the heors of the revolution, were portrayed as more or less willing accomplices of the ruling Socialist Unity Party, and its "sword and shield", the Stasi.

"After the peaceful revolution, the was a huge wave of contemporary historical studies, which were able to have access to an extraordinary extent of archival material," said Michael Haspel, co-organizer of the meeting and director of the Protestant Academy in Thüringen. "Since then the historical debate about the role of the Protestant church has quietened down. The symposium has to answer the question about the significance and problems of the issues after twenty years of intensive historical research."

The event is part of the "Gesegnete Unruhe" (Holy Disorder) campaign of the Evangelical Church in Central Germany which inspired this blog, and which was launched in Erfurt in April. My blogging began with a trip through eastern Germany on the trail of the 20th anniversary of the Ecumenical Assembly of 1989. Since then I have been following in real time the six months that followed the final session of the Ecumenical Assembly through the popular protests of autumn 1989. Such a short period of time - a sign that change does not happen only in an incremental linear fashion.


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