11 November 2009

Did the wall fall because of the churches?

That's the question posed in this article by Emiel Hakkenes in the Dutch newspaper, Trouw. After a set of events at which churches have pointed to their role in the peaceful revolution a justified question to ask. Hakkenes notes how Leipzig pastor Christian Führer from the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig had in a recent television documentary called, "The revolution that came from the churches", had noted the protests in leipzig on 9 October. Said Führer, "Without 9 October there would have been no 9 November".
The church was praying for peace, justice and safeguarding creation, and not only in Leipzig. Under the name "conciliar process" they were also an offical aim of the World Council of Churches ... One of the creators of this conciliar process was the East German theologian Heino Falcke, who would become one of the loudest religious voices against communism. In 1972 he delivered a speech in which he called the church under communism not to abandon society. "We will work there, hoping for a socialism that is open to improvement," he said in his speech.

The conciliar process was picked up mainly in the Netherlands and East Germany, said Herman Noordegraaf, diaconate professor and authority on the history of progressive Christianity. "In East Germany, the church acted as umbrella for various groups and movements in the areas of poverty, environment and peace. They made a substantial contribution to the fall of the regime." ...

Theologian and peace activist Laurens Hogebrink in a recent article said the "concuiliar process was a breeding ground the growing opposition that led to the Wende. The conciliar process in the GDR was a crucial peace process for Europe."

On the other hand, Hakkenes quotes Hans Renner, professor of Central and Eastern European history at the University of Groningen as saying that "in great events, each person or group that is affected wants to point to their role. In the run up to 1989 churches and theologians certainly played a role. There was such a theological movement in Charter 77 in the Netherlands. But it goes too far to say that the role of the churches was decisive."

Read the rest of the article here.


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