26 August 2009

It was 20 years ago today ...

Markus Meckel and Martin Gutzeit presented publicly on 26 August 1989 the initiative to found a Social Democratic Party ...

16 August 2009

Taling 'bout a (peaceful) revolution

How to make a revolution. Take a bunch of candles, some prayers and some Taizé chants. Encourage people to come together in small groups to pray for peace to write about peace to talk about how to build peace in a violent world. A warning: it may take years, decades even but every little humanising effort can make a contribution.
Twenty years ago in East Germany that is how it started. Yet actually it began long before. People kept civil society as alive as they could by refusing to bear arms during their military service, or by organising telephone trees if someone got arrested, by meeting in peace, ecology or women's groups, by writing undergound papers and journals, by keeping contacts outside their own context alive, by refusing to take the state "Jugendweihe", by going to church, by organising crazy activities like trying to keep a real tally of how many people really voted in the undemocratic elections or measuring the polution from a chemical factory, by refusing to keep their minds closed even if the borders of their country were.
Today many of those who were the key actors at the forefront and also behind the scenes of East Germany's peaceful revolution are still doing ordinary jobs, raising families, looking after churches, organisations, people ... Some have gone into politics but many are still working at the local level. Even though the system has changed they are still trying to keep the flames of civil society alive, just because walls and barbed wire iron curtains come down does not mean that a country's social tissue doesn't need to be worked on. Just because you have the privilege to live in a democracy doesn't mean your only contribution to civil society is when you vote.
20 years ago this weekend Dr B and I set off for Berlin from Brussels. I was about to live through an extraordinary year. Without those previous decades in the GDR of many people bearing witness to other truths, sometimes in quiet and humble ways, sometimes in creative and confrontational ways, then the extraordinary developments of 1989 could never have been.
Listening to the depressing and sad news from Burma in recent days and weeks, Aung San Suu Kyi's trial and further imprisonment, I have been hoping and praying that the efforts of all those working for the good of civil society there may also one day be celebrated. Maybe some of them will also live to see real fruits of their courageous attempts to continue building civil society. Resistance has been deeply costly for many of them.
It doesn't take much to change things for the better - every little humanising effort does play its role. Yet it also takes so much ... courage, commitment, resistance, belief, motivation ... and of course time.

Posted by Jane

13 August 2009

The Berlin Wall

Today marks the 48th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall, and the almost-20th-anniversary of its opening during the GDR's autumn revolution. Marking the anniversary, the Links Verlag has produced a book about the victims who were killed trying to get over, under, or through the wall. As the book points out, some of the victims became known through the media. But even today the number, the identity and the fate of the victims is largely unknown. How many people actually lost their lives at the wall? How did they die? Where did they come from? How were their families or friends dealt with? This is a handbook setting out biographical details about the lives and deaths of the victims at the wall. The authors have systematically drawn up upon the relevant files and the Stasi archives and have also conducted interviews with family members and contemporary witnesses.

9 August 2009

Erfurt remembers the peaceful revolution

An exhibition opened today in the Predigerkirche in Erfurt to mark the peaceful revolution. The exhibition includes original documents from the GDR time including a leaflet about the manipulation of the elections in 1989 that was one of the catalysts for the demonstrations. Displays chart the history of the open church youth work and the environmental, peace and womens's groups that belonged to the opposition. The church was one of the two churches in Erfurt that organized weekly peace prayers, alongside the Catholic Lorenzkirche, and was also the location for events organised by New Forum in September 1989.

More resources to mark the peaceful revolution

Now the Protestant Church in Central Germany as part of its Holy Disorder campaign has also produced resources to mark the peaceful revolution. A book and CD include resources for peace prayers on each of the Mondays of October marking the 20th anniversary of the prayers for peace that proved to be a mobilising point for discontent, disaffection and dissent. The resources include liturgies, information about the prayers and about the Conciliar Process for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. The material can also be download here.

7 August 2009

German church opens Web site to mark 'peaceful revolution'

ENI has reported that the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) is encouraging parishes to commemorate the "peaceful revolution" of 1989 that marked the end of communism in eastern Europe and prepared the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall. "In various countries in central and eastern Europe the churches played an important role as a motor for change," said Bishop Wolfgang Huber, who heads the EKD, Germany's biggest Protestant umbrella, in a foreword to a collection of Internet resources for worship and commemorative events. In the former communist-ruled East Germany, "it was the Protestant church especially that prepared the way for freedom and unity," said Huber, the Protestant bishop in the German capital, where the 96-mile fortified Berlin Wall divided the city's western and eastern sectors from 1961 to 1989. East Germany's 1989 peaceful uprising has been dubbed a "Protestant revolution" because of the prominent role played by church members, and the street demonstrations that followed packed prayer meetings for peace and change.