Ship of Fools: St Nicholas, Leipzig, Germany


imageShip of Fools: St Nicholas, Leipzig, Germany

Ship of Fools

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  • PortolaPortola Shipmate
    Today, Oct 9, is the 30th anniversary of a turning point in history, for which the St. Nikolaikirche in Leipzig played a decisive role. The involvement of St. Nikolai in the peaceful revolution which brought down the Iron Curtain has not received the public recognition it deserves.
    Since 1982 there had been prayers for peace every Monday at 5 PM in St. Nikolai. In 1988 these prayer services became a focal point for the dissention and frustration of those suffering under the oppressiveness of the East German regime. Within the framework of the Monday prayer services it was possible to speak out more openly than in any other setting. For many people who had been raised as atheists, the prayer services offered a first direct and lively encounter with the Bible and with prayer.
    In 1989 there was an escalation of tension, as dissatisfaction came more and more to the surface. The police, in a futile attempt to stem the tide, set up road blocks and arrested or detained participants of the prayer-for-peace services.
    October 9 was to be a decisive day. According to the most recent estimates, 100.000 people from around the country gathered in Leipzig. Other inner city churches opened their doors for prayer services, giving refuge to about 6000. Military, militia and police were ready for any eventuality; hospitals had increased their reserves of blood.
    Shortly after 2 PM the Nikolai church was already filled to capacity; an estimated 600 members of the official socialist party were present to try to keep the situation under control. At the end of the prayer-for-peace-service the congregation was implored to remain peaceful after leaving the church, because a small spark of aggressiveness could have ignited an explosion of violence. In everyone’s consciousness was the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Peking in June. Just 2 days earlier on the streets of Leipzig, on the date of the 40th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic, police spent 10 hours battering and arresting demonstrators.
    Rev. Christian Führer, one of the ministers of the Nikolai Church at that time describes what happened on October 9: „More than 2000 people leaving the church were welcomed by ten thousands waiting outside with candles in their hands – an unforgettable moment...The miracle occurred. Jesus' spirit of non-violence seized the masses and became a material, peaceful power. Troops, militia and the police were drawn in, became engaged in conversations and withdrew. It was an evening in the spirit of our Lord Jesus for there were no winners and no defeated, nobody triumphed over the other, nobody lost his face. There was just a tremendous feeling of relief.“
    The demonstrators marched through the city and called out: „We are the people!“, and „No violence!“ Because of the massive size and the peacefulness of the demonstration the military and police were helpless. A high government official stated: „We were prepared for everything, except for candles and prayers.“ (This quote is attributed to 2 different persons)
    This evening of non-violence, in which not a single shop window was broken, turned out to be a decisive turning point. 11 days later the head of government, Erich Honecker, was forced to resign. On November 9 the border to the West was opened. A year later Germany was reunited.
    The Monday prayer services at 5 PM are still being held.
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