Monday, 9 November 2009

The Berlin Wall - my part in its fall!

Back in May 1989 I was asked by Archbishop Ward to attend a conference in Basel, Switzerland. It was the first European Ecumenical Assembly, with representatives from all the denominations and all the countries of Europe, East and West. It was historic as it was the first time this had happened. The theme was "Peace with Justice", but in fact the main achievement seemed to me to be the fact that it happened at all.
It's hard for us now 20 years later, isn't it, to recall the days of Soviet Communism. The Berlin Wall seemed to be a permanent and sad fixture. During that Assembly I was overwhelmed with a sense of the unity of Europe, but a unity that appeared to be so far beyond our grasp.
Nevertheless, we prayed together, Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants and Orthodox, from Britain and Romania, from Finland and Portugal. We prayed hard for the issues at the heart of the Assembly, but we prayed above all for Europe. I remember clearly the final great act of the Assembly, the voting for the adoption of the Final Report. The chairman invited us all to stand in silent prayer and then vote. As all the hands started to go up I was overwhelmed with a sense of a new unity. I think everyone present was aware that we had just done something extremely profound, but perhaps we didn't realise quite how profound, for as that year progressed cracks started to appear in the East-West barrier, and exactly six months later the Berlin Wall fell.
Gorbachev, Pope John Paul and many others were all credited with igniting the events of that year. But in that crucial year of 1989 in an exhibition hall in Switzerland, and for the first time ever, the Christians of Europe had prayed together. Coincidence? I don't think so...

The graphic was the logo of the Assembly

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