Walls are built to imprison, create obstacles
to movement of people, to keep people out. They are built in the mind,
in the heart and over time—with suspicion, fear, racism, classism,”
Murray D. Finck, bishop of the ELCA Pacifica Synod, told 50 religious and civic leaders gathered Nov. 8-14 in Wittenberg, Germany.
spoke at “Mighty Fortresses and Mustard Seeds: Life in the Shadow of a
Wall,” where participants from Germany, Palestine, Mexico and the U.S.
discussed the church’s role in breaking down visible and invisible
walls. The event was sponsored by the ELCA Network of International
Learning Centers, ELCA Global Mission, ELCA Vocation and Education, and the Evangelical Academy of Sachsen-Anhalt.
this U.S.-Mexican border wall the full 2,000 miles will require an
estimated $8 billion. Kim Erno, an ELCA pastor and program director of
the Lutheran Center in Mexico City, asked participants of an ELCA
conference on walls whether that money would be better invested in the
lives of the poor. |
conference examined three walls—the Berlin Wall, the Israeli barrier
wall and the U.S.-Mexican border wall. Participants heard perspectives
from religious to sociological to political as they listened to people
directly affected by the three walls. The first two days were spent in
Berlin for the 17th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Erected
Aug. 13, 1961, it fell on Nov. 9, 1989.
her life in East Germany behind the wall, Christine Bergmann said the
church became an “information center” where many people met every
night. Bergmann served for seven years as one of the district mayors
within Berlin after unification. She serves as president of the Berlin
Social Democratic Party’s Forum for the Unity of the City.
expected the church to participate in removing walls. “Church and state
are separate, but the church is an important part of society ... and
does have an important influence,” she said. “I think it should use
A pastor in the former East Germany underscored that.
“The church was the only place where we could speak freely,” Adelheid
Cellarius-Mikosch said. “Giving people the chance to talk freely was a
very political act.”
The transition from Soviet occupation to
freedom hasn’t been easy for everyone, Bergmann admitted, saying that
when the wall fell “people had to learn how to stand up.”
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