Are Things Really Looking Up?
“The [Berlin] wall may become more porous as East-West ties multiply. But it will be years, even generations, before it comes down. The two Germanys will never again be one.” So wrote a reputable American newsmagazine in March 1989.
Less than 250 days—not years, to say nothing of generations—later, the wall began to crumble. Within weeks, thousands of its pieces, now reduced to the status of souvenirs, were decorating desk tops the world over.
A SEVERELY rusted Iron Curtain had finally parted, raising hopes that at long last worldwide peace and security was near. Even the Gulf War in the Middle East did not dim the hope that the long-standing rivalry between East and West was over, and a new world order was at hand.
Adding a New Dimension
Since the second world war, a movement toward a united Europe has been evident. In 1951, Western European nations founded the European Coal and Steel Community. This was followed in 1957 by the European Common Market. In 1987 the 12 members of this international community (now 342 million strong) set the goal of total economic unity by 1992. Even full political unity now appears a strong possibility. What a refreshing change this is from the bloodstained history of Europe of yesteryear!
In view of the recent political upheavals, however, 1992 is taking on greater significance. Speculation has increased that the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe may also ultimately be included in a united Europe.
Some religious groups, disregarding the principle of Christian neutrality, allowed the decades-long suppression of religion in Eastern Europe to push them into active political involvement. Commenting on this, the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung notes that “the contribution of Christians in bringing about the changes in the East is uncontested,” adding that “their share is surely not to be underestimated.” It elaborates: “In Poland, for example, religion allied itself with the nation, and the church became a stubborn antagonist of the ruling party; in the GDR [former East Germany] the church provided free space for dissenters and allowed them the use of church buildings for organizational purposes; in Czechoslovakia, Christians and democrats met in prison, came to appreciate one another, and finally joined forces.” Even in Romania, where “the churches proved to be faithful vassals of the Ceauşescu regime,” it was the threatened arrest of clergyman Laszlo Tökes that triggered the revolution.
The Vatican was also involved. Time magazine commented in December 1989: “While Gorbachev’s hands-off policy was the immediate cause of the chain reaction of liberation that has swept through Eastern Europe in the past few months, John Paul deserves much of the longer-range credit. . . . Through the 1980s his speeches hammered home the concept of a Europe reunited from the Atlantic to the Urals and inspired by Christian faith.” Thus, typically, while visiting Czechoslovakia in April 1990, the pope expressed the hope that his visit would open new doors between East and West. He announced a planned synod of European bishops to map strategy to meet his vision of “a Europe united on the basis of its Christian roots.”
May not a united Germany within the framework of a united Europe prove to be a forerunner of a completely united Europe, and then even of a united world? Does religious involvement not indicate that this is what the Bible promises? Surely, with clergymen in both East and West now working within a political framework for peace and security, could we not expect this soon to become a reality? Let us see.
[Map/Picture on page 4]
The Protestant Nikolai Church in Leipzig—a symbol of the political upheaval in Germany
Member nations of the European Common Market