Today (9th November) is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wall was built in Berlin in 1961 to mark the division of Germany into the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, under Communist rule) and The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany, part of Western Europe) and was a symbol of the ‘Cold War’ which raged throughout my childhood. As late as 1986, I travelled to work in Bad Harzburg, near the East German border, and travelled there from Hanover on a train which continued into East Germany; I remember being terrified that I got on the right carriage or I might end up in East Germany!
(By Noir, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1402275)
The Berlin Wall was called the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’ by East Germany, while the West Germans called it ‘the Wall of Shame’, a vivid reminder that perspectives matter enormously in life. A fear of communism and nuclear war overshadowed my childhood and the wall seemed utterly impregnable. When I became a Christian in 1983, I discovered that the charity Open Doors had just instituted a prayer campaign, ‘Seven Years of Prayer’, for the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe to fall and for the church to be allowed freedom from persecution. I too began to pray that God would do something amazing and overturn what seemed to be an implacable force against Christianity.
In 1989, a series of revolutions in Poland and Hungary (hugely influenced by Christians) ultimately led to the demise of the Berlin Wall. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, euphoric people and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the Wall. The Brandenburg Gate in the Berlin Wall was opened on 22 December 1989. The demolition of the Wall officially began on 13 June 1990 and was completed in November 1991. The “fall of the Berlin Wall” paved the way for German reunification, which formally took place on 3 October 1990.
It’s perhaps difficult for anyone aged 30 or under to grasp the enormity of what happened that day thirty years ago. I can remember being transfixed as I watched the news and saw answers to prayer visibly happen before my very eyes. I firmly believe that it was as a result of the prayers of so many people that God moved in the hearts of those in authority. Radio 4 has run a series of news bulletins this week interviewing people directly involved in the momentous happenings at that time, and I was struck by one East German woman who said in effect, ‘I did not believe our government would ever take notice of what was happening elsewhere; I was dumbfounded when the edict came through.’ For decades, East Germans had risked being shot if they tried to cross the wall; on that day, they could go freely.
God is able ‘to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.’ (Eph 3:20) That applies on a national and international level, as well as on a personal level. There are different political challenges facing us today, but the same level of despair abounds in many of us. We need to remember that God can do ‘so much more’ and believe Him for great and marvellous deeds. History reminds us of many such miraculous interventions. We have a God who can do anything!