L’Europe – ressuscitée des ruines
Célébration œcuménique du 10 mai 2005 : L’Europe – ressuscitée des ruines Il y a 60 ans en Europe : la 2ème Guerre Mondiale se termine, la réconciliation commence
Ecumenical service May 10th 2005 : Europe raised from the ruins 60 years ago in Europe : end of World War II, beginning of reconciliation
Theological Referent for the Protestant Church of Germany (EKD) in Brussels
“If we do survive than we will have that many wounds to carry for the rest of our lives.” (Etty Hillesum, June 1942)
On the 10th of May we celebrated an ecumenical service in remembrance of the end of World War II 60 years ago. Many people all over Europe felt relived that the Nazi Regime came to an end. This meant no more bombing, no more crying, no more wounding. At the same time people felt desperate und abandoned by their beloved Ones. We remembered this dark chapter of European history by listening to music or reading texts from people who were fighting for peace in the midst of the war. The prayer of Leonia Jablonkówna from 1943 in Warsaw who was Jewish born and survived the concentration ended with the intention : “When in the flashes covering our coffins, the dam, the last bastion then crumbles, then let our hearts rescue from the ruins, your holy and eternal testament”. Believing in God gave Sophie Scholl strength and courage for her activities in the “White Rose” resistance movement in Nazi Germany. She was arrested while distributing the sixth leaflet at the University in Munich and executed few hours later on the 22ed of February 1943. In her diary this young woman expresses the struggle with her faith : “When I want to pray to you, my soul feels like dry dust – like san only aware of its own sterility.” By reading the litany of Reconciliation from Coventry there was an opportunity for everybody to ask God for forgiveness and by the grace of God to turn from darkness into light, to create a new life out of the ruins and plant new seeds of hope and peace. Quotations from Vaclav Havel (Czech Republic), Robert Schuman (France) and Pierre Harmel (Belgium) were examples for people who are committed to work for a new peaceful chapter in Europe`s history. By singing the Jewish folk song “Shalom aleichem” the congregation affirmed the right of life for everyone regardless of their religion, race or nationality. In the end of this worship twelve candles were burning as symbols that a new “Europe is risen from the ruins”. The people left the chapel with the blessing to make peace through tolerance, solidarity and justice.
Leonia Jablonkówna was a young Polish woman of Jewish origin born in 1905. When she wrote the prayer in 1943, she was in hiding. It is a prayer for the victims in the occupied countries and also a prayer for the victims of the mass Allied bombing of German cities. Already in 1943, Polish intellectuals thought of the time after the war. The poem was printed in a clandestine Polish newspaper. Leonia died in 1987.
For our torn soil, For the bloody dying of the river Wisla, For the Tatra mountains, for the waves of the Baltic sea, For Warsaw’s death in September ;
For the grave that will soothe the agony,
The grave that lures us when our strength abates –
For the cross that lies desacralised on the ground
For the misfortune that comes from the ashes of the cemetery -
O Lord, by your sign on top of the church steeples, By the wood of your suffering and of your glory, We pray to you, mumbling the rosary, We plead you, roaring chorals in the churches.
When we triumph over defeat, When your angry look chokes us, Then give us strength – let us endure victory And tear out the hate from our soul.
When in the flashes covering our coffins The dam, the last bastion then crumbles, Then let our hearts rescue from the ruins Your holy and eternal testament.
When I want to pray to you, my soul feels like dry dust – like sand only aware of its own sterility. Oh my God, transform this dust into fertile soil so that your seed may not fall there in vain, at least let grow out of it a great longing for you, its creator, whom it so often avoids. I am asking you with my whole heart, I am calling to you, you, I am calling, although I do not know anything more about you than that alone in you I find my salvation. Do not turn away from me although I do not hear your heartbeat. Please open my numb heart, my numb heart. Give me restlessness, so that I can find true rest that is alive in you. O, I am powerless, take care of me and do with me according your good will, I am asking you, I am asking you.
Etty Hillesum’s accounts of the Holocaust bring to life the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Like Anne Frank, Hillesum was a Dutch Jew living in Amsterdam. Born in 1914, she died in Auschwitz in November 1943, at the age of 29. Etty Hillesum is remembered for her diaries. She began them nine months after Hitler invaded the Netherlands on May 10th 1940, - exactly 65 years ago. The diaries record her daily experiences and the unfolding of her interior response. Published four decades after her death under the title : “An interrupted life”, this book was quickly recognized as one of the great moral documents of our time. She can be called a Mystic of the Holocaust.
God cannot be held accountable to us, but we are accountable to him. I know what will happen to us next (…) The latest news is that all the Jews will be deported from Holland to Poland, through camps in the province of Drenthe, and the English radio said that since last year 700,000 Jews have perished in Germany and the occupied territories. If we do survive than we will have that many wounds to carry for the rest of our lives. And still life makes sense to me, my God, I cannot help it. And God should not be held accountable by us for the senseless things that we do. We are responsible ! I have already died a thousand deaths in a thousand camps. I know it all and I do no longer get upset over new information. Somehow I already know it all. And still I find this life beautiful and full of meaning, every minute of it.
From : An interrupted life, the diary of Etty Hillesum June 1942.
Vaclav Havel was born in 1936. He is the last President of Czechoslovakia, and the first President of the Czech Republic. Both in politics and through his intellectual work, Havel has contributed considerably to the reconciliation within Europe. He also promoted a greater understanding among nations. Vaclav Havel has been working and still continues to work for the peaceful coexistence amongst European nations. He promoted reconciliation with Germany — which was symbolized by the Czech-German Declaration. This is a 1997 document that aims to defuse tensions between the two countries stemming from World War II and its aftermath.
After the War everyone felt sure that nothing like it could happen, or be allowed to happen, ever again. Yet it appears as if humankind will never learn. There are still those who seek to divide people according to their ethnic affiliations and to revive the spirit of tribal wars. There are still those who believe that atrocities perpetrated in wartime will go unpunished, and therefore provoke wars, ridiculing the international community. And there are still democratic governments that believe aggressors can be stopped with concessions, with piecemeal manoeuvring, in a word, by giving in to evil. As World War II becomes increasingly remote with the years, and especially now that Communism has collapsed, the vigilance of the democrats seems to have slackened. Again, democracy seems to have been reduced to a mere routine, a mechanism for shaping political will. Yet, if democracy is to remain vital the values on which it is founded must be constantly renewed. Today again we need politicians who remember the ethical basis of democracy and who understand that one cannot rely on routine diplomacy when dealing with militant nationalists. We need citizens who are able to recognize evil at its inception and stand up to it despite the personal risks, and then voice their position clearly, in the most resolute terms, to their political representatives.
Address on the occasion of the conferment of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award upon Sergei Kovalev * Commendation of the Laureate * . Nuremberg, Federal Republic of Germany, 17 September 1995
"Pourquoi et comment unir l’Europe" (Conférence faite à Luxembourg, 07.12.53) :
Aujourd’hui nous sommes devenus mûrs pour une autre idée, une idée nouvelle, fruit de nos expériences récentes : celle de la solidarité des peuples. Elle est le fondement pratique et le corollaire de la fraternité spirituelle des peuples, l’idée chrétienne par excellence, qui n’implique nullement un reniement ou un relâchement du patriotisme. Nous avons vécu et constaté à nos dépens, et pour le malheur de notre génération, où conduisent les excès de l’égoïsme national. Hitler et consorts ne nous ont pas fait en vain la démonstration à quelles catastrophes aboutissent les mauvais instincts collectifs : nationalisme, racisme, lorsqu’ils disposent d’une supériorité militaire et d’une propagande infernale ; Nous voulons débarrasser l’Europe de tous les explosifs qui y ont été abandonnés, nous les désarmerons l’un après l’autre. Mais nous n’y parviendront qu’avec le concours de tous, des amis comme des adversaires d’hier. C’est ainsi que nous serons amenés à substituer au séparatisme nationaliste qui maintient et aggrave les antagonismes et les haines, le sentiment d’une solidarité européenne, et nous substituerons à l’esprit de revanche la volonté de construire en commun un monde nouveau.
« Why and how unite Europe »
Luxemburg December 7, 1953
« We have become ready today for a new perspective, as a result of the experience we have been through in recent years : solidarity among peoples. A solidarity which is the very foundation and the correlate of spiritual brotherhood among humans : this Christian ideal par excellence, which does not imply at all renouncing nor dispraising of patriotism. We have been going through and experienced at our expense, and during the most tragic years of our generation, the outcome of selfish and totalitarian nationalism. Hitler and his consorts did not demonstrate in vain the tragic consequences of perverse collective instincts, such as nationalism and racism, when the make use of military power and perverse propaganda. We are thefore brought about to substitute for selfish nationalism and hatred the spirit of European solidarity. We shall substitute to revenge the determination to build a new world together.”
Pour conduire ceux qui veulent la paix, les vertus les plus essentielles sont celles de la réconciliation et du pardon Tout au long de la vie, nous avons été témoins de ce que de tels gestes, accomplis dès qu’ils deviennent possibles, peuvent changer la nature des rapports entre les peuples et au sein de groupes humains divisés. Ils modifient aussi le cours d’un siècle.
Quant le 8 mai 1950, le Français Robert Schuman et l’Allemand Konrad Adenauer réconcilièrent leurs peuples ennemis, ils ouvrirent la construction de l’Europe unie et pacifiée. Quand, en décembre 1970, Willy Brandt, Chancelier d’Allemagne, qui n’avait cependant pas la foi, s’agenouilla à Varsovie au pied du monument érigé à la mémoire des Juifs victimes du nazisme, il a accompli un pas énorme qui a transformé les relations des pays de l’Est avec l’Allemagne. Quand, en novembre 1977, l’Égyptien Anouar el Sadate, accomplit le premier pas des peuples arabes avec Israël en se rendant à Jérusalem et en prenant la parole à la Knesset, il a ouvert une ère nouvelle. Et quand, le 9 mai 1994, le Président d’Afrique du Sud, M. De Clercq, et Nelson Mandela ont mis fin pacifiquement à l’apartheid, ils ont accompli un geste exemplaire. Ce furent des formes de cette non-violence que Gandhi en Inde, puis Martin Luther King aux États-Unis, avaient mis en oeuvre dans leurs pays pour que cessent les ségrégations raciales.
Ainsi les exemples ne manquent pas de la fécondité des réconciliations et des pardons sollicités ou offerts, pour engendrer la paix. Demandons au Seigneur qu’il les suscite dans les coeurs d’un grand nombre.
30 avril 2005
“In order to inspire those who want peace, the most powerful incentives are reconciliation and forgiveness. Throughout a long life we have been witnesses that such gestures, accomplished as soon as they became possible, are able to modify the nature of relationships among peoples and antagonistic human groups. They can also change the course of history ?
When on 8 March 1950, the Frenchman Robert Schuman and the German Konrad Adenauer started to reconcile their nations, they were anticipating a uniting and peaceful Europe. When in December 1970, the German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt in front of the monument erected in the Warsaw Ghetto, he accomplished a decisive step which inaugurated a new relationship between Germany and the nations of Eastern Europe. When in November 1977, the President of Egypt Anouar el Sadate flew to Jerusalem and addressed the Knesset, he did the first step to rapprochement between Israel and the Arabic nations, and thereby inaugurated a new era. And when, on 9 May 1994, M. De Clercq and Nelson Mandela brought apartheid to an end, they accomplished a historical gesture.
These were examples of the non-violence which Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King in the United-States put into practice in order to stop racial segregation. These were demonstration of the spiritual effectiveness of reconciliation and asked for or granted to achieve peace. Let us ask the Lord to make them multiply !
April 30, 2005
O one God of all peoples and nations,
you created the earth and the cosmos,
in their beauty and in their frailty.
All that is loving and good points to your glory,
For you are the origin of all creation.
You want all to be for one another not a threat,
but a blessing.
Our one world should be, by your will,
a peaceful home for all.
As Christian men and women, we thank you
for our Lord and brother Jesus Christ.
He is our Peace, he is our reconciliation.
He came to knock down walls and to give to all,
without distinction, life and a future.
We beseech you :
Have mercy on all the victims and all the offenders.
Put an end to spirals of violence and hatred.
Let all of us, especially those who bear responsibility,
be ever more convinced that the way to peace
is not that of war and violence,
but of building peace through tolerance, solidarity and justice.
Let your peace flow like a river through all our deserts.
Lord give us strength and endurance
to pull down the mountains of misunderstanding and intolerance,
to fill in the trenches of hatred
and to level the paths towards a more just and a more peaceful world.
Let the melody of peace and reconciliation resound throughout your entire creation
And make us all instruments of your peace,
for this we ask your blessing, o God with many names,
we ask (+) You, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Que le vent soit toujours