The date 9 November 1989 is etched in history as the day the Berlin Wall came down. But was it actually a prayer meeting held exactly one month earlier that made the fall of the Wall inevitable? Ignoring death threats and huge banks of armed police, thousands gathered at St Nicholas Church in the East German city of Leipzig on 9 October to pray for peace. The congregation then joined an estimated crowd of 70,000 on a protest march against the country’s communist regime.
It was the largest impromptu demonstration ever witnessed in East Germany, but this was no spontaneous flash mob. It was the culmination of years of weekly prayer meetings organised by Christian Führer, the pastor of St Nicholas.
So how did the church end up playing such a prominent political role under an atheist regime? Disillusioned with the Berlin Wall, the physical fault line of the ongoing Cold Warand the repressive East German regime, Pastor Führer began organising Prayers for Peace every Monday evening, beginning in 1982.
On many occasions fewer than a dozen people attended the prayer meetings. The East German government strongly discouraged its citizens from becoming involved in religious activities, but the meetings continued each Monday without fail.
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