December 27, 2009

MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE CRUSADER STATE WON IT:

Christianity ended the cold war peacefully (Adrian Pabst, 11/11/09, guardian.co.uk)

Across the East, churches and religious organisations brought together workers, students and intellectuals. Under totalitarian rule, church services and religious festivals often provided the last bastion of freedom and resistance.

In Poland, the opposition frequently gathered during Catholic liturgies and celebrations. They were inspired by Pope John Paul II's rallying cry to all Christians in the Soviet bloc at Gniezo on 3 June 1979 – exactly 10 years and one day before Solidarnosc won semi-democratic elections that ended Communist rule in Warsaw.

Similarly, the famous Monday demonstrations (Montagsdemonstrationen) in the former GDR took place after prayers for peace at the Nikolai Church in Leipzig. Both dissidents and ordinary citizens enjoyed the crucial support of both Protestant and Catholic churches which, according to Markus Meckel, the GDR's foreign minister in 1990, were "the only free space for free communication and thinking".

Even in the Soviet Union, the Orthodox church – benefitting from Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika – constituted a core pole of resistance against the official state ideology of "scientific atheism". In 1988, the millennial anniversary of Russia's Christianisation saw an upsurge in popular celebrations of Christian traditions and the re-opening of ancient churches and monasteries. In turn, Patriarch Alexy II and the church were decisive in defeating the attempted putsch in August 1991 by KGB hardliners against Gorbachev.

Crucially, 1989 saw the triumph of civil society over totalitarian states. And behind civil society stood the churches and religious organisations which defended and promoted workers' associations, professional guilds, intermediary associations, educational establishments and communal welfare.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 27, 2009 11:44 AM
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