On this day in 1989, weakened by seven years of prayer and nonviolent protest, the Berlin Wall fell.
Since 1982, people had been gathering at the Nikolaikirche in the centre of Leipzig every Monday to pray for concerns of both a personal and political nature. Over time this practice spread to other churches, and the tone became increasingly political. It was during these Monday prayer sessions that people began expressing not only their worries, but also solutions and courses of action.
Grassroots organisations were forming in direct opposition to the state – a clearly illegal gesture. Once organised, the people were emboldened by their size and solidarity. The Monday prayer services in the Nikolaikirche soon transformed into political protests on the square. After the service, the people would gather and walk peacefully to the centre of town holding lit candles.
These assemblies grew to extraordinary numbers and, in cases such as on October 2, were violently broken up by police. By October 16, 120,000 people had gathered for the Monday demonstration. Their calls for reform, however, fell on deaf ears. Instead, Erich Honecker, East German head of state, resigned on October 18 among cries of ‘we are the people’. Honecker’s sacrifice wasn’t enough, however. More and more people came to the Monday demonstrations with demands for ‘new thinking’.
The number of protesters in October peaked on the 30th with 300,000. Throughout it all, the demonstrators always emphasised non-violent means to change. Whenever a situation between the people and the police got out of hand, chants of ‘No violence!’ rose up from the crowd. The original intent was not to overthrow the government, but rather to reform it internally. The Monday demonstrations spread to other cities, increasing the pressure. In a last attempt to maintain power, the entire government resigned to appease the people, but it is too little, too late. Two days later, as a result of a miscommunication, East Germans were permitted to pass freely through the Berlin Wall. The end of the GDR had come.
Today, let us remember the power of praying people who will not be silenced by violence. Let us remember that in the end, it was not the power of the American military, or the might of American capitalism that cracked open tyranny like a rotten egg, but love, faith, and hope in the dark hour.