Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nacht des Schweigens

March 12, 1938. Adolf Hitler enters Austria, giving a rousing speech at Heldenplatz in Vienna to the jubilant crowd of 200,000. Austria is "annexed" to Germany in a bloodless union. Over the course of the next 7 years, 80,000 Jews, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, political dissidents, and Christian and other religious leaders were murdered.

March 12, 2008. Commemorating the 80,000 lives lost, Stacey and I gathered with a very different kind of crowd at Heldenplatz, to light 80,000 candles, hear stories from children of the war, now in their 70s and 80s, to listen to beautiful music composed during the war and banned by the Nazis, and to pray in silence.

One after another, each speaker would recount the atrocities, the heroic resistance, the triumph of freedom, and also bring urgent reminders of the potential for history to repeat itself, of our corporate duty to resist discrimination of all kinds. We live in a different Austria today, where structural stability and material prosperity shroud the brokenness of people's hearts. Please join us in prayer as we seek to be agents of a deeper reconciliation, person to person, culture to culture, and ultimately announcing the reconciliation of God to humankind.

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