It is 57 years since the Communist Government of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) began to build a barbed wire and concrete between East and West Berlin.
This tailgated the former Prime Minister of Britain Winston Churchill’s remarkable iron curtain speech. The speech from the Admirable Crichton set the ball rolling as early as 1947. A spiral of events that followed would, for decades, define the relationship between the East and the West. The relationship would be punctuated with highs and lows that on some occasions brought the world to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe. This does not mean that Churchill’s speech was the germ of the Cold War. Historians are still debating exactly why, and exactly when, the Cold War began.
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an “iron curtain” has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.”
The official purpose of the Berlin Wall was to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and weakening the socialist state, but it principally attended to the objective of stemming mass defections from East to West.
This wall, the wall that separated people, would crumble in 1989 as Cold War thawed due to a marriage of convenience between the Russian reformist president Mikhail Gorbachev and his calculating US counterpart President Ronald Regan. Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost policies proved to be a breaker as Reagan’s unprecedented military expansion generated uneasiness among the Soviets. With an upper hand negotiating platform, Reagan asked Gorbachev to rend the walls, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this walls.’ What if God is asking me, ‘Allan tear down this walls.’ What if God is aking you the same question!
I remember a mid-sized book by Dosabhai Framji Karaka that I read during my lazy times of school holidays. I can’t recall the title, but the book gives a vivid picture of what happened in the Indian Subcontinent – neocolonial and postcolonial. Karaka paints graphic images of bloody battles, the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, partitioning of India and Pakistan and the resultant bloodbath, among others. D.F. Karaka was a journalist working for the Bombay Chronicles and other popular papers of the day.
Partitioning of India and Pakistan came at a great cost. This was done hurriedly by Britons as they left after Indian Independence. A proposal was made that Pakistan become an Indian Muslims territory. The rest of the population was to remain in India. As the people got cut along religious lines, so was the physical, geographical and emotional divisions. The haphazardly handled partitioning would give birth to the Kashmir conflict that has rocked the region up to today. Kashmir could choose to join either India or Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir at the time, was Hindu while most of his subjects were Muslims. Unable to decide which nation Kashmir should join, Hari Singh chose to remain neutral. The hostilities between the two neighbours would bring them into a nuclear arms race.
Much can also be said about Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Yugoslavia broke up along ethnic lines into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. The war that raged in this part of the world was fierce. It took the intervention of NATO to extinguish it. The name of Wesley Clark would feature prominently as he took charge of the NATO forces running the operation. Infamous names such as Slobodan Milošević and Radovan Karadžić would also emerge. Czechoslovakia ended up splitting into Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Bring down the walls
It is astonishing how nations of the world can merge and split, partition and partner in a devil-may-care style. It is even more amazing that humans could go to the far of building physical walls as a way of advancing their parochial passions. We are perpetually doing and undoing, trying this and trying that, building and destroying.
Can you imagine if God was behaving like us: Bring us together for one year and divide us for another twenty years. I guess it can be unnerving. Unless it serves a noblest objective.
The Book of Ruth tells of a story in which walls are brought down and customs trashed. Religion, race or ethnicity, and culture can neither drive a wedge between the Sovereign God and His people nor between people and people. Ruth adamantly refused to feed walls that had been erected by her people in the past. She decided to create a whole new ball game. She made no bones about serving the Hebrew God.
The story shows that God does not have butterfingers. Further, it shows that we have a part to play in this entire game. We must resolve to tear down every wall – spiritual, socio-economical, mental and physical – that stops us from living an abundant life. Walls that separate us into classes should be caput.
We can easily flip the coin, make it sound inconsistent, and put it this way: We separate ourselves from the world, separate ourselves from ourselves and separate ourselves unto God. That is what the Book of Ruth teaches too.
Without being separated, we can have an identity with God; but, we cannot have fellowship with Him. We may be united to Him in Calvary, but separated from Him in sin. Without severance, we can have influence without power, movement without achievement; we may try, but not trust; serve, but not succeed; war, but not win. Without separation to God from sin, our whole Christian lives will be “wood, hay, straw”. The abundant life is made possible by death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and made a reality by being separated to Him.