It is almost 58 years since the Communist Government of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) erected barbed wire and concrete between the East and the West Berlin.
This occurred after the former Admirable Crichton Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill set the ball rolling earlier in 1947 with his iron curtain speech. The speech set in motion events that would define the relationship between the East and the West for decades. The relationship would be punctuated with lows and highs that on some occasions led the world to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe. However, 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 absolute end of this Berlin Wall was to keep Western “fascists” from infiltrating East Germany and undermining the socialist state, but it principally served the aim of stemming mass defections from East to West.
This partition that segregated people would crumble in 1989 as Cold War thawed due to the marriage of convenience between the Russian reformist president Mikhail Gorbachev and his US counterpart Republican 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. An upper hand negotiating position on the part of Reagan made him ask Gorbachev to rend the walls, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down these walls.’
Walls after walls
I remember a mid-sized book by Dosabhai Framji Karaka that I read during my dry times of school holidays. I can’t recall the title, but it strikingly gives a picture of what happened in Indian Subcontinent, neo-colonial and postcolonial. Karaka paints graphic images of bloody battles, the murder of the Mahatma Gandhi, partitioning of India and Pakistan among others. D.F. Karaka was a journalist working for the Bombay Chronicles among other trendy papers of the day.
Partitioning of India and Pakistan came at a high cost and left a feculent bog. Britons accomplished this dicey assignment as they left India after its Independence. It was proposed that Pakistan be carved out for Indian Muslims. The rest of the Indians were to remain in India. As the people became divided along religious lines, so was the physical, geographical and emotional severance. The haphazardly handled partition gave birth to the Kashmir Problem; a Gordian knot that has persisted 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 Muslim. Unable to determine which nation Kashmir should join, Hari Singh chose to remain indifferent. Future hostilities between the two neighbours generated into a spine-tingling nuclear arms race.
Much can also be said between the unions and later separation in 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 under General Wesley Clark to cool the embers. Infamous names such as Slobodan Milošević and Radovan Karadžić would emerge. Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Bring down the walls
It is startling how nations of the world can be caught up in a cycle of merging and splitting. It is even more astonishing that humans can go to the far of building physical walls so that they can advance their parochial ambitions. Humans will always be humans. Doing and undoing, trying this and trying that, creating and destroying.
Can you imagine if God behaved like us! Talk to us for one year and give us a cold treatment for the next twenty years; having nothing to do with us. I guess it can be unnerving. It can be an appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober.
The Book of Ruth tells of a story in which walls are brought down and traditions trashed. Religion, race or ethnicity, and culture cannot come in between the Sovereign God and His people. Ruth adamantly refused to sustain walls that had been erected by her people in the past. She decided to create a whole new world. She made no bones about serving the Hebrew God.
The story shows that God does not have butterfingers. It also shows that we have a role to play in this game. We must decide to tear down every wall – spiritual, socio-economical, mental and physical – that prevents us from living an abundant life. Barriers that separate us into conclaves should be caput.
We can quickly flip the coin, make it sound contradictory, and put it this way: We separate ourselves from the world, separate ourselves from ourselves and separate ourselves unto God. Without being separated, we can have an identity with God; but, no fellowship. We may be joined to Him in Calvary, but severed from Him in sin (Is. 59:1-2). Without separation, we can have sway without power, action without unction; we may attempt, but not believe; labour, but not triumph; fight, but not overcome. Without separation to God from sin, our entire Christian life will become wood, hay and straw.
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NIV)
The full life (John 10:10) is made possible by death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and made an actuality by being separated to Him.