Twenty-eight years ago today, the political climate of the world changed forever. For nearly three decades, East and West Germany had been separated by a wall that completely cut off West Berlin and East Berlin from each other. Families were torn apart when the wall went up overnight in 1961.
On November 9th, 1989, people rose up and the wall went down. Following a bungled Communist Party news conference where the new Communist Party spokesman falsely said East Berliners were immediately allowed to cross into West Berlin, people rose up in droves to leave the East.
The border guards, who hadn’t received any instruction, simply threw up their hands and let the people pass through by the thousands. They stood by as people began to dismantle the wall.
Republican representative Steve King recounts when he saw the Berlin Wall fall on television from his home in rural Iowa.
“History was being made. Like the wall of Jericho, the Berlin Wall was coming down! The “evil empire” of the Soviet Union was crumbling before our eyes! The freedom revolution was being televised, and Americans, who had brought about this moment by winning the Cold War under the leadership of men like Ronald Reagan, had a front row seat,” wrote King in an Op-ed for the Washington Times.
As King identified, the fall of the wall represents the power of people’s desire for their national, cultural, and religious identities.
“The evil of Soviet Communism had fallen because people have an inherent desire for the preservation of their national and cultural identities.”
It’s also important not to underestimate the power of religion. In many ways, the fall of the Soviet Union is a story about the driving power of Christianity.
In Poland, the Catholic Solidarity movement rose up after being inspired by a visit from Pope John Paul II. Polish Catholics began the Velvet Revolutions, shaking off the yoke of Communism in August 1989.
Likewise, German Lutherans brought down the wall. In October 1989, 70,000 Christians marched through the city of Berlin in peaceful protest.
“In church, people had learned to turn fear into courage, to overcome the fear and to hope, to have strength. They came to church and then started walking, and since they did not do anything violent, the police were not allowed to take action. They said, “We were ready for anything, except for candles and prayer,” said Pastor Christian Fuhrer, who held the prayer meetings at St. Nikolai Evangelical Lutheran Church, which started the protest.
He added, “If any event ever merited the description of “miracle” that was it—a revolution that succeeded, a revolution that grew out of the church. It is astonishing that God let us succeed with this revolution.”
God inspired Polish and German Christians to rise up against the secular power of the Soviet Union, and He gave them the fortitude to face the chance of death. Their courage inspired the Velvet Revolutions; a week later, Czechoslovakia would rise up, followed by the rest of the Soviet Union. A government that had terrorized people with needless bloodshed fell with barely a drop of blood spilled.
Praise God for the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. We should never forget the reality of evil in the world, the recent history of religious oppression, or to thank God for our own freedom.