Culture and the Church in Times of War – The Great Turning Point

“Today we woke up in a different world,” German Foreign Minister Annallina Barbock said on February 24, the day of the Russian attack on Ukraine, outlining the extent of the geopolitical tipping point.
War is raging in Europe – our understanding of security and our moral beliefs have been deeply shaken. Even belief in the effect of peace on peace is beginning to falter. At the “Kultur.Forum St. Matthäus” in Berlin, guests from politics, culture and the church discussed how the war changed perspectives and perspectives.

I didn’t see the tags

The scenario of the increased threat was recognizable. But in Germany, the views of other countries are often not noticed, theologian Johann Heinrich Clausen criticizes. For a long time we were not interested in the cultural resources of Eastern Europe – also out of arrogance. omission.

“If you look at the cultural landscape, the literature from Eastern Europe, from Russia, from Ukraine, then back then you could see all of that,” Clausen says. “We are now receiving shock waves from the realization that their view of the countries we didn’t share, we were already there.”

“Kultur.Forum St. Matthäus” is a collaboration between the St. Matthäus Foundation. Matthäus and the German Cultural Council, and the Cultural Officer of the EKD and Deutschlandfunk Kultur Council.

The invasion of Crimea in 2014 was part of a disastrous development – ​​as was the Russian military operation in Syria a year later, says Bishop Christian Stapelin: “We saw a scheme for action in Syria. And we kind of watched. So we were there for the refugees as we are.” Now – but we watched. Now we have to realize: this is the result of that. In many places, Putin has already been able to do what we are surprised now because he is so close to us.”

Little interest in the German army

For a long time, the doctrine of “change through trade” prevailed in German foreign policy. In the past few decades, people have firmly believed that close economic ties are not the solution to conflicts, but rather close economic ties, says Olaf Zimmermann, director general of the German Cultural Council. “So ultimately cooperation and cohesion in the world – creating such connections that wars no longer make sense. We have always had proxy wars, but we are no longer in the middle.”

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Germans cared so little about the Bundeswehr. Deputy Director of the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), Astrid Ergang, considers this position questionable: “What we have certainly lost somewhat in our country is the importance of the armed forces and the ability to defend themselves, in the event of a conflict of interest to actually be able to represent them Strongly “.

Clausen explains the broad German rejection of everything military with a “moral side” running in the background: “The great will of us Germans after the catastrophic crimes against humanity in Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia now is not to act aggressively, but to serve peace.”

Moral dilemma

But the reality shows that this position can be interpreted as weakness. Thus the Western peace ethic is now being discussed at a broad societal level – also in the churches. The calm is not “at the end,” says Bishop Stapelin, but until the end of February no one could have imagined what terrible things were happening at the moment: “If we live in a world where aggressors mercilessly bombard cities and kill people, then we must position ourselves in relation to it again. And our good pacifist tradition must position itself in relation to this in a new way.”

From a theological point of view, the question arises: How do we deal with “evil”, with violence? The Christian answer to this is: “If I decide for myself, then the biblical rule applies: it is better to suffer violence than to do violence. If I decide for others, then protect others from violence. And before the desire to remain as innocent as possible.”

Back to the global community?

The war of aggression isolated Russia in much of the world. Most important of all, Ergang emphasizes, is not to lose contact with Russian artists. “We desperately need all these links in the cultural sphere for discussions in the post-war era,” she says. “We must do everything we can to ensure that the demolition is as small as possible.” One day there will be a truce. Ergang hopes that the conflict will turn after that. It certainly won’t happen quickly, but it can be done.

Ergang said: “I think we can bring the aggressors back into the international community. We tried it in our country. We were pariahs in the last century and also returned to the world community, under certain conditions. Because they have reached out to us Germany. Why should we not communicate with Russia again at a time? What? “

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