Praying for peace

When the Berlin Wall fell nearly 15 years ago, Franziska Boerner, currently a first-year graduate student in the College of Communication, was a 10-year-old East German. She remembers her hope that her country would be reunited with West Germany, and she remembers the growing number of peace prayers and demonstrations.

The effectiveness of the prayers, known as "Friedensgebete," led Marquette's German honor society, Delta Phi Alpha, to organize its own peace prayers every Monday throughout October to commemorate the fall of the wall.

There are two more services remaining — Oct. 18 and 25. The services are open to the public at 9 p.m. in the Alumni Memorial Union's Chapel of the Holy Family and will be conducted primarily in English.

Delta Phi Alpha, with help from University Ministry, planned the services and is following the exact structure of the original Friedensgebete, said Pat Caruso, president of Delta Phi Alpha and a sophomore in the College of Business Administration.

Caruso was referring to the first peace prayers, which began in Leipzig, East Germany, in 1982 at the Lutheran Church of St. Nicholas, according to John Pustejovsky, adviser to Delta Phi Alpha and associate professor in the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department. At the time, travel restrictions kept residents from easily leaving East Germany, a Communist country heavily influenced by the U.S.S.R.

The peace prayers grew over the years and became a gathering place for those who wanted change and more freedom in East Germany.

"They demanded not the end of Communism in East Germany, but the freedom to travel," Pustejovsky said.

Boerner said the restrictions on travel was a source of concern and typified the general mood of uncertainty in which the peace prayers took place.

"You could walk (to West Germany), but we didn't know if you could walk back," she said. "Nobody knew what was going to happen."

East German and Soviet armed forces would occasionally try to break up the prayers and protests, but eventually the demonstrations grew too big for the forces to handle. Finally, the East German government said it would no longer enforce travel restrictions, and East Germans tore down the Berlin Wall Nov. 9, 1989, without soldiers intervening.

The soldiers "were ordered to stay inside and do nothing," Boerner said. She said with more than 250,000 people out that night, she wasn't able to see much of the wall falling.

Within a year, West and East Germany were reunited.

The fall of the wall had two important consequences, according to Lowell Barrington, assistant chair of the political science department.

First, people on both sides of the wall could finally talk to each other. More important, Barrington said, was the symbolism of the event. The wall symbolized Soviet control, and its fall meant the fall of Communism in the area. By the end of 1991, the U.S.S.R. had fallen as well.

For the power that some believe the prayers had, the structure is relatively simple. Pustejovsky said he requested the format of he prayers from the Church of St. Nicholas in Leipzig. The basic format was a greeting, a song, a Bible reading, a homily, petitions, blessing and another song, in that order, he said.