On Small Resistances and Powerful Reconciliations

With its history and efforts of reconciliation and remembrance, visiting Berlin is a humbling experience. It forces us to face our own smallness in the face of indescribable horror. The systematic structure of atrocities the city has witnessed left me overwhelmed and questioning how it could be possible to even begin to oppose something so powerful and cruel. And yet we got to hear incredible stories of bravery, resistance, and survival in our two days there this August with SCM.

In many instances, even a small act of resistance only needed someone to take the first step - and that one first step would be followed by several more, all small on their own but working together to build something better. The conscious and mindful efforts of reconciliation continue this work even today. Reading out loud the story of someone who suffered and died at the Berlin wall is not a large act on its own, but it becomes more impactful as it is shared. Most great things are really collections of many small efforts.

This trip made me realise not only the smallness of humans, but also the smallness of God among us. We are created in His image, so in a way we are all fragments or reflections of divine. Doris Pollatschek’s 'Triptych for Auschwitz' displayed in St Anne's Church in Dahlem vividly reminded me of Night' by Elie Wiesel. In 'Night', the horrified Auschwitz prisoners are forced to watch a young boy hanged and ask, ‘Where is God?’, only for the narrator to respond, ‘He is there, at the gallows.’ One interpretation has been that God was hanged alongside the victims. Visiting the Confessing Church and the Chapel of Reconciliation made me feel strongly that it is our shared Christian duty to take care of one another, to value and cherish these reflections of divine all around us. This further made me see that as Christ said to us in Matt. 25:40 ‘just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me’ should be a very central guiding principle in my everyday life.

'Triptychon für Auschwitz' by Doris Pollatschek
I am often tempted to answer the question ‘Where is God?’ by saying He is at the margins. Christ was among the lepers, the sinners, the sex workers, and the tax collectors. In Berlin I could see how God was among those who were hiding, those who were helping people escape, those who suffered. The ‘God with us’ written on the wall of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church might be correct, but not in the way we humans have intended it. God is powerful, but maybe His power is not measured by any of the metrics we are accustomed to using. Maybe God’s power is seen in healing, loving, reconciling, and helping others. Dietrich Bonhoeffer may have been onto something when he said it is time for Christians to live as if there were no God. Maybe it’s time we focus more on each other.
Serving each other and acting against injustice might be quite a Christ-like way to live as we hear from Matt. 25:45: ‘just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ Berlin reminded me that including is more important than excluding, that loving can achieve more than hating, and that doing small actions together is more powerful than waiting for some cartoon-style superhero to come along.

Written by Katri (she/her). Katri is a student of International Relations and Religious Studies, a fan of organising and activism, and a nondenominational Christian from a Lutheran background.