2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and the every-two-year Protestant Assembly, the Kirchentag, takes on special significance this year because of that anniversary and because of this week’s terrorist attack in Manchester.
According to Deutsche Welle, more than 140,000 people are expected over the course of the four-day event, in Berlin this year. It was founded in 1949 by anti-Nazi activist Reinold von Thadden as a forum for discussion and debate:
It is a star-studded occasion: 2,500 events, 30,000 contributors and guests from all over the world celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the Protestant culture of debate.
More than 100,000 worshippers attended three open-air services on Wednesday evening in central Berlin to mark the start of the Protestant gathering.
Those attending include Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, philanthropist Melinda Gates, German singer and songwriter Max Giesinger, German climate change researcher Ottmar Edenhofer, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and Israeli author Amos Oz.
Former U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke today, the first day of the Kirchentag. Obama called Merkel one of his “favorite partners” during his eight-year presidency, and his words, while spoken in reference to historic icons, seemed also pointed toward the current U.S. administration’s nationalistic approach.
“In this new world we live in, we can’t isolate ourselves, we can’t hide behind a wall,” he said before the gate that once separated East and West Berlin.
Chancellor Merkel, President Obama and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also released a video in which they responded to the bombing in Manchester.
“We are mourning with you, but we also stand with you,” said Merkel (Chicago Sun-Times).
“As the father of two daughters, I am heartbroken by the extraordinary tragedy that’s occurred in Manchester,” said Obama. “Just know that the entire world is in solidarity with you right now.”
Welby echoed the words of the Bishop of Manchester: “Love conquers hate.”
— Justin Welby ن (@JustinWelby) May 25, 2017
Top image: Kirchentag 2011, Dresden, By Ykaphrykoi (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons