Archive for Theology

Berlin Tourism

In the last week of my visit to Berlin I was able to do some great visits to interesting places.

On Monday I caught the train south from Berlin to the city of Dresden.  Known as

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Talking About Religion in Berlin

This post is about a tour of some Berlin religious sites and a conversation about theology during the tour.

During the WSCF Assembly I went on a tour looking at religion in Berlin with a focus on interfaith relations.  Our tour guide Uwe was from the German SCM (ESG).  He had given a Biblical reflection the day before at the Assembly, on gender in the book of Judges, a rather gruesome topic which you may like to read up on, notably the escapade of Jael at Judges 4:21.

First Uwe took us to the House of One. This remarkable initiative is a planned multi-faith centre with separate worship spaces for Jews, Muslims and Christians joined by a shared meeting area – see animation.  Our group heard an introductory talk and did a site tour, located on the ruins of Berlin

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The Tree of Life

We have reached the end of the General Assembly of the World Student Christian Federation.

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WSCF Stories of Resistance and Hope

Saturday was the first day of the World Student Christian Federation General Assembly in Berlin. This is the first in person assembly of WSCF for seven years since the last GA in Bogota in 2015.

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Why take an interest in religion?

I have been pondering why I have such an interest in religion.  All my life my primary commitment has been to understanding truth.  That led me to refuse to attend religious instruction classes at school, because even as a child I rejected the dogmatic method that promotes claims that contradict common sense.  One of my favourite lines in the Bible is John 8:32 where Jesus Christ says

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Berlin tourism, playing music

Catching up a bit, I have put some public posts on Facebook, with photos and videos. Here are links, and also words of some songs we will sing at the Assembly.

  • Fete de la music in Berlin, celebrating the summer solstice, musicians come out into the parks and jam. I brought my plastic didgeridoo and played for three hours with a bunch of Moroccans. They were great! Would be so nice to do this in Australia in summer, 21 December.  I had to saw my didg in half to fit it in my backpack, no worries, as it makes it far more convenient. I made it from a piece of plumbing pipe, with indigenous art glued on from old calendars. The mouthpiece is made by grinding up charcoal and mixing with melted beeswax.  Kreuzberg where I am staying has population density about 20 times greater than my suburb in Canberra, it is nice to be in an urban place.
  • With friends Chung HiuFan Fanny, Pio and Alissa, from Hong Kong, Korea and New Zealand, over dinner in Kreuzberg, before WSCF Assembly. We had a good conversation about why Christianity is so unpopular among university students.
  • Berlin tourism, climbed the dome of the great Prussian Protestant Cathedral and visited the Gauguin South Pacific exhibition at the Art Gallery on Museum Island. Slightly consternated to see so many WW2 bullet holes in the walls and pillars of the centre of the city dating from the Russian conquest. Surprised to see dozens of church spires in the former atheist East Berlin in the view from on high. Enjoyed running there from my hostel.

I will be playing music for the Assembly, piano, guitar, didg and singing.  Yesterday I met Dianet Martinez, from Cuba, conference organiser, to work on the music, and we also met a bunch of people from the WSCF Executive Committee over lunch, General Secretary Marcelo Leites from Uruguay, WSCF Chair Bishop George from India, Fanny from Hong Kong, Paudie from Ireland and others.  Dianet and I went to the Zwingli Kirche where the assembly will be held, quite an austere old protestant church, and so interesting as symptom of the collapse of Christian faith in Europe, built for a world that is now obsolete.

I shared an Australian hymn, Community, by Dave Brown from Brunswick Uniting Church in Melbourne.  Here are the lyrics

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John R. Mott, WSCF Founder

John Raleigh Mott.jpg
John R. Mott, founder of the WSCF

As we get ready for the WSCF General Assembly this week, its first in-person meeting since before the pandemic, it is good to learn something about the long and venerable history of this great organisation.  Quite remarkably, WSCF founder John Mott won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946, in a time of massive global tumult and disruption as the western nations shifted focus from the war against fascism to the Cold War against the Soviet Union. 

There must have been many candidates for the Peace Prize as the world emerged from such bloody and stupid fighting, carnage and genocide.  To give this uniquely celebrated and distinguished honour to a man who focused on how the beliefs of university students can affect world politics demonstrates a remarkable insight and vision from the Nobel Committee.


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The Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall

The astonishing physical barrier of division that separated West Berlin from its hinterland for three decades from 1961 to 1989 seemed when I was young to be a permanent and immutable feature of political geography.

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Christian Faith

An old friend recently advised me that in attending this religion conference, the General Assembly of the World Student Christian Federation, I should not discuss religion, as my views might challenge and shock other people

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First Day in Berlin Sunday 19 June

First day in Berlin Sunday 19 June

As you might expect, Berlin is an easy place to visit, with a great train network, and also with a heavy presence of history.  I quite easily caught three trains to get from the airport to my hostel this morning.

I mentioned in my comments written in Singapore yesterday my visit to Korea, where the division of the country between north and south remains in place today, as a source of considerable heartache for the Korean people.   Berlin of course has a similar history as a politically divided city between the capitalist west and the communist east, except that unlike Korea it surmounted the political challenges and reunified at the end of the Cold War in 1989.  Still you can see the bleak functional architecture from the Stalinist influence in East Berlin, very dull, conformist and ugly, contrasted to a more free creative spirit in the West. 

Another big contrast I have noticed in Berlin is that travelling at the solstice I have moved from the coldest and darkest part of the year in Australia to the hottest and lightest time in Germany.  At the winter June solstice in Australia it gets dark at 5pm and the mornings in the south of the country are frosty.  Here in Berlin it is hot, 35

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