ON AUGUST 13, 50 years ago, men began to build a wall in Berlin to separate the east of the city from the west.
It stretched for 43 kilometres and was constructed of concrete slabs and barbed wire. For those readers too young to remember, or those who didn’t “do” history at school, Berlin had been divided after World War II when Germany in the east was controlled by the Soviets and in the west by the US, France and Britain. Before the wall went up, 2.5 million people escaped East Germany for the west.
In Northern Ireland, during the last 40 years, walls were built to keep Roman Catholic communities and Protestant areas apart from each other.
People have built walls to keep their properties safe for centuries. They have even built walls to keep countries apart e.g. Hadrian’s Wall. We may think that we’ve moved on from these times but how many of us have erected barriers to keep us from getting too close to people perceived to be in some way different.
Politicians talk a lot about social mobility and how difficult it is to move out of a background of deprivation into a more affluent one. Often the barriers seem insurmountable. Do we help keep these walls between the social groups?
Some years ago a phrase was coined: “Church without walls”. The vision was to break down the barriers between those “in” the church and those “outside” so that news about Jesus could be clearly heard. There was no point having a message that would change lives if nobody could hear it.
When Jesus was crucified his body was laid out in a tomb and a large stone put in front of it, then sealed. The reason for the Christian message of a living Christ is that the man-made barrier of the stone could not keep Jesus form rising from the dead.
When his friends went to the grave, the stone was moved and the tomb was empty.