Fifth Festival of Protestant Culture – Days of Bonhoeffer, April 8-13, 2015

The Fifth Festival of Protestant Culture – Days of Bonhoeffer, April 8-13, 2015, included more than a dozen events dedicated to the person and thoughts of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland). The Protestant Festival was an inspiration for many, an opportunity for reflection and to learn about the works and life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and to apply his message in this century.

Days of Bonhoeffer began on April 8 at the Evangelical School of Theology (EST) with an international scientific conference “Faces of Bonhoeffer”, which was attended by experts from Poland and around the world. For a few hours, conference attendees listened to and discussed the legacy of the great evangelical theologian as speakers pointed to the various aspects of the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

That evening was the eve of the 70th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by the German Nazis and he was honored and remembered at EST by scientists, clergy and people affiliated in different ways with the life and works of Bonhoeffer. The unusual nature of this event, “Bonhoeffer in the Face of Violence” commemorated the death and burial of Bonhoeffer as the participants “played the part” of Bonhoeffer’s loved ones and came together at a common table to remember him, to share stories from his life, recall touching and poignant moments, even humorous times. The room decor, food selection, lighting and music transferred the guests to the time when Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in prison awaiting a decision as to his fate. Participants could listen but also share their thoughts.

At the end, the guests were invited to return to the twenty-first century, in which the message of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on violence and terror is still painfully relevant. With reference to quotes about love in action and concern for another human being there was a presentation by missionaries – EST students who travel regularly to Ukraine and Moldova to help the poor people of Roma villages, and among other things, give eye and hearing examinations and supply eyeglasses and hearing aids.

On the morning of April 9, participants of the Festival of Protestant Culture met in the parish hall of the Lutheran Church to attend an international conference entitled “Bonhoeffer Yesterday and Today”. The conference was devoted to the reception of Bonhoeffer’s character and activities in Poland and abroad and various initiatives relating to his person.

April 9 marked the 70th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which was remembered by placing flowers at the Bonhoeffer monument in Wroclaw. Among those present for this event were representatives of the Bonhoeffer Society, Consulate of Germany, Evangelical School of Theology and the Lutheran Church. Guests had an opportunity to become acquainted with the exhibition of the Krzyzowa Foundation for European Reconciliation and to visit the museum and exhibition in City Hall.

On April 10, the participants from the House of Peace Foundation and students from the Salesian St. Edith Stein High School walked in the footsteps of pre-war Wroclaw theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Benno Jacob, Edith Stein and Katharina Staritz. Each took a courageous stance in the fight against Nazism and anti-Semitism.

In the evening, the Lutheran Church hosted a gala concert choir, Capella Ecumenica that sang music dedicated to the German theologian.

On the evening of April 11, there were two events: the Christian Fellowship Church in Wroclaw hosted a concert by singer and musician Matthew Bran – Mate O. Before the performance the Rector of EST shared with the audience details of the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The event was attended by about 500 people who listened but also sang with Mate O. and his team and together they worshipped God.

At the same time, in the House of Edith Stein there was a viewing of the film, “Die Weisse Rose” (The White Rose), devoted to the group’s activities from June 1942 to February 1943 against Nazi Germany. The White Rose was an intellectual, non-violent organization of students and others from the University of Munich. Many of the students were executed by the Nazis. The Festival participants also had the opportunity to visit the exhibition, “The White Rose”.

On Sunday, April 12, there was a solemn service in the Lutheran Church and the sermon was titled “Reconciliation and Peace” and delivered by Revd Canon Samuel Randall of the Church of England. The sermon devoted much attention to the issue of a life of hope in the face of death and seeing a light in the darkness. As examples of this attitude Randall mentioned Edith Stein, Anne Frank, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Dutch Jew, Etty Hillesum.

Also, on April 12, there was a meeting in the Second Baptist Church with missionaries, Bozena and Marek Gwozdz. Under the slogan “being for the other” taken from a quote by Bonhoeffer, they presented the purpose and history of their mission. They spoke about their medical service and the work with Roma children and adults. They complemented the presentation with interesting photographs showing the living conditions of the Roma and the work of the mission, which was met with great interest.

After the service people could examine their eyes and ears with devices that are typically used during medical mission trips. Missionaries also received the things that will be used during the 2015 summer camp for about 40 Roma children living in Ukraine, and many pairs of glasses, which will be useful in further medical missionary activities.

On Sunday evening, April 12, there was a panel discussion at the White Stork Synagogue titled “Bonhoeffer and interreligious dialogue”, which was attended by representatives of various churches and religions.

Together, they focused on the connection of Bonhoeffer to interreligious dialogue, with particular emphasis on its relationship with Judaism.

The evening of April 13 was the last meeting of the Days of Bonhoeffer that took place in the Antioch Pentecostal Church. The participants reflected on the theme “The truth will set you free” in the context of one of the sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The participants were people of all ages – from the elderly to the youth and almost all actively participated in the discussion. At the same time, the church also held a “Coffee House”, a regularly organized meeting for the homeless. At this time EST students, Bozena and Mark Gwozdz, gave eye and hearing tests to the homeless, as well as the possibility of receiving glasses.

During the entire time of the Fifth FPC there was the collection of used eyeglasses, which will be forwarded to needy children and adults in Roma villages in Ukraine and Moldova. Glasses will continue to be collected at the EST Educational Center.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to and helped to implement such a rich program for all the participants. See you next year! Full information about the events of the festival can be found at www.fkp.wroclaw.pl.