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Conference: Contested Relations - Protestantism between Southern Africa and Germany from the 1930s to the Apartheid Era

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InfoPrice: 55,00 € p.P (without accommodation)

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Since World War I the church relations between Germany and southern Africa were a field of very principled struggles, during which the self-understanding of the Protestant Church was contested:

In the colonial revisionism of the 1920s churches and mission agencies emphasised their national and “folkish“ calling in order to unite the German-speakers that were dispersed in many countries in one institution. In light of this nationalist self-esteem churches and mission agencies of German origin wholeheartedly supported the tightening of racial segregation in South Africa and Namibia.

The southern African supporters of the Confessing Church opposed this “folkish“ theology and emphasised the spiritual character of Church and mission. Yet their theological critique led neither to a general condemnation of racism nor to resistance against the introduction of apartheid in 1948. Up to the 1960s German churches and mission agencies did not question the policy of “separate development” in principle.

At the beginning of the 1970s more and more members of the churches in Germany began to identify with the liberation movements and pushed for the abolishment of apartheid. In contrast to this political aim the controversy largely had the character of an inner-Protestant dispute.

After the end of apartheid particularly the churches in southern Africa have repeatedly emphasised the importance of this contested history to be worked through. The Study Process on the role of German–southern African Church relations, called for by Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) following an initiative by the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR) and the United Evangelical Mission (VEM) aims at laying the historiographical foundation for such processes of reconciliation.

This conference in Berlin is the first of three book launches, where the results of the historical research will be presented to the public. On June 15-16 and 17-18 two further conferences will be held in Soweto and in Cape Town, on which – on the foundation of the material presented – the question of ecclesiastic unity and the social and political calling of the Church shall be discussed.

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