For the last 2 weeks I have joined the world travelers and visited different countries and places. I am now in Dresden, a large city in former East Germany, or GDR (German Democratic Republic) as is said. Was it democratic I ask myself? What has become quite clear is that we are seldom able to understand a local reality very well, but clearly politics plays an important role and naturally effects economics and also must have an impact on family matters.
I visited my son who lives with his family in Abu Dhabi. I found that the majority of the population of that emirate are foreigners, foreign workers at various levels in the economy but very many are without their families as they cannot afford it. They send money home and go home from time to time. Children of other families go to study overseas. Religious observance plays a big role as can be seen in the beautiful mosques all over especially the Grand Mosque. As in all Muslim countries men and women are separated in many ways.
However this is a common reality. In the small harbour town in Portugal I visited one sees groups of men sitting at coffee shops and later in the day, after their work is done, the women come out for a coffee. Many are older people but it is a bustling little down that still has a fishing industry.
This separation of men and women was not so common with the people I met in Germany where I spent time with Marriage Encounter families and in one community I was happy to have been with them to celebrate on Marriage Day last Sunday. I was hardly surprised that our South African marriage awareness campaign was quite unknown to them but they were impressed with our Ubuntu family year planner. With new ME friends – or as they said “We are family!” we did walking tours in Halle and Leipzig.
From Monday it was Dresden, which was the main destination of my trip. This is where we are singing the WAR REQUIEM this week with German and South African choirs, a children’s choir and youth orchestra. It will also be performed in Johannesburg and Cape Town next week. I liked the name they used here for the programme is called “Music against War” The musical work commemorates World War II, and the ending of WWI. A very valuable insight for me was the memories people in each of the cities still share of the communist rule in the GDR and the Peaceful Revolution that ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall and unification of Germany. In the churches, mainly Lutheran/Evangelical there are exhibitions about the prayer campaigns and the candle protests of people praying for the fall of communism. October 9th is the day to remember in Leipzig where thousands of demonstrators gathered in the square in 1989. Although there were these prayer campaigns the region is very secular. There are churches but people in general are not religious. I was told Catholics are only 2% and about 20% of population attends any religion. There was also little evidence of refugees or mosques in this part of Germany.
Dresden is wellknown because of the bombing in WWII that almost completely destroyed the city. There are new buildings in original historical styles but the greatest impact is the way many of the historical old buildings have been restored to look almost the same. Sifting through the rubble and extracting useable old sandstone blocks took years and as can be seen in photographs old and new blocks were put together in the restoration process. These are memories for the future, for visitors but for the city and its children – of all ages.
May they all remember, “Peace on Earth Begins at Home.”