“People may resist our help, spurn our appeals, and reject our suggestions, but they are powerless against our prayers.”                                          Rick Warren

October 9, 1989 – St. Nicholas Church – Leipzig, East Germany: Shortly after 6 p.m. on this Monday night, the doors to St. Nicholas Church swung open and hundreds of worshipers, led by Pastor Christian Fuhrer, spilled into the streets. Holding candles and flowers, they marched a short distance to Karl Marx Square, where they were joined by an estimated 70,000 people in a peaceful protest of the East German communist regime. Surrounded by 8,000 East German police and soldiers, protestors feared a massacre. Still, they marched.

Christian Fuhrer, the son of a Lutheran pastor, grew up in Leipzig, East Germany’s second-largest city behind Berlin. From an early age, he knew he wanted to follow his father into the ministry. In August 1961, Communist-controlled East Germany built the Berlin Wall, a 100-mile long, 13-foot-tall, massive concrete wall preventing East Germans from fleeing to the West. The event had a traumatic effect on the 18-year-old.

After studying theology at the University of Leipzig, Fuhrer pastored two churches before coming to St. Nicholas in 1980. The 850-year-old Lutheran church was Leipzig’s largest, with a capacity of 1,400.

In early 1982, Pastor Fuhrer started a prayer meeting every Monday at 5 p.m. Less than a dozen people came at first. Those gathered prayed for global peace and freedom from the oppressive East German regime. The meeting provided a free space where people could discuss things they could not discuss publicly. A few parishioners met faithfully in the cavernous old church every Monday for years. Although aware of the peace prayer meeting, the communist government chose to turn its head.

In 1985 Pastor Fuhrer placed an ‘open to all’ sign outside the church. The prayer meeting grew to several hundred in attendance. In February 1988, he invited 50 people who advocated for freedom in East Germany, and more than 600 people showed up. Many more people began to attend the Monday night peace prayer rallies. Police barricaded the streets leading to the church, but even more people showed up.

Christian Fuhrer had become a symbol of hope as a pastor and a leader against communist oppression. Communist party leadership demanded that he stop the prayer meetings. Still, he remained resolute despite some attendees being beaten and arrested. The prayer meetings became the foundation for peaceful protests against the East German government.

The first Monday peace marches began in September 1989. The standing-room-only prayer meetings were followed by thousands of people marching peacefully in the streets.  

A week after the Monday October 9 march from St. Nicholas, more than 100,000 protestors peacefully gathered at Karl Marx Square despite police threats to shoot anyone in the streets. To the surprise of those protesting, German authorities were overwhelmed by the size of the protests and ordered the police to stand down. They were prepared for anything except candles, flowers and a massive crowd of peaceful protestors.

On Monday, October 23, an estimated 320,000 people gathered in Karl Marx Square. Inspired by the peaceful protests in Leipzig, marches spread to towns and villages across East Germany. On Saturday, November 4, half a million East German citizens gathered at the wall in East Berlin, demanding freedom of speech.

On November 9, exactly one month after the October 9 demonstration from St. Nicholas Church, the Berlin Wall gates were opened to allow East and West Germans to cross over for the first time in almost 30 years.

 In March 1990, East Germany had its first free elections opening the way for the unification of East and West Germany. Three months later, East German troops began dismantling the Berlin Wall. For those who watched the wall fall, it was a gift from on high, an answered prayer. “If it had not been for Pastor Christian Fuhrer and St. Nicholas Church, the wall would never have come down,” wrote German newspaper Die Zeit.

“If anything deserves the word miracle, then this was a miracle of Biblical proportions,” recalled Christian Fuhrer. “Thousands in the churches praying, hundreds of thousands peacefully protesting in the streets, and not one shot fired. The massive transformation all started with a prayer meeting. It was an unbelievable experience.”