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Dear Editor: Has the Church finally stifled Martin Luther’s Protest?

“Tuesday 31 October, 2017 will mark 500 years since that day when Martin Luther posted his theses on the church’s door[…]

“Where is the fire that burned in the hearts of men opposing the system that was trying to get men to submit their consciences to them at all costs?”

In the following Letter to the Editor, Afryea Charles wonders if the Church has finally silenced the Protest started 500 years ago by Martin Luther:

Photo: A protester is unperturbed by advancing lawmen in Baton Rouge, after the killing of Alton Sterling.
(Copyright Reuters/Jonathan Bachman)

I know about protests! I have grown up in a country where people are always protesting. It is usually a very noisy affair with people marching in the streets, singing songs, chanting slogans, holding placards, beating drums, sometimes even blocking major roadways and making them impassable.

Sometimes we down tools. Some protests have led to gas shortages, water shortages, traffic gridlocks and fights between opposing forces.

In other words, protests cause people to stop what they are doing and focus on the protesters’ issue of contention.

While in Germany, I felt as if the Protest was over. It was so quiet, and people were just carrying on with their lives. I even visited the Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther was shut away for one year during the 16th century so he would be protected from those who were hounding him to death. Even there, the tour guides referred to that prophetic time in history as if it was nothing.

Ha! A monk posted 95 theses on the door of the Church in Wittenburg which went against everything the leading church of the day stood for and provoked a revolution that spread throughout Europe like a wild forest fire and here they are, trivializing it.

That simple act reignited a protest begun in the 14th century by John Wycliffe which spread throughout Europe with such fervour that martyrdom, wars, refugees, death, and carnage were the theme of the day.

This Reformation caused such a stir that it affected Europe politically, socially, religiously and culturally. It vigorously propagated the separating of ecclesiastical and civil power, allowed people to understand the Bible in their common language, taught the people that Christ was their only intercessor and Saviour from sin and that no one man can be the vice-ge rent of God on Earth, heavily rebuked the sacrament and indulgences system, preached that salvation and grace iare free and even led to the governing church at that time being dubbed the Anti-Christ.

What pandemonium! Shortly afterwards, a counter-Reformation movement was formed. It iwas called the Society of Jesus Christ or the Society of the Jesuits. Its sole purpose was to extinguish the Reformation and all its participants by any means necessary.You

Photo: Pope Francis (left), a former Jesuit priest, poses for a selfie in Martinique.
(Copyright Getty)

In recent times, I have noticed that Pope Francis, a Jesuit, is appealing to political, humanitarian and religious leaders worldwide. He is also targeting people who wield major influence and the common people asking them to put away their differences and unite to make the world a better place.

He has championed the Paris agreement on climate change, penned an encyclical that links morality to the healing of the earth, signed a joint declaration with the Lutherans indicating that the Protest is over, and has been very busy promoting unity!

Now to be honest with you, I greatly desire unity; with it, we can accomplish many goals. We know protests are disruptive, inconvenient and disturb the regular rhythms of our peaceful lives. However, protests sometimes bear positive fruit.

They can lead to better wages, improved working conditions, increased educational opportunities, greater human rights, more free thought and many other positive human benefits.

Photo: Environmental activists wearing respiratory masks protest against air pollution in front of Germany’s Interior Ministry in Berlin on 2 August 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017 Axel Schmidt)

Nevertheless, I must admit that, when the largest religion in the world is calling for unity, my concern is aroused. I find it necessary to ask this: Have the issues surrounding the Protest been resolved? Is there going to be unity between Church and State?

Under whose leadership will we be united? And exactly what are the terms and conditions of this unity?

Tuesday 31 October, 2017 will mark 500 years since that day when Luther posted his theses on the church’s door. All across Europe, tours and site visits and lectures and seminars are being planned to commemorate this event, many of them featuring the history of the Reformation. Yet the silence is deafening.

What are they promoting? Where is the fire that burned in the hearts of men opposing the system that was trying to get men to submit their consciences to them at all costs? Have they forgotten the rich history or are the issues that started the Reformation no longer an issue?

These are questions that need urgent answers in the lead-up to this quinquennial.

We dare not remain silent.

About Afryea Charles

Afryea Charles is an inspired missionary who has renounced the pleasures of everyday living because she wants to save the world. As time passes, she is less and less certain that yes, she can. But she is not yet ready to concede that she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

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3 comments

  1. One for those with an appreciation for European history here I suppose…

    • It’s a very important article and historical event. Given what passes for education here in Trinidad, I wonder how many will be engaging in any such discussion. But it has a lot of significance and is very relevant to how the social history evolved in T&T.

      It is also interesting to see how recent events in the United States, not least of which being the inroads being made by the evangelical faiths into politics, are apparently bringing history round in a circle.