The Reformation was an epoch-making event that transformed the development of society and the state in Germany forever. The man closely associated with this development, Martin Luther, was nothing if not controversial. His theses rejecting the trade in indulgences of 1517 and his resistance at the Diet of Worms in 1521 questioned the traditional authorities and advocated in direct opposition to them freedom of conscience and judgement of the individual. His treatise On the Freedom of a Christian formed the blueprint for the early modern human in which self-realisation and social responsibility complement one another.
The formation of broad social classes took on greater importance following the Reformation and was a significant precondition for the development of the modern citizen we know today. His translation of the Bible into vernacular and universally understandable German gave people access to the Word and hence to information, understanding and participation. In view of the people seeking refuge in Germany today, we can build on this experience and say that a common language is the basis for social cohesion. Without this common bond, cultural integration is not possible. On the other hand, the anniversary of the Reformation invites us to trace the roots of our culture and become more aware of our own position in the world. A society that cultivates its own identity through its values and cultural peculiarities also has room for the Other, the Foreign, without feeling threatened by it.
It is on the basis of such consideration for society as a whole that the Federal Government is participating with the federal states, districts and the EKD in the preparations for the anniversary of the Reformation. My department is coordinating the government’s activities and so far has funded 200 projects. Several sites of the Reformation have been restored with the support of government funds. Plans for 2017 are well underway, including three National Special Exhibitions in Berlin, Wittenberg and at Wartburg Castle. Visitors from home and abroad will be offered great variety. I wish them all fascinating encounters with the historical heritage of the Reformation.
Prof. Monika Grütter MdB is Minister of State in the Federal Chancellery and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.