„Make space for conversations as the foundation for foregiveness.
Disagree with each other in a meaningful way.
Be respectful of others. Get to know each other.“
The Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) was reduced to rubble during the firestorm which swept through the city after the bombing of Dresden in 1945. Prior to German reunification in 1989, both of the founders of WCE had experienced the remains of the church as a pile of broken stones in the middle of the old town. During subsequent visits to Dresden from 1994 to 2005, they experienced a building which was undergoing a metamorphosis. The Frauenkirche literally rose from the ashes, starting from the foundation of the lower church up to the dome and the new tower cross. Inspired by this experience, the founders of WCE asked themselves “Why not host a dialogue about forgiveness in a church destroyed by hate and war?” The journey to make this dream a reality began when the decision was made to host the 1st World Café European Gathering in Dresden.
More than 100 people from Dresden, Europe and all over the world came to the Frauenkirche to explore and exchange insights about the concept of forgiveness from both a personal and social perspective. The crypt of the lower church was ideally suited for hosting a bilingual (German/English) World Café. With a floorplan in the shape of a cross and a monumental altar stone in the middle, groups of four chairs were set up in each section of the cross. As a result, German and English speaking ‘zones’ were defined by the church’s floorplan. During the World Café, many bilingual participants alternated between languages in these ‘zones’.
Since its reconstruction, the Frauenkirche understands itself as a place of peace and reconciliation. In the spirit of the message of the church “Building bridges, Living reconciliation, Strengthening faith”, WCE approached the Foundation of the Frauenkirche Dresden to propose hosting a World Café about forgiveness in the crypt of the lower church. The overall purpose of this dialogue was to provide a setting where participants would gain insights, attitudes, and skills that would make a significant difference in their daily lives towards fostering a deeper understanding of forgiveness on both a personal and social level. The World Café enabled individual narratives of the power of a reconciled life to be shared with others. By hosting a World Café on forgiveness, the Frauenkirche provided a setting to exchange and spread such personal stories about reconciliation.
The setting of the Frauenkirche as a sacred place combined with the courageous exploration of the concept of forgiveness together with others in dialogue provided a unique environment to foster deep personal insights. By mutually reflecting upon a question such as “What can I do with this renewed understanding of forgiveness to help make the world a more peaceful place?”, participants explored an envisioned future in conversation with others. They encouraged each other to „Go the way of the heart“ as they explored what a deeper meaning of forgiveness would mean for them, their communities and the world. Stories from the conversations confirm that participants were empowered to leave their own comfort zone and address challenging personal issues related to forgiveness. An analysis of the results revealed that the participants gained both insights and personal courage to take action that would make a difference towards developing a sense of greater forgiveness in themselves and the world in which they live.
The World Café had a profound and lasting impact not only on its participants. The quality and depth of the conversations embodied the deep power which dialogue offers to society. This one-of-a-kind conversation which took place in the Frauenkirche that day serves as a constant inspiration for WCE’s on-going work to foster dialogues about issues that matter.