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Bonhoeffer Down Under

If Protestants had saints, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—martyred under Hitler on April 9, 1945 just days before the Allies reached his concentration camp—would be one of the first canonised. Not just his unsought martyr’s death, but his life’s movement from privilege to growing identification with the suffering, his courageous return from the safety and beckoning success of the US to Germany, his work with the Confessing Church and, more controversially, with the underground resistance in the plot to assassinate Hitler, all argue his case for canonisation.

Bonhoeffer is among ten twentieth-century martyrs above the Great West Door at Westminster Cathedral, where their portraits of- ten tell more about the artists and their age than the saint and theirs, the movement of their lives and the movements they belonged to or founded. This is certainly true of Bonhoeffer and the Church of his anguished age.

This collection of essays is from ‘Down -Under’, for (with the exception of the paper by UK theologian Keith Clements) are all the papers are by writers who live and work in the southern hemisphere. They include Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, South African theologian John de Gruchy, and a number of Australian writers. These include papers by historian John Moses, and theologians Gordon Preece, Brian Rosner, Bruce Barber, Max Champion and Neil Holm.

Kevin Rudd writes in this volume that ‘Bonhoeffer is, without doubt, the man I admire most in the history of the twentieth century. He was a man of faith. He was a man of reason . . . He was never a nationalist, always an internationalist’.

For tormented twenty-first century humanity Bonhoeffer is still one of our best guides to that new humanity be- ing birthed by the Spirit of Christ in the midst of those seeing from and suffering below.

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