Human beings have always been preoccupied with building walls. In the first century, the Roman emperor Hadrian built a 75-mile wall across Roman Britain. In the 1870s, Argentina built a line of trenches and watchtowers called the Zanja de Alsina to protect Buenos Aires from invasion by indigenous peoples. The Berlin Wall went up in 1961, dividing East from West for almost 30 years. In 1975, South Africa built a 3,500-volt electric fence dubbed the Snake of Fire to keep the civil war in Mozambique from spilling over into the frontier. In the middle of the night in August 2006, Italian officials constructed a steel wall around Via Anelli, a run-down neighborhood known for drug trafficking and prostitution.
Walls don't just divide us. They make us ill. After the Berlin Wall went up, East German psychiatrists observed that the Berlin Wall caused mental illness, rage, dejection, and addiction. The closer to the physical wall people lived, the more acute their disorders. The only cure for "Wall Disease" was to bring the Wall down. Sure enough, in 1990, psychiatrists noted the "emotional liberation" felt after November 9, 1989 when the Wall finally fell. Thousands of jubilant Germans climbed the Wall, wept, and embraced each other atop the concrete, and proceeded to tear the Wall down with joyful abandon.
Walls divide us. The Gospel unites us.
Adapted from Marcello Di Cintio,
Walls: Travels Along the Barricades (Soft Skull Press, 2013), pp. 10-12