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East, West German Lutherans gear up for annual Peace Week

Peace Week is being observed Nov. 7-17 by various Lutheran churches in both East and West Germany.

Peace Week, an initiative launched three years ago by the lay Lutheran Action Reconciliation/Peace Service headquartered in West Berlin, is now an annual event. It involves discussions among local congregations about issues of war and peace.

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In West Germany it has been aimed primarily at blocking the new nuclear missiles planned for deployment beginning next year here and in other NATO countries.

In East Germany the issues are rather different. The major one involves claims by some Christians to exemption from compulsory military service on grounds of pacifism. The state does not recognize such claims. Those East German Christian conscripts who make such claims would like to obtain a right equivalent to the West German constitutional guarantee of conscientious objection.

In West Germany one highlight of the Peace Week will be an ecumenical service Nov. 13 sponsored by Lutheran and Roman Catholic youth groups.

Other events in West Germany will include film showings, peace festivals, and discussions in various cities with five visiting American antinuclear activists.

In East Germany, Peace Week follows the fall callup for military service. Preliminary reports suggest that an increasing number of new draftees are asking either to be assigned to the unarmed construction troops or else to be exempt from army duty altogether.

There will therefore be a particular urgency to church-sponsored discussions of pacifism during the week. One of these discussions, in an East Berlin church, is scheduled to include some East German writers who have had brushes with party authorities in the past.

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