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Klara "Basilea" Schlink (1904-2001)


Mother Basilea Schlink (born Klara Schlink), a woman of faith and prayer, a prolific writer and the co-founder in 1947 of The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary in Darmstadt, Germany wrote the following:

"When human reason has exhausted every possibility, the children can go to their Father and receive all they need… For only when you have become utterly dependent upon prayer and faith, only when all human possibilities have been exhausted, can you begin to reckon that God will intervene and work His miracles."

Mother Basilea was a very remarkable woman. The sisterhood that she co-founded is an international, interdenominational organization (originally Lutheran) within the framework of the German Evangelical (Protestant) Church. The community is dedicated to a Christian literature and radio ministry. They publish tracts in 90 languages and distribute them on all five continents. They also have radio and television programs that are broadcast in 23 languages.

Her most noted contribution was her work for reconciliation between Germans and Jews. As a young woman in Germany, she had learned with horror of the Nazi extermination of the Jewish communities of her homeland and much of Europe, and she dedicated her life to seeking forgiveness and overcoming the legacy of their mutual bitterness.

The daughter of a mathematics professor, Klara Schlink grew up in Braunschweig, Germany, becoming a devout Christian at the age of 17. She trained as a kindergarten teacher and youth leader, studied at Bible college and, in 1934, gained a doctorate in psychology at Hamburg University.

As national president of the Women's Division of the German Student Christian Movement from 1933 to 1935, Klara refused to comply with Nazi edicts barring Jewish Christians from meetings. Returning to Darmstadt in 1935 she set up Bible study groups for girls with her fellow Lutheran Erika Madauss (the two met in Kassel in 1923), where they continued to teach the Old Testament in defiance of Nazi ideology.

During the Second World War, while working as travel secretary for a missionary organization, she risked her life and career by speaking publicly on the "unique destiny" of the Jews, whom she continued to describe as "God's people." Summoned twice by the Gestapo, she managed to avoid arrest.

It was not until March 1947 that Karla and Erika were eventually able to fulfill their vision of establishing the Sisterhood. The inaugural ceremony was held in the Darmstadt home of Schlink's parents, Steinberg House, which had largely escaped the 1944 bombing that leveled most of the city. Karla took the religious name Mother Basilea, while Erika became Mother Martyria. The two worked closely together until Mother Martyria's death in 1999.

Two years after its foundation, Steinberg House was bursting at the seams and, with just 30 marks in funds, the community began work to build a new mother house, having to make use of bricks salvaged from the rubble of the bombed-out city. The new centre was named Canaan (Kanaan in German).

Mother Basilea drew up a rule for the community, "The Canaan Rule," after a visit in 1963 to Mount Sinai, drawing on the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. The rule stresses repentance, reconciliation and prayer. She strongly believed there was a connection between the Holocaust and the divided Germany. She regarded the division of the nation as punishment for the atrocities committed by Germans against the Jews. She spoke of the "curse of unrepented guilt towards Israel," In her bid for reconciliation, she visited sites of Nazi atrocities across Europe. In 1961 she founded Beth Abraham, a home for Holocaust survivors run by her sisters in Jerusalem.

Today the sisterhood numbers more than 200 women from 20 countries, with 14 men in the affiliated Canaan Franciscan Brothers. It has branched out from its centre in Germany, at Darmstadt near Frankfurt, to Australia, Israel and the United States. (Taken from Mother Basilea’s obituary in The Independent, a British newspaper, and written by Felix Corley.)

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