He was born, quite literally, into division, conflict, and danger. Yet he has lived his life with the desire to find the humanity in even the most hated of enemies He has made as his life's occupation the work of reconciliation.
Born in Germany in 1931 to a Jewish family, Oestreicher grew up under the Nazi regime. As a child, he lived for months in hiding from the Nazis and witnessed the first outbreaks of anti-Jewish violence in Berlin. At the age of 7, he fled with his family to New Zealand, where they became Quakers.
In 1959, having returned to Europe, Oestreicher was ordained in the Church of England and took a position in a working-class East London parish. Since then he has worked in the British Council of Churches establishing contacts and connections with East European Christians, authored two books on Christian-Marxist dialogue, served on the Christian Peace Conference in Prague (resigning when the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968), and chaired Amnesty International in Britain. He is currently director of international ministry at Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, England. During a recent visit to Washington, D.C., Paul Oestreicher was interviewed by Jim Wallis.
Jim Wallis: I'm very impressed by this vocation of yours--the ministry of reconciliation. What does the ministry or vocation of reconciliation mean to you? And how did you come to your calling?
Paul Oestreicher: It is what I've come to dedicate my life to in a way, the exploration of what reconciliation means--and that is loving enemies. I think I owe this vocation to my father. He was born a Jew and, through the experience of suffering in the First World War, encountered his various Calvaries and became a Christian because he survived the trenches while most of his friends didn't.