Together for Europe – Hope for Europe

Our EBF President, Hans Guderian, was in Brussels on 12 May for a meeting of various Christian spiritual movements to join together in action for peace and reconciliation in Europe. Here are some of his reflections :

On behalf of my German Baptist home union I had the chance to participate last Saturday, May 12, 2012, in the third meeting of Christian movements and communities in the European capital Brussels. There are more than 200 movements which belong to this network of spiritual communities “Together for Europe”.

 The basic shape of the day consisted in an ongoing “Steady Prayer Time” shaped by the different movements and communities, several forums e.g. to the themes “economy in fellowship”, a “studio for youth and young adults”, a “workshop for married couples”, an action “for the poor ones in the city” and an open-air-musical. I had the opportunity to talk with several participants (among them leaders of the “Focolare-movement” and monks of the Premonstratensian order) and also with Gerhard Proß from the YMCA in Esslingen/Germany, the organiser and leader of this action day “Together for Europe”.

The first larger joint event where I was able to participate after my arrival in the early morning was the Ecumenical Worship Service in the church “Notre-Dame du Sablon”, located close to the centre of Brussels, with about 200 visitors. The liturgy here reminded me a lot to the prayer meetings of Taizé. For me personally this worship service was a soothing wonderful spiritual experience. Short choruses alternated with Biblical readings, a dignified handled open time of joint prayers, a short sermon and a spiritual symbolic action of a spoken out blessing assurance towards the respective neighbour under the sign of the cross marked on the others forehead.

The highlight of this day was the great Plenary Assembly in the “Gold Hall”, a great conference hall in the centrally located “Square Meeting Centre” in Brussels, with about 1,000 invited guests from politics, society and church. The three-hours-long programme (with a break of half an hour in-between to have some time for individual encounters) was very professional and competent.  Different languages were used. There was simultaneous translation into ten languages. Parts of the programme were transmitted to approximately 140 cities in a live streamed via video-conference.

Contents wise the focus had been on the proclamation of the „Seven Yes to Europe“: Yes to life, Yes to the family, Yes to creation, Yes to a just economy, Yes to solidarity, Yes to peace and Yes to social responsibility. I was quite impressed and encouraged to realise in which good way Biblical ethics had been combined here with Christian spirituality and worldwide social and political responsibility.

Here some highlights from the respective short addresses of individual prominent speakers:

–       Maria Voce, the President of the „Focolare“, said in her short opening statement that Europe should be a „joint home for the peoples and the minorities“;

–       Romano Prodi, former EU Council President, deferred in his very well received major address first of all to the Christian roots of the foundation of the European communities (quoting Adenauer, Schumann and De Gasperi), and then also spoke of the danger of returning to the old nationalisms and to a Europe that understands itself more like a „fortress“ and no longer as a „joint house“ and finally advertised for the contribution of the Christians who would have the responsibility to counteract against the anxieties in our countries, to understand the crises as a chance and to communicate the message of reconciliation connected with the keywords of „solidarity“, „subsidiarity“ and „development“ and being developed also in the spheres of political and societal life.

–       Andrea Riccardi, minister of the Italian government for international cooperation and Europe, complained about the lacking future vision for Europe and a spreading around mood of pessimism; quoting Habermas („We live in history without shaping it“) Riccardi invoked the danger that Europe could become a continent of decay and something like a  „quantité négligeable“; Christians would have to lodge an objection against the hoodoo prophets, should speak anew about the dream of unity in a climate of sympathy and solidarity and with a sense for our common destination as Europeans affecting into action.

During the second part of the afternoon twelve cities in Europe with different approaches to   the theme “Together for Europe” had been hooked-up via satellite: among others Augsburg, Wroclaw (where our former German Baptist president Siegfried Großmann had been involved strongly for the reconciliation between Poles and Germans), Belfast, Lisbon, Basel, Seville, Budapest, Tirana, Lyon and Stockholm. A special performance was presented by a group of 15 teenagers who visualized with big plastic cubes the theme:


An altogether successful and important day for the Christian commitment towards a humane (and not only market-oriented) and Christian ethical values shaped Europe.

A sign of hope for our continent and for the overcoming of the “crises of hopelessness” for the people in our societies.

– Hans Guderian

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