What are the challenges for Europe today? What about social and political responsiblity toward the other continents? What contribution can Christian movements make? There were many questions at the beginning of the second day of the Congress that focused on the current situation of the European continent with its local and global challenges.
“We have to move on from the Europe of the fathers and make [the Europe] of the sons [and the daughters],” exhorted president of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo. “Christians have to re-choose Europe together; we can’t do it alone. Europe can’t live for itself; it should live its Christianity in favour of the others and with the others. Now is the time for ‘spiritual humanism’ and for the life of the Churches and communities to emerge and bring their own contribution.”
Gérard Testard from EFESIA in Paris accented the need for Christian action in the public sphere. We shouldn’t have heavenly citizenship on one side and earthly citizenship on the other. They need to exist together.
Michael Hochschild, sociologist and professor of post-modern thought at Time-Lab of Paris, underscored the socio-political importance of spiritual Communities and Movements in Europe. But for this to be so, he said, “you need to consider yourselves and show yourselves to be a decisive force for shaping the cultural landscape.” “You need to become socio-civil Movements.” He also said that in a time of uncertainty and lack of vision, Communities like those involved in Together4Europe offer alternative models for living.
“It could be the fear of the future that constrains us to do all we can so that [future] might be better,” stated Herbert Lauenroth, expert on interculturalism at the Ecumenical Centre of Ottmaring, Germany. According to his analysis the current situation in Europe arises from a reaction to fear and uncertainty that is the result of a sense of existential suffocation. Such a situation represents a challenge with the passage of time: The fear could become a learning experience. “It’s a matter of preferring what is unknown, foreign, what lies at the extreme, as a place in which to learn the faith.” Through confrontation with the depths that society is facing, we can come to realize that a new direction based on faith is possible.”
“Europe is passing through the night of its values, the night of its role in the world, the night of its dreams,” Focolare president Maria Voce affirmed in her intervention. “Together4Europe seems to be precisely the entity that would be capable of inspiring individuals and associations in their efforts for a Europe that is free, reconciled, democratic, supportive and fraternal, a Europe that could be a gift to the rest of the world.”
“Steffen Kern from the Evangelical Federation of Wuerttemberg, continued the reflection on Europe and Hope: “Where do we Christians place our hope? A sense of responsibility is needed and taking on the pains and shadows of our cities. In Stuttgart we opened the House of Hope that welcomes women and others who are alone to show them that God never abandons anyone.”
Thomas Roemer from the YMCA in Munich made it clear that if we don’t substitute the Europe of fear with the Europe of hope, the latter risks dying off. Like the disciples, Europe is also on a boat with Jesus. “Jesus is still here in the storms; we need to have faith. He got on the boat to save us.”
In the afternoon, Together for Europe opened its doors to anyone who wished to join the discussion on confronting and planning.
At the roundtable on “Christians and Muslims in Dialogue” the need to know one another emerged, to meet and work together on social and cultural challenges. Pasquale Ferrara, Italian neo-ambassador to Algeria, underscored the fact that dialogue is not done by cultures or religions, but by human beings. We all need to take a bath in concreteness and realism. Imam Baztami invited everyone to an encounter with others, to get to know others. Many ideas and projects emerged from the debate between Religions philosopher Beate Beckmann-Zoeller, Dr. Thomas Amberg from the Evangelical Church and French Bishop M. Dubost.
At the “Towards Sustainablity in Europe” roundtable, Cardinal Turkson, environmental engineer Daniele Renzi, Hans-Hermann Böhm and other experts took up the Pope’s invitation for serious and open debate on climate change and ecological challenges. “Science and religion should be in dialogue,” Turkson remarked, “so they can make a common contribution to society.”
The roundtable on “The Mysticism of Encounter” put Europeans from the left in dialogue with theologians and philosophers from Christian Movements. “Regarding the ultimate questions of meaning, we’re closer to one another than we think,” said Walter Baier, member of the Austrian Communist Party and coordinator of the “Transform! Europe” Network. Focolare co-president Jesús Moran supported a new and inclusive form of integration for people with no religious affiliation. He concluded: “The harmony amongst us here today is a reason for much hope.”
The President of the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, spoke about encounter, reconciliation and future, three words used in the main title of the event. “It is God who has taken the first step towards us.” “And you can forgive only when you acknowledge the wrong; for this reason the negative is hard work for the heart.” Therefore Christian Movements are “called to be missionaries of reconciliation, beginning from prayer that is then translated into daily life.”