The headlines in the pile of newspapers waiting on my return to Europe were remarkably similar to those when I left a month ago. Greece totters on the verge of bankrupcy. The Euro staggers under the weight of shaky economies including Greece, Italy and Spain, let alone the global financial climate. And the European Union itself, some predict, has to crumble along with its currency.
So, one wonders, will there be anything left soon of Europe to study in a Centre for European Studies?
That’s why we need perspective. We need the perspective of time. This is not the first, and neither will it be the last, crisis for Europe to weather.
Recently in New Zealand, I heard the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, tell his audience at my old university that each crisis the EU has had to face has only strengthened its unity. Those who predict the beginning of the end misunderstood the nature of the EU and the multiple levels of interwoven relationships of ‘network Europe’, he said. The member nations of the EU were no longer the independent sovereign states of a past world order.
Next to historical perspectives, we also need biblical perspectives. Politics and international relations are major subjects addressed in the Bible. Just read Moses and the prophets. And the Bible remains as relevant for European politics as it was when God gave Moses a framework for society at Sinai, or when Jethro gave Moses advice to have the people elect 70 elders, in perhaps the first-ever expression of democracy.
Shaping the future
While the vision for Europe shared by believers like Robert Schuman and Kondrad Adenauer was for a ‘community of peoples deeply rooted in Christian values’, too often such values are flagrantly disregarded by prominent public leaders in the political and financial sectors. Others, less flagrant, simply push for ‘my-country-first’ policies.
Yes, the future of Europe, and of Europeans, is at stake. Always has been. And it has always been the task of the people of God to shape that future–to be salt (perserving) and light (enlightening). Our task has always been to seek to see more of God’s kingdom, his rule, his will being done, here in Europe as it is in heaven. And not just in the church –but in politics, business, education, the family, healthcare, culture and society generally.
So how do we develop these historical and biblical perspectives? How can we discern what lies beneath? How can we be equipped to ‘understand the times and know what Israel should do’?
These are the reasons why the Schuman Centre for European Studies exists: to promote biblical perspectives on Europe’s past, present and future. We want to help believers understand our current situation in Europe in the light of the past and of God’s purposes for the future.
In this new academic year, we invite you to be part of our activities, which address aspects of past, present and future.
Next month, we start again with the Evening School of European Studies. While the classes are held every two weeks in Amsterdam, this course can be followed on line from anywhere in the world, at any time, day or night, with skype tutorials. Monthly historical trails through cities like Utrecht, Amsterdam, Zwolle and Deventer can be joined by anyone interested. For dates and other details, see: ESES.
Once more we offer a four-week Summer School of European Studies, covering similar material as in the evening school. The first two weeks are the Heritage Tour, followed so far by over a hundred participants from 17 to 70-plus years. The summer school also includes two study weeks. The tour and each of the weeks can be taken separately. Dates for next year’s SSES are: June 30-July 15. For more information, see SSES.
For the first time this coming year, we plan a three-month residential School of European Studies, a second-level University of the Nations course, from May to July. This course will be held in several different locations, with the first weeks possibly on board the YWAM sailing vessel, the Next Wave. Watch for further details.
One further Schuman Centre initiative is the State of Europe Forum, to be held on May 9-10 next year in Copenhagen, while Denmark holds the EU Presidency. This follows the inaugural forum held in Budapest prior to the HOPE.II congress. These events are designed to stimulate a European dialogue about the current state of Europe in the light of Schuman’s original vision.
Judging from today’s headlines, there’s much work for us all to do!
Till next week,
Till next week,