Monday, May 9, 2016
"Europeans must rise above narrow horizons of national interest, seek the international common good and urge fellow citizens to do likewise", argued dr. Jonathan Chaplin at the State of Europe Forum in Amsterdam (May 8 & 9).
Speaking in the opening plenary on the eve of Europe Day, May 9, in the 400-year-old Zuiderkerk, the director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics in Cambridge appealed to his audience to ‘argue for positions which advance the international common good even at the apparent expense of their national interests, as did the statesmen who launched the project of European integration with such courage and foresight’.
Europe Day commemorates the Schuman Declaration made on that date in 1950, which launched the European Coal and Steel Community and began the process of European unification. The State of Europe Forum is held each year around this date in the capital of the country holding the presidency of the EU, initiated by the Schuman Centre for European Studies and the Christian Political Foundation for Europe. Some 100 participants from 20 European nations gathered for this year’s event in the old city centre.
Chaplin cited the series of tumultuous shocks threatening the project today, including the rise of nationalistic and xenophobic movements across many EU states, the global financial crisis, the Eurozone crisis and the prospect of a Grexit, jihadist terrorism, technological threats to human personhood, environmental degradation, the resurgence of Russian nationalism, the catastrophic refugee crisis, the genuine possibility of a Brexit and the serious risk of a subsequent unravelling of the EU that could follow. The crises facing Europe and the world demanded such a political institution as the EU ‘with a necessary, honourable and demanding moral vocation: to promote conditions of justice, peace, solidarity and freedom across European public space’.
To this end Christians too should engage as European citizens, with the risky, faltering, dysfunctional but necessary and visionary project that was the European Union, concluded Chaplin.
Under the theme of ‘The paradox of freedom’, the forum opened in the Zuiderkerk with a public Celebration of Freedom, tracing the roots of Amsterdam’s DNA of freedom back to William of Orange, Erasmus and the Modern Devotion movement, and eventually to the Bible, ‘the book of freedoms’. A narrated screenshow focussed on the liberation of the city from Nazi tyranny, when the Zuiderkerk had to be used as a moratorium for the bodies of those who died during the hunger-winter of 1944-45. Those post-war years, however, were dominated by fear and anxiety as Europe faced a new war, bitterness, brokenness and serious post-trauma stress disorder. The Schuman Declaration thus began the 70-year period some call ‘the long peace’.
Threats to this peace and freedom today formed the focus of the ten track sessions held on the Monday. Contributors to these sessions included Monsignor Ad Van Luyn (former bishop of Rotterdam), Rev Arjan Plaisier, general secretary of the Protestant Churches in the Netherlands, Professor Prabhu Guptara (CH), Dr Stefan Waanders (NL), Dr Richard Tunbull (UK), Julian Lindley-French (UK/NL), defence expert and consultant to NATO, Jarno Volmer, anti-terrorist officer at Schiphol airport, Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag (SE) of the European Freedom Network, Julia Doxat-Purser (UK) and Christel Ngnambi (BE), both of the European Evangelical Alliance, Tim Pluschinski (DE) of the World Evangelical Alliance, lawyer Lorcan Price (IE) and Richard Kane (UK) among others.
Papers and photos of the forum can be seen on www.stateofeuropeforum.eu