Back in 1992, the retiring president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors (pictured), challenged religious leaders to find a soul for Europe. By that, he said he meant a spirituality and meaning. Then he warned, if within ten years that quest had failed, the game would be up.
We are nearly a whole decade past Delors’ deadline. Is the game indeed then over?
Today’s headlines would convince many that the European experiment is imploding. America, China, Japan and Britain watch anxiously as Merkel and Sarkozy try to rescue the shaky south from drowning in interest rates. Record high rates have finally, finally, dislodged the Italian incumbent from his self-made fortress, to the relief of the markets.
The Greek premier has also been pushed aside this past week. Both Mediterranean countries now have interim governments with seasoned European veterans trying to steady the helm. Lucas Papademos in Athens was vice president of the European Central Bank, 2002-2010. Mario Monti in Rome was a European Commissioner, 1995-2004.
The ECB probably played a major role in the chaos of the past weeks in a strategic move to dislodge Berlusconi. Interest rates had been suppressed in Italy by ECB’s purchase of Italian government bonds. Last week, these purchases slowed down, allowing rates to spiral upwards until the premier resigned. As the markets opened again this week, the ECB immediately started purchasing the bonds again to stabilise the market.
Monti’s appointment will add grist to the conspiracy folk’s mill. For he is a chairman of the Trilateral Commission, a think-tank often accused of plotting for world government and even of having planned the 9/11 attacks!
The crisis however is far from over simply with the exit of two ex-premiers. A serious financial faultline runs diagonally from the Irish Sea to the Aegean Sea, with interest rates for government bonds ranging from 7.74 in Ireland and 5.8 in Spain to over 25% in Greece; compared to 2.34 in Holland and 1.88 for Germany. Even France is battling to maintain its AAA credit rating.
Small wonder investors continue to be nervous as the media carry doomsday scenarios of the end of the euro and the disintegration of the European Union. For markets are all about trust and perception.
So where do we as believers stand in the midst of all this unrest? In the first place, we need to own the problem of Europe. Centrifugal forces are at work today towards the fragmentation of Europe: forces of greed, indifference, populism, nationalism and xenophobia. These threaten to turn the clock back to a Europe of competing nations and alliances.
We need to stand up for a Europe as envisioned by founding father Robert Schuman, a community of peoples deeply rooted in what he called basic Christian values of equality, solidarity, freedom and peace. Together we need to call our political leaders to honour these values.
For too long we have ignored the warning from Delors which originally was to Europe’s religiousleaders. Surely this is a task far too important to be left solely to politicians! Schuman himself warned in 1958 that the European Movement would only be successful ‘if future generations can tear themselves away from the temptation of materialism which corrupts society by cutting it off from its spiritual roots.’ The identity of a new Europe, he wrote, ‘cannot and must not remain an economic and technical enterprise; it needs a soul’.
We, as believers in a God who is Father of all and in Jesus Christ who died for all, need to stand up for a united Europe, a diverse Europe, an open Europe, a compassionate Europe, a justEurope, a sustainable Europe and a peaceful Europe.
A Europe that reverts to old nationalistic competitions will only lead back to yesterday’s tragedies. We cannot take the last 66 years of peace for granted. We must continue to move forward together.
So, is the game over?
YES! …if we remain cut off from our spiritual roots, for we will not find the necessary resources for unity with diversity, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for compassion and justice, for sustainability and peace.
NO! …if we only will listen to the fathers.