The Churches’ Task: To strengthen Europe
P r a g u e - Churches in Europe which are represented across national boundaries share responsibility for the success of Europe. This was the view expressed by Hans Guderian (Berlin), president of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), during a meeting of leaders of the EBF on December 5 in Prague, the headquarters of this umbrella association. The EBF includes 57 Baptist Unions, with a total of 850,000 members in Europe and the Near East. These churches and free churches, such as the Baptists, must ensure that on the other side of discussions about the financial and economic crisis, Europe be filled with life. If churches are engaged across borders, the danger of a new “nationalism” can be avoided. “We must remind each other how good Europe is for us,” suggested Guderian. It can no longer be assumed that churches are aware of the advantages of cross-border interaction. Following the Second World War, the reconciliation of former enemy countries was a cause close to the hearts of politicians such as the first German chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967) and French president Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970). And after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, those in the East and West were concerned with getting to know each other better on the basis of freedom and democracy. But today, after 20 years, this awareness has been lost. “Peace, reconciliation, community—these are important values, for which we must continually strive,” warned Guderian. They must be lived out at the church level and cannot remain restricted to officials. He urged the creation of even stronger partnerships than up to now between churches, so that they might get to know each other better. It would also be helpful to have international meetings during the holidays, so that Christians could get a glimpse of what God is doing in other countries: “We must not leave Europe to the politicians alone.”
In connection with this, General Secretary of EBF Tony Peck (Prague/Bristol) emphasized the significance of the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in Prague. Here students from throughout Europe get to know each other during their studies. These contacts usually last an entire lifetime. Peck regretted all the more that this central training institute of the European Baptists is headed for an uncertain future, as it has run into financial difficulties.