Meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” at Prague – Short interviews with some of the participants – part 3
“To take out whatever separates us” – Dimitrios Kontoudis, Orthodox Christian Apostolic Fellowship Metamorphosis, Greece
“Be part of where Europe is going” – Lionel Kubwimana, Focolare Movement, France
“Positive Abhängigkeit”, Walter Kriechbaum, CVJM München, Deutschland
“Portare un volto del Vangelo” – Ilona Toth, Movimento dei Focolari, Ungheria/Italia
“Prier et sortir” – François Delooz, Communauté de Sant’Egidio, Belgique
“Seekers of truth” – Jeff Fountain, Schuman Centre for European Studies/YWAM, Holland
The frost over Prague this evening seemed to melt as thousands upon thousands of candles were lit by passers-by on the streets that witnessed the “Velvet Revolution” of 17 November 1989.
And whilst people were celebrating, listening to music in the squares or admiring the evening lights of this beautiful city from Charles Bridge, young people and adults, parents with children and babies in their arms, pause to reflect so as not to forget.
For us too, a small group who stayed on in Prague after the meeting of Together for Europe friends, we were completely absorbed by the atmosphere; and sharing impressions of what we had lived during these days heightened our joy.
170 people were on their way to various destinations taking with them an unforgettable experience: “if we understand who Jesus is, we will understand the truth”; “I have understood the difference between the individual and the person: the individual always leads to individualism, the person leads to communion”; “we are citizens! We need to put fraternity into society!”; “Among the many languages I learnt the language of hearts for unity”; “You, the adults are role models for us young people!”
These impressions still resonate in our minds as does this one from the last day: “Together for Europe is a vocation.” To be faithful to it, we need to keep our eyes fixed on the goals we wish to reach whilst being immersed in the reality we are living. What are these goals?
That of being aware that our Churches, each Movement and Community, have already formed a multicultural network between themselves that goes beyond the borders of Europe, languages and barriers. We are the prelude for a European people.
Each Movement or Community is an expression of the Gospel, from which its specific charism emerges as a response to a particular challenge of our times.
Together we are a European laboratory of unity in reconciled diversity, with mutual love at the basis of our actions and Jesus in our midst. In this individualistic society, where the culture of ‘disconnection’ reigns, we look to Him who on the cross united Heaven and earth, and we work for a culture of ‘together for’.
Convinced that we are children of the one Father, we are open to every person, so as to live and be an expression of universal fraternity.
For the common good of our cities, countries and continents, Together for Europe is working with politicians and people of culture to make one Europe a reality: “House of nations and Family of peoples.”
It is said that the lay people in Churches are a “sleeping giant”. “Taking responsibility is the answer” – to quote Václav Havel. By taking responsibility for the society around us, we can become the answer with our lives!
In greeting us, someone reminded us of the famous Letter to Diognetus, in which he declares that Christians represent the leaven of the world. “I thought: that’s just how it is! In a small way Together for Europe has already restored the soul of Europe. The ‘starter culture’ – to use a culinary term – is ready and is informing society bringing hope that something new and good will be created! Fantastic!”
He was right. It really is fantastic!
Meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” at Prague – Short interviews with some of the participants – part 2
“Identity is something what we desperately need!” Pavel Fischer, Senator in the Czech Parliament
“Abbiamo un grande fondamento che ci lega.” Matthias Leineweber, Comunità di Sant’Egidio, Germania
“Pour leur communiquer la beauté”. François Delooz, Communauté de Sant’Egidio, Belgique
“I realised the strength of the Movements.” Pavel Černý, Pastor, Czech Republic
“Europa ist sehr bewegt”. Valerian Grupp, CVJM Esslingen, Deutschland
Meeting of “Friends of Together for Europe” at Prague – Short interviews with some of the participants – part 1
“Going against the mainstream.” Annamária Fejes, Focolare Movement, France
“Non sediamoci sul divano!” František Talíř, Movimento dei Focolari, Cechia.
“Ricerca della verità come antidoto alla paura.” Georges El Hage, SYNDESMOS, Francia
“Ein Geschenk des Heiligen Geistes”. Sr.M.Lioba Ruprecht, Schönstätter Marienschwestern, Deutschland
“Traverser nos peurs”. Gérard Testard, Efesia, France
Last day of congress for the one hundred and seventy participants from 21 European countries and 53 different Movements and Communities. The atmosphere of the meeting was marked by the presence of a surprisingly large number of young people.
As one young woman remarked, “we wish to write a different melody in these times of pluralisation and waning religious enthusiasm. We are enthusiastic and feel the responsibility to do our part to build a united Europe in politics and society.”
The various presentations and opportunities for dialogue had enabled the participants to take a closer look at the question of faith and the different Churches in the Czech Republic today.>
“We can learn so much from one another and be a gift for one another”, said one young man from Ravensburg. ” For three days Prague 2018 became the ‘international capital in the heart of Europe’ “, said one of the participants and “’togetherness’ has once again become a matter of the heart for me and many others.”
On 9 May 2019 Europe Day will be celebrated as “Together for Europe” Day. To prepare for the day, the iniative will be supported by a European-wide chain of prayer. It will begin on 25.3.2019, the day on which the United Kingdom is expected to leave the European Union. “From Brexit to Europe Day: which also symbolises the road we are travelling together”, is the final comment of one of the participants.
The next meeting of Friends will take place from 7.-9.11.2019 in Ottmaring/Augsburg, where the story of Together for Europe began 20 years ago. It will be a retrospective on the history of the people with God and a perspective on a highly promising future.
On the second day of the ‘Together for Europe’ meeting in Prague participants took a closer look at the situation of Christians and churches in the Czech Republic. There were many opportunities for personal exchange and discussion in smaller and larger groups and three major inputs.
Jaroslav Šebek, historian and member of the Institute for History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, spoke about “The Churches in the Czech Republic and the challenges of today’s turbulent time”. The refugee crisis had become a milestone for the future of European integration, where different concepts collide “and in this context we begin to talk about East against West” again, said Šebek. One of today’s problems is the “encapsulation of communication” that social media present us with. “While during the time of communism we found ourselves in an ‘information desert’, today we move in a jungle of information’ but the result is the same: “Loss of orientation and a greater susceptibility to manipulation and distrust of everything and everyone.” It is particularly difficult that also the representatives of the Church are looking for orientation at present.
Pavel Fischer, Senator in the Czech Parliament, also described the current situation in the Czech Republic and presented the challenges from a socio-political point of view. He stressed the importance of emotional identification with a personal social experience which arises in concrete linguistic and experiential environments. The unity of Europe can only be achieved by taking all local identification processes seriously as well as all the individuals we meet. The vision of a united Europe can only emerge if policies respect subsidiarity and respect and promoted the diversity of European peoples, languages and cultures.
Tomáš Halík, Czech sociologist, philosopher of religion and Roman Catholic priest (Templeton Prize 2014), presented the historical developments of the Czech Church up to the present day as part of his contribution to the religious situation in his home country. It became clear that the attempt of the Church failed to offer the faith they lived in the past to the present time and to the future. Today’s popular traditional Church has lost its strength, because its biosphere increasingly disappears. Religion has largely lost its influence on the present generation. They live in a new cosmos: the Internet.” The new generation is not ready to welcome religion without being convinced. Today the Church is challenged to adjust itself above all to those who are searching for meaning. These are, so to speak, part of the largest diocese.” Halík emphatically emphasized: “The future of the Church depends on its willingness to communicate with those who seek and to accompany them.” Faith should not be an ideology that gives precise answers, but accompany those in search of meaning. And since everyone is looking for meaning, the Church must also be there for everyone, not only for the pious faithful. Halík invited the audience to be courageous and to take seriously those who seek the truth in different ways and to engage in dialogue with them.
The day meeting ended with a time of prayer in which all the reflections and inputs of the day and the future of Europe were brought before God. This was followed by a festive dinner with a cultural programme.