Interview with Herbert Lauenroth (1) ahead of the next meeting in Timisoara
Where do you see the main values of Together for Europe (TfE)?
Based on common Christian roots, TfE has made its own the vision of a Europe of solidarity, peace, reconciliation, justice and fraternity. TfE wants to re-propose the Christian ethos (with reference to Jn 15:12: This is my commandment: that you love one another, as I have loved you) in the light of a ‘tolerance of ambiguity’ (in the words of the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman), which seems to be the indispensable basis for a communication capable of overcoming the current tendencies of increasing polarisation and fragmentation. It is in acquiring a “culture of listening”, that very promising avenues for dialogue and for an experience of reciprocity are opened up, thus coping with the media pathologies of a so-called “post-factual” (with their notoriety, such as disinformation, denunciation, “hate speech”, dissemination of “fake news”, etc.).
Does this create greater solidarity?
I think so. Because solidarity is born in the light of the Christian experience, of its vision of a “universal brotherhood”, which brings us out of our respective “echo chambers” or “bubbles”, to open up to the (discursive) spaces of an “egaliberté” or “egalberty” (according to the neologism of French philosopher Etienne Balibar). These spaces resonate with what Gal 3:28 states: there is no longer Jew nor Greek; there is no longer slave nor free; there is no longer man nor woman. Being ‘Christian’ therefore means being a ‘citizen’. Democracy, as a secular project, needs very precise presuppositions, namely the reference to the transcendent, to the ‘religious’ sphere (it is enough to remember the emblematic meeting in this regard between Card. Joseph Ratzinger and the renowned German representative of so-called post-metaphysical thought, Jürgen Habermas, in 2004).
And how can these values be realised?
There have been many occasions in the past. Most recently, TfE participated in the Ecumenical Youth Festival in Timisoara/Romania, to promote dialogue between young people of various Churches.
On 5 May 2023, we offered a workshop on the theme of citizenship and the transformation of cities, starting from the passage of scripture ‘Seek the Good/the Shalôm of the City’ (Jer. 29:7) and a text – endowed with an unprecedented prophetic pragmatism – by Chiara Lubich: ‘One city is not enough’. Approximately 100 young Catholics, Orthodox and members of other Christian churches participated. The workshop was then further divided into various thematic groups, of which ‘The Art of Listening’, ‘Christians=citizens’ and ‘Ideas for a film/storyboard about my city’ were the most popular. On the part of the young people (16 to 28 age bracket), both the practice of ‘story-telling’ and a psycho-spiritual approach to group dynamics were appreciated, as well as the enhancement of the aesthetic side (in addition to the diaconic or social side).
From 16 to 18 November 2023 there will be the annual meeting of the ‘Friends of Together for Europe‘ also in Timisoara. Why?
For the year 2023, Eleusis (Greece), Veszprém (Hungary) and Timişoara (Romania) won the title of ‘European Capital of Culture’. On this occasion, Catholic Bishop Pál József Csaba of Timişoara invited to his city the annual meeting of the Friends of Together for Europe. The TfE Steering Committee accepted the invitation and included it in its programme.
On an annual basis, the meeting of the ‘Friends of TfE‘ takes place in Eastern and Western European countries (e.g. Prague, Timisoara and Porto) with the aim of creating the basis for a differentiated and fruitful dialogue. It is about fostering an attitude that creates the conditions for this very dialogue. The aim is to learn more deeply the ‘Art-of-Listening’, the readiness to mutually ‘listen’, which is the only way that can lead to a solid and sustainable knowledge of the other’s culture.
For the Friends’ meeting in November, among other things, we would like to propose workshops that take up and discern in depth the theme “Seek the Good/the Shalôm of the City” on a larger scale.
(1) Herbert Lauenroth, historian, is a member of the Steering Committee of Together for Europe and has accompanied the development of the international network since its inception.