Europe: inconceivable without fraternity

17th February 2017, Chapter House of San Salvatore in Lauro, Rome (Italy): Together for Europe at the Conference of Association “City for Fraternity”

After the welcome by President Milvia Monachesi, a series of reflections on the potential and the challenges of the European continent followed. Among the speakers were Donato Falmi, former Director of the Italian Publishing House New City, Marco Filippeschi, Mayor of Pisa and President of the ‘League for Autonomies’ (Lega per le Autonomie) as well as Ms Silvia Costa, European Parliament MP and Coordinator of the S&D Committee on Culture and Education. Ms Costa concluded her remarks stating that: “Europe is inconceivable without fraternity”.

Under the heading Europe: Freedom, Equality and… Fraternity? A Chance for Today, the experience of the network Together for Europe, presented by Diego Goller (Italy) and Ilona Toth (Hungary) highlighted the action taken by Communities and Movements belonging to various Christian Churches and how, drawing on their rich spiritual and cultural patrimony, they aim to contribute towards greater European unity.

In his contribution, Diego Goller said: “It is often thought that uniting Europe means uniting European cities. This is because it is in the cities that the most pressing issues that require solutions exist. People also say: ‘act locally, think globally’. Perhaps we could rather say that what we need today is to ‘think locally, act globally’. This is because ideas stem from life, on the ground, in suburbs, whilst issues which cause concern in our cities often originate on a global level.“ Speaking in this context about Together for Europe, Mr Goller continued: “Chiara Lubich said from the network’s early stages that ‘TOGETHER’ stands for ‘brotherhood, fraternity’; and ‘Europe’ is a synonym of ‘political’, because Together for Europe works for a political project in the broadest sense of the term.”

During its 17 years of existence Together for Europe matured an identity, which in the concluding message of the event called “Stuttgart 2007” was expressed through a number of “YES” commitments to certain social realities, aimed at making European cities more welcoming and more open to different cultures”, said Ilona Toth. Ms Toth quoted a French sociologist Prof. Michael Hochschild, who, when asked about hope for the future at the recent Together for Europe event in Munich 2016, said: “The answer lies within the Movements themselves, creative forces of social or even religious character. Their faith, their commitment and most of all their trust are valuable assets for overcoming the crisis of our society because they make us believe in the future. This is the reason why spiritual Movements ought to see themselves more and more as creative cultural forces and act accordingly. In a way, they need to become social Movements”.

Alcide de Gasperi, one of the Founding Fathers of Europe, already in 1952 formulated an invitation to democratic dialogue, which is still valid today: “We need to choose: do we speak, discuss, appeal to reason and to human abilities? Or rather do we resort to force, orders and imposition of one person’s will over others? (…) In the past, the inability to agree, to have a meaningful discussion, to convene in an Assembly and negotiate about peace, often resulted in conflicts and even wars. Is striving for peace, creating peaceful processes and establishing institutions to guarantee peace not preferable?”

Expressing gratitude for the welcome invitation to attend the Conference and to collaborate, Diego Goller said: “Let us work together so that our homes, communities and cities become laboratories of friendship and fraternity, capable of facilitating integration and of opening up to the whole world”.

The Conference concluded with a conferral ceremony of the Chiara Lubich Fraternity Prize. In its 8th edition, this award was conferred to the Municipality of Assisi, a city where, as stated during the conferral of the award, 600 years before the three principles of Modernity (Freedom, Equality and Fraternity) emerged from the French revolution, the word Fraternity was already echoing throughout the works of Francis.

For more information see: www.cittaperlafraternita.org/europa-e-fraternita-binomio-impegnativo

For video footage from the Conference see: https://youtu.be/edJSuqMdDaI

Why are you afraid?

“Christians’ hope for Europe” is the subtitle for the evening gathering at the YMCA’s Hall of Fame, Vienna, February 11th, 2016

Introducing the evening’s welcoming address, the piano and saxophone performance conveyed an immediate sense of enthusiasm and professionalism. In her address, the host Sascha Becker (YMCA), transmitted the spirit underlying the Together for Europe events in Stuttgart in 2004 and 2007 and invited the audience to the upcoming event “Munich 2016”.

The theme of the evening was modeled on the question Jesus asked of his wavering disciples: Why are you afraid? (Matthew 8:26) Whilst the “boat of Europe” rocks amidst a storm of discouragement and resignation, the contribution offered by Together for Europe to help face the current challenges of our continent was summed up by the subtitle of the evening “Christians’ hope for Europe”. Pastor Eduard Griesfelder’s illustrated the point further in his talk entitled “Ways of Reconciliation – Round Table – Austria” which spoke of a meeting among free Churches and Communities of diverse traditions and the acknowledgment they received from the Austrian State.

The picture of a recurring failure of politics in the face of the inevitable influx of refugees was painted with openness and sincerity by Heinz K. Becker, MEP. As spokesman for matters of Security for his fraction of the European Parliament Mr. Becker acknowledged the concerns of many, whilst observing how: “Christian values such as availability and solidarity are becoming increasingly valued”.

Examples were offered of how this can translate into practice helping politics and civil society work together, by the deputy mayor as well as by an active citizen with whom she collaborates and by a refugee from Eichgraben.

At the end of the event, the stage resounded with the hopeful feedback of participants. The meeting concluded with a moment of prayer expressing the hopes and concerns of the participants as well as their gratitude for the experience of being Together.

Herwig Sturm – Coordination team of Together for Europe for Vienna and Austria

2016-02-11 MfE Einladung (219.0 KB)