CHURCHES across Europe have urged the European Union to deter its 27 member-states from “capitulating to nationalism and populism”.
“The unsettling experience of the coronavirus pandemic has shown [that] Europeans are not isolated individuals, but persons that need human relations,” the Conference of European Churches (CEC) said in a joint statement with the COMECE, the Brussels-based commission which represents the EU’s Roman Catholic bishops.
“As churches, we are committed to building bridges of peace and hospitality, to promoting a comprehensive vision of the common good, and to pursuing a humane, social and sustainable Europe at peace with itself and its neighbours,” the statement said.
The statement was published as the CEC and the COMECE held talks with the EU’s new German presidency, in place since 1 July. It said that their respective churches, combining 380 million members, counted on the EU to “build strategic resilience” in health care, while also working for “social, ecological and contributive justice”.
Meanwhile, Eurodiaconia, a network of 52 mainly Protestant Churches and organisations in 32 countries, also urged a “more overt commitment” to tackling social exclusion.
“It’s time for the EU to listen to the voice of its citizens and build an economy that puts human dignity first,” Kewan Mildred, the policy development officer at Eurodiaconia, said. “It’s time to permanently fill the inequality gaps that existed before Covid-19 and have been exacerbated by the current crisis.”
Both statements coincided with an announcement by the EU Commission that its Special Envoy on Religious Freedom, made redundant last December, would be reinstated after Europe-wide protests (News, 26 June).
Speaking in Brussels, the Commission’s Vice-President, Margaritis Schinas, said that the policy reversal indicated a “determination to ensure the rights of all faiths and convictions will be respected worldwide”.
In their statement, the CEC and the COMECE said that religious freedom should be viewed “not only as a human right, but also as a strategic dimension for democratic freedom, social peace, justice and reconciliation”, and called on the EU to implement its 2013 Guidelines on Freedom of Belief “more consistently”.
“The fundamental values of the EU — respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law — have common roots with the ecumenical ideals of justice, peace and integrity of creation,” the church organisations said.
“These have been under increasing pressure in recent years. This is the time for all of us to demonstrate joint commitment to the European project and to common European values of solidarity and unity, instead of capitulating to fear, extreme nationalism and shortsighted populistic interests.”