SUPERACIÓN DE LAS DIVISIONES EN EUROPA
24 September 1999
OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE
21 to 26 September 1999
DIVISIONS IN EUROPE
occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Conference of European Churches,
10 years after the destruction of the Berlin Wall which strikingly
symbolised the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Central Committee of the
Conference wishes to communicate more widely its desire for a peaceful and
just Europe which brings together the rich diversity of traditions,
cultures and confessions in the search for greater unity and understanding.
In particular, it asks the largely new leadership of the European
institutions and organisations to address urgently the divisions of Europe.
The Conference of European Churches was founded in 1959 to build and
maintain bridges between Anglican, Old Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant
churches and between people throughout the whole of Europe. The most
recent expression of its overall concerns was in the second European
Ecumenical Assembly, organised jointly with the Council of Catholic
Bishops Conferences in Europe in Graz in 1997 on the theme Reconciliation
- Gift of God and Source of New Life. Its work has always been closely
linked with the history and developments across the European continent
from the Atlantic to the Urals and from the Arctic to the Mediterranean.
During the first 30 years bridges had to be built and maintained across an
ideological divide. The Conference of European Churches therefore rejoiced
together with people throughout Europe, when the Berlin Wall disappeared.
The developments in 1989 gave rise to new hopes for a just, sustainable
and participatory Europe based on the implementation of human rights,
democracy and the rule of law. We praise God for this new opportunity and
are thankful for all who struggled for greater freedom and increased
opportunities for all people in Europe to realise their full human
Many political divisions remain. A striking example is the dividing line
in Nicosia and throughout Cyprus. Elsewhere too many other cities remain
divided. Acts of terrorism continue to occur in many places and new
instances underline the fragility of human existence. The use of violence
in conflict situations has increased. At its anniversary meeting in Nyborg,
Denmark, the Central Committee reflected extensively on the situation in
Kosovo. The conflict in South Eastern Europe requires continuing and
committed action by political authorities and by the Conference and its
member churches in fields of humanitarian relief, reconstruction,
reconciliation and of building a civil society based on democratic values
and the observance of human rights for people of all ethnic and religious
communities. In the light
of this discussion and earlier statements and ongoing peace-building
initiatives of the Conference of European Churches and other ecumenical
organisations, we appeal to all political leaders and religious
communities to spare no effort to build a just and lasting peace for the
whole Balkan region by non-violent means
In addition, old divisions are being replaced by new ones, sometimes along
cultural, military or economic lines, sometimes between or within
countries. The United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human
Development Report for Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS 1999
provides statistical evidence that while in some, but by no means all, of
the countries covered by the report there have been improvements in some
economic indicators, the quality of life of many citizens and the general
level of human development have seriously deteriorated.
Among the indicators identified in the report as costs of the transition
to a market economy are: .
a fall in life expectancy
in several major countries;
a rise in levels of
disease and the resurgence of diseases such as tuberculosis which had
been reduced to marginal health threats;
a severe rise in poverty;
sharp increases in wealth-
a decline in the economic
security and political role of women;
a deterioration of
rises in unemployment,
underemployment and the informalisation of employment.
statistical measures have been reflected in the experiences of the
churches in the countries covered by the report. In some countries, the
root of the problems has been the virtual collapse of political and
administrative structures and social protection systems and/or the
establishment of a free market unaccompanied by the rules and the
democratic oversight which ensure that the market does not lead to unjust
social and environmental results.
The Central Committee of the Conference of European Churches believes that
this is the moment to appeal to all with political responsibility in
individual countries and in the various European institutions to address
these problems before it is too late and before new divisions become
entrenched in Europe and pose new threats to Europe's peace and security
and impose lasting poverty and frustration on many of Europe's peoples.
Across Europe, there needs to be a growth of generosity, sharing and
participation which should be reflected in political and economic
decisions. Governments, parliaments and European institutions need to
recover the political responsibility which they have tended to surrender
to the market. This becomes more pressing with the advance of
globalisation which also underlines the global responsibilities which fall
on European countries and institutions.
Present developments throughout Europe also pose a challenge to the
churches as they themselves promote values like unity and reconciliation
and as they search for the effective implementation of human rights.
National governments and European institutions frequently expect churches
to take on social responsibilities previously taken care of by the state.
Churches and their organisations are often also among the first to respond
to the needs of uprooted people coming from within Europe and from other
Continents. While the Central Committee emphasises the willingness of the
Conference of European Churches to continue and develop the dialogue with
the political institutions and organisations in order to evolve ways of
overcoming divisions, both old and new, the issues raised here require a
commitment by political decision-makers to mobilise the whole of society.
24 September 1999