When: Friday, November 18, 2016 18:00 - Saturday, November 19, 2016 18:00
Where: Presidenti hotel, Helsinki, Finland
Together with Schuman Center network in Finland and the Finish KD-party, the CPFE organised a conference in Helsinki, 18 & 19 November 2016.
Last month, on the 19th of November, CPFE, in cooperation with the Finnish Christian Democrat party (KD) and the Schuman Centre for European studies, organised a seminar day in Helsinki called “Usko ja EU” (Faith and the EU). The main speakers were Jeff Fountain, Jonathan Chaplin, Sari Essayah and Anneli Portman.
The significance of the European Union as an entity gathering peoples of different nationalities has heightened practical relevance for a person living close to the border of another country. However, the more remote a land is, the less relevance the European project has for the everyday life of the average citizen. This is the case with Finland.
Many Finns feel disconnected from the European project. They see it as a geographically distant entity controlled by Brussels. If the distance we are talking about is merely geographical, then it is obvious that Finland is on the sidelines. However, the continent of Europe cannot be primarily defined in geographic terms. The notion of Europe is first spiritual, as its defining and unifying factor is the message of the Gospel. Looking at it from this angle, Finland shares the same spiritual roots. The European Union itself was started by devout Christians (Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer and Alcide De Gasperi) who sought to rebuild Europe on the foundation of forgiveness and love. Today sadly, the EU has forgotten its roots and many Christians are ignorant of them, particularly in Scandinavia and Finland.
The goal of the seminar in Helsinki was to raise an awareness of the Christian roots of Finland and of the EU. Furthermore, the present challenges of both Finland and the EU were addressed.
Jeff Fountain, director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies, reminded the audience of the forgotten Christian story behind the European project. He explained who Robert Schuman was and what motivated him to seek an economic agreement that expressed forgiveness towards Germany. He also highlighted the crucial role played by Frank Buchman, an American Lutheran evangelist, in bringing reconciliation between former enemies, even on a national level. Furthermore, the event was a natural opportunity to publish the Finnish translation of Jeff’s book ‘Deeply Rooted’ (available in Finnish here), which relates Schuman’s story.
Jonathan Chaplin, director of the ‘Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics’, brought a perspective on the EU today and on its loss of spiritual roots. After depicting the current challenges that the European project is facing (with Brexit, Russia, Turkey, ISIS and terrorism, refugees etc.), Chaplin sought to remind the audience of the purpose of the European Union. He emphasized that the economic goals should first of all serve the common good rather than seek to create wealth. He also stated that Christians should support both national and international institutions.
On a national level, the leader of KD Sari Essayah shared on the actual situation of Finnish politics in various areas, such as education, family and the economy. She also explained the position held by her party in the public debate. Founded in 1958, KD was built on the foundation of the Christian Democracy that was in force in Europe after WWII. At present the party has five MPs.
Anneli Portman, a Finnish value researcher shared about the building of the Finnish nation and its strong ties with Lutheran Christianity all through the centuries. 2017 will in fact be a double anniversary in Finland, as it will celebrate its hundred years of independence and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Finland might be geographically distant from Brussels, but from a spiritual perspective, the European Union has as much relevance for Finland as for any other nation of Europe. In the present loss of spiritual roots context of spiritual loss that the European nations are facing, Christians everywhere in Europe can make a difference.
It is vital that those who know the Gospel also learn how the message of Jesus Christ shaped their own nation and the European project. Seminars like the one held in Helsinki can help reach this goal. The re-discovery of our common Christian heritage in Europe can enable us, as Christians, to bring sustainable answers to the actual struggles that Europe is facing.
Associate of the Schuman Centre for European Studies in Finland