Jeff Fountain is the Director of the Schuman Centre for European Studies (www.schumancentre.eu) and the chairman of the Hope for Europe Roundtable (www.hfe.org). He and his wife, Romkje, are based in The Netherlands. They have been in Europe for more than 35 years serving with YWAM and were originally sent out by the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle.
Returning to Europe after a recent trip to New Zealand, I discovered a pile of newspapers waiting for me. A quick browse over the headlines left me wondering if anything had changed in my absence. Greece is still tottering on the verge of bankruptcy; the Euro continues to stagger under the weight of shaky economies including Greece, Italy and Spain; the global financial climate still challenges us; and the European Union (EU) itself, some predict, will eventually crumble along with its currency.
It all left me wondering, will there soon be nothing left to study at a Centre for European Studies such as the one I’m director of?
Of course the answer is ‘yes.’ All that is happening in Europe and the world today is a matter of perspective.
We need the perspective of time. This is not the first, and neither will it be the last, crisis for Europe to weather. When in Auckland, I heard the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, tell his university audience that those who predict the beginning of the end misunderstand the nature of the EU and the multiple levels of interwoven relationships of ‘network Europe.’
We also need biblical perspectives. Politics and international relations are addressed in the Bible – just read Moses and the prophets. God gave Moses his framework for society at Sinai. When Jethro gave Moses advice to have the people elect 70 elders, that was perhaps the first-ever expression of democracy. These teachings remain as relevant for European politics as they were for Moses back in his day.
Part of the issue is that, while the vision for Europe shared by EU founding fathers like Robert Schuman and Kondrad Adenauer was for a ‘community of peoples deeply rooted in Christian values,’ too often such values are flagrantly disregarded by prominent public leaders in both the political and financial sectors.
Yes, the future of Europe, and of Europeans, is at stake – it always has been. And it has always been the task of the people of God to shape that future by being salt (preserving) and light (enlightening).
Our task has always been to seek to see more of God’s kingdom, his rule, his will being done, here in Europe as it is in heaven. And not just in the church but in politics, business, education, the family, healthcare, culture and society generally.
That’s why the Schuman Centre for European Studies exists. We seek to promote biblical perspectives on Europe’s past, present and future. We want to help believers understand our current situation in Europe in the light of God’s past and of God’s purposes for tomorrow.
Please pray for Europe and the work of the Gospel there. It doesn’t quite fit the usual picture of an overseas mission country but the people of this continent need Jesus all the same.