Archive for the ‘EU’ category

Vista 15: On reflection

October 30, 2013

on reflectonThe last edition of Vista highlighted that one person’s viewpoint alone however well informed, can never give a true picture of what is happening; particularly in a continent as diverse as Europe. What is needed are thoughtful and perceptive insights into the realities of mission practice across Europe – from those engaged in mission. In other words, Europe needs “reflective practitioners”.

This term was coined by Donald Schön as recently as 1983. He defined reflective practice as “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning” (Schön). Other educationalists have observed that, consciously or not, learning often takes place through a series of stages. The Kolb Learning Cycle, for example, isolates these as concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation.

kolb_cycleThe key insight was that we don’t automatically learn from our experiences. Reflection on experience is fundamental in order to obtain generalisations which might then be applied to new situations. And this is no less true for Christian mission.

Mission in Europe doesn’t need gurus; it needs reflective practitioners who have been equipped with the tools to think deeply about their own immediate context and mission practice. That has certainly been the ethos of the MA in European Mission at Redcliffe College. And Vista is one forum for highlighting examples of good reflective practice.

The articles in this issue of Vista are all written by practitioners who are combining their work with a period of academic study. James Cochrane, who has lived and worked in Portugal for a number of years, researches the relevance of the missiological conversation for Portuguese church.  Redcliffe MA student, Rosemary Caudwell brings an understanding of the workings of the European Parliament to her refection on the churches’ engagement with the EU.

David Roche, also a Redcliffe student, as well as a policeman in London, writes about how London City Mission is approaching the issue of homelessness amongst migrants, balancing practical care with sharing the Gospel with this growing population.  And Australian pastor James Sutherland compares three very different ministries he encountered on a study tour of Europe this summer with Darrell Jackson & Mike Frost.

The concept of missio Dei reminds us that “the missionary initiative comes from God alone” (Bosch). It is God’s mission, not ours. And yet, not only in active participation in the experience of mission but also in the acts of reflection, conceptualization and experimentation, “the marvel is that God invites us to join in” (Wright)

Vista 15 October 2013

Missional responses to the financial crisis

May 22, 2012

Homelessness, debt and human trafficking that have become even bigger issues since the onset of the economic crisis. How are churches and mission agencies responding? 

The figures make depressing reading. In 2010, around 23% of the EU-27 population – nearly 116 million people – were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This means they met at least one of the following criteria: they were below the poverty threshold, experiencing severe material deprivation or living in a household with very low work intensity. But while less than 15% of those living in the Czech Republic, Sweden and the Netherlands were at risk, over 40% of Bulgarians and Romanians and more than 30% of Latvians, Lithuanians and Hungarians struggled with these issues.

Responding to need – working with volunteers
Serve the City was founded in Brussels in 2005, and “inspired by the life and message of Jesus Christ”, the movement now spreads across Europe and beyond, with the most recent launch being Athens, Greece. As an organisation, they connect volunteers with the local charities or associations working with people in need. Carlton Deal is Serve the City’s founder.

“Today we see more homelessness, more refugees, more people with no certain future,” says Carlton. “They have lost their families or their jobs or they are still pouring in from even more difficult circumstances elsewhere.”
“Single men in particular receive very little support. Last year Afghan refugees told us stories of approaching the police and identifying themselves as illegal aliens, asking to be arrested just to have a meal and a place to sleep indoors. The police ignored them.”

Anyone can volunteer with Serve the City – and Carlton considers helping volunteers who are not yet Christians to recognise Christ’s love in action to be part of the organisation’s missional response.

“We see a decreasing satisfaction in delegated compassion and an increasing desire for personal involvement,” says Carlton. “We believe these are Kingdom values, giving volunteers a new access point to the message of Jesus. People are increasingly motivated to acquire and spend the currency of the kingdom, whether or not they yet recognize Jesus as its King – in fact, I’m not sure we see as much growth in generosity from Christians as we do from those who are not yet followers of Jesus.”

Responding to debt – local churches get involved
One of the indicators of severe material deprivation mentioned above is “the inability to face unexpected financial expenses”, with 36% of the EU-27 population in this category. More than 85% of the Swedish population are able to cope with sudden strain on their finances. Over 75% of people in Austria, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands are similarly prepared. At the other end of the scale, only 20-40% of people in Lithuania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Latvia could withstand this kind of financial pressure.

There is a clear East-West divide to these statistics. Interestingly, figures for the ratio between household debt and income also display a divide across East/Western lines, but in the opposite direction. While in 2009, it would have taken two years of disposable income for the average household in Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark to pay off their debts, in Central and Eastern European countries levels of household debt are such that it would take less than a year. Given that these countries also have a smaller average disposable income, personal debt appears to be a much bigger problem in the more affluent West.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a UK-based organisation offering local churches a practical way to help people around them in debt. In contrast to Serve the City, each CAP centre is set-up and resourced in direct partnership with a specific church in an area, so it becomes a ministry of that church. CAP centres offer a free debt counselling service helping clients to work out a realistic budget and negotiating affordable payments to creditors, as well as support if people go bankrupt. Clients have a professional case worker in the main CAP office but they are also befriended by trained volunteers from the local church.

Since beginning in 1996, the charity has grown rapidly and its vision is to see a local church-based centre in every UK town and city. Their free CAP Money money management course teaches people “the skills to get more in control of their finances, so they can save, give and prevent debt” and is on offer in Norway as well as the UK.

Responding to trafficking – joined up thinking
“The global financial crisis is having a marked impact on human trafficking… its effects are felt within the EU” (OSCE, 2009). Potential employment in another country is a major pull factor for migrants from areas of high unemployment. In desperation, they are tricked by traffickers who promise them a job – only to end up in prostitution or slavery of some sort when they eventually arrive.

There are many grass roots projects organised by churches and mission agencies across Europe reaching out the victims of trafficking, as well as advocacy movements such as Stop the Traffik.

At a pan-European level, the EEA’s European Freedom Network (EFN) connects ‘active and emerging ministries and other stakeholders across Europe…providing the encouragement, advice, resources and prayer that they need for effective action and cooperation’. A host of resources for prayer and information are available on the EFN website, and they produce a partners’ newsletter with more resources and contacts.

Responding as ourselves
This article highlights just three of the hundreds of ways Christians across Europe are responding to the financial crisis. But the Christian community is also feeling its impact. A 2009 survey amongst over 2800 UK Christians found that almost a quarter struggled with debt or financial issues, and more than half of those in employment “faced high levels of time pressures and fatigue”.

57% of people answering the questionnaire saw themselves as ‘an apprentice of Christ’ and a similar number were ‘’praying about how God could use them to make a difference’ – but 63% felt the church equipped them at best ‘only a little’ to face the pressures in the workplace.
In response to these needs, the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity’s Engaging with Work project seeks to resource Christians to ‘honour God in their work and bring Him into their workplace’. Their Imagine project goes further, aiming to help churches change their focus from ‘what happens on a Sunday’ to equipping people to live as disciples the other six days of the week.

And so, when considering mission in a time of crisis and our role as individuals and churches, our challenge is to respond in distinctive, counter-cultural ways, drawing our strength from God and his amazing love for the world.

Joanne Appleton

Sources:
Eurostat epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu
OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) http://www.osce.org/what/trafficking
Serve the City Intl. http://www.servethecity.net
Christians Against Poverty UK http://www.capuk.org and Norway http://www.capmoney.org/nb_NO/home
Stop the Traffik http://www.stopthetraffik.org
European Freedom Network http://www.europeanfreedomnetwork.org
London Institute of Contemporary Christianity http://www.licc.org.uk – download the survey of UK Christians from http://www.licc.org.uk/about-licc/resources/licc-resources/?parent_categoryID=39

Is the game over?

November 15, 2011
Jeff Fountain, author of the ‘weekly word’ and Director of the Schuman Centre, is happy for us to post a copy of his latest reflections (14 nov 2011) on the future of the EU and the contribution that spiritual/Christian values can make to ensuring a future for the Union.


Europe’s financial crises continued this past week, fueling further speculation about the breakup of the Eurozone, if not of the whole European Union. One sign carried by the ‘occupy’ protestors raised the pertinent question: is the game over?

Back in 1992, the retiring president of the European Commission, Jacques Delors (pictured), challenged religious leaders to find a soul for Europe. By that, he said he meant a spirituality and meaning. Then he warned, if within ten years that quest had failed, the game would be up

We are nearly a whole decade past Delors’ deadline. Is the game indeed then over?

Today’s headlines would convince many that the European experiment is imploding. America, China, Japan and Britain watch anxiously as Merkel and Sarkozy try to rescue the shaky south from drowning in interest rates. Record high rates have finally, finally, dislodged the Italian incumbent from his self-made fortress, to the relief of the markets. 

The Greek premier has also been pushed aside this past week. Both Mediterranean countries now have interim governments with seasoned European veterans trying to steady the helm. Lucas Papademos in Athens was  vice president of the European Central Bank, 2002-2010. Mario Monti in Rome was a European Commissioner, 1995-2004. 

Chaos

The ECB probably played a major role in the chaos of the past weeks in a strategic move to dislodge Berlusconi. Interest rates had been suppressed in Italy by ECB’s purchase of Italian government bonds. Last week, these purchases slowed down, allowing rates to spiral upwards until the premier resigned. As the markets opened again this week, the ECB immediately started purchasing the bonds again to stabilise the market.

Monti’s appointment will add grist to the conspiracy folk’s mill. For he is a chairman of the Trilateral Commission, a think-tank often accused of plotting for world government and even of having planned the 9/11 attacks! 

The crisis however is far from over simply with the exit of two ex-premiers. A serious financial faultline runs diagonally  from the Irish Sea to the Aegean Sea, with interest rates for  government bonds ranging from 7.74 in Ireland and 5.8 in Spain to over 25% in Greece; compared to 2.34 in Holland and 1.88 for Germany. Even France is battling to maintain its AAA credit rating. 

Small wonder investors continue to be nervous as the media carry doomsday scenarios of the end of the euro and the disintegration of the European Union. For markets are all about trust and perception. 

So where do we as believers stand in the midst of all this unrest? In the first place, we need to own the problem of Europe. Centrifugal forces are at work today towards the fragmentation of Europe: forces of greed, indifference, populism, nationalism and xenophobia. These threaten to turn the clock back to a Europe of competing nations and alliances. 

We need to stand up for a Europe as envisioned by founding father Robert Schuman, a community of peoples deeply rooted in what he called basic Christian values of equality, solidarity, freedom and peace. Together we need to call our political leaders to honour these values.

Roots 

For too long we have ignored the warning from Delors which originally was to Europe’s religiousleaders. Surely this is a task far too important to be left solely to politicians! Schuman himself warned in 1958 that the European Movement would only be successful ‘if future generations can tear themselves away from the temptation of materialism which corrupts society by cutting it off from its spiritual roots.’ The identity of a new Europe, he wrote, ‘cannot and must not remain an economic and technical enterprise; it needs a soul’.

We, as believers in a God who is Father of all and in Jesus Christ who died for all, need to stand up for a united Europe, a diverse Europe, an open Europe, a compassionate Europe, a justEurope, a sustainable Europe and a peaceful Europe.

A Europe that reverts to old nationalistic competitions will only lead back to yesterday’s tragedies. We cannot take the last 66 years of peace for granted. We must continue to move forward together. 

So, is the game over? 

YES! …if we remain cut off from our spiritual roots, for we will not find the necessary resources for unity with diversity, for forgiveness and reconciliation, for compassion and justice, for sustainability and peace. 

NO! …if we only will listen to the fathers.

jeff@schumancentre.eu

UK missionaries in Europe: do they make sense?

May 18, 2011

Language skills remain an essential skill for effective cross-cultural mission. The British abroad take not just their own language but a very nuanced sense of meanings shrouded in their subtle use of the English language. For non-British speakers of English, this guide to Anglo-EU communication may be useful. It’s been circulating the blogosphere recently so I’m not sure of its origin. Enjoy!

A recently published EU survey explores online language usage

May 12, 2011

Eurobarometer has published results which will be of interest to Christian individuals and organisations which make significant investments in online presence. The survey may also have broader application to all Christian Media organisations with an interest in Europe.

Across all 27 EU countries, 54% said they had gone online several times a day and 30% said it had been about once a day. 80% of Internet users said they had used the Internet on a daily basis in the four weeks prior to the survey

A slim majority (55%) of Internet users in the EU said that they used at least one language other than their own to read or watch content on the Web; from 50% in Hungary to 90%-93% in Greece, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus.

In Italy, the Czech Republic, Ireland and the UK, a majority of Internet users said that they only used their own language to read and watch content on the Internet (between 52% and 85%).

English was by far the most frequently used language, other than respondents’ own, when going online: 48% of Internet users in the EU mentioned using English for reading or watching content on the Internet and 29% said the same for writing on the Internet. Internet users, who used a language other than their own when going online, carried out several Internet activities in this language. For example, 81% of these respondents said they at least occasionally used another language when browsing to get information, or when reading or watching the news.

Although 9 in 10 Internet users in the EU said that, when given a choice of languages, they always visited a website in their own language, a slim majority (53%) would accept using an English version of a website if it was not available in their own language. Internet users in Cyprus and Malta were the most willing to use an English language website if this website was not available in their language (90% and 97%, respectively). Other countries with a high proportion of respondents willing to use an English language website were Slovenia (81%), Greece and Sweden (both 85%).

About 8 in 10 (81%) interviewees thought that all websites produced in their country should also have versions available in other languages. The proportion of respondents who agreed with this statement ranged from 50% in Finland to 96% in Greece.

Finally, more than 4 in 10 (44%) Internet users in the EU thought they missed interesting information because websites were not available in a language they understood.

Source: Flash Eurobarometer No 313: User language preferences online Available for free download at http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/flash/fl_313_en.pdf