December 2008 Newsletter
Association of Contemporary Church Historians
(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)
John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia
December 2008— Vol. XIV, no. 12
We are already in the Advent season and are now looking forward to the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. So let me take this occasion to wish you all the very best as the year ends, and to hope that you will have a joyous and restful holiday, even in these troubling times. This also brings to an end Volume XIV of this Newsletter, so I want to thank all of you for your support and encouragement which has meant so much to me over this time. For example, I recently received a very generous letter from Peggy Obrecht, which she has allowed me to share with you.
At this time of year with Thanksgiving approaching, I just want to tell you once again how grateful I am for your efforts at turning out, month after month, not just insightful reviews of recent books and articles but fascinating pictures of the religious history of these past centuries. You have provided a great resource for those of us wishing to understand better how the theological and psychological views of church officials and scholars, and their subsequent actions, influenced not just the religious world in which they worked but the greater society around them as well. (Sometimes to the embarrassment of the church but, more often than not, to its credit.)
It has been as good an education as one could have, and many times over the years I have incorporated your thoughts and viewpoints, along with those of your contributing editors, into speeches or sermons I have had to deliver (giving credit where it was due-you will be glad to hear).
May you live as long as I do which, I hope, will be at least another twenty years. ”
I fear that I may not be able to live up to such kind and lengthy expectations, since my seventy-ninth birthday falls this month, but promise to do what I can so long as I am able. I particularly want to thank those who have helped with their contributions this year, especially my fellow workers over so many years now, Matthew Hockenos and Randy Bytwerk.
Some of you have asked me to define the criteria used to select books to be reviewed. The choice may seem rather haphazard (or in the eyes of some perhaps erratic). I have only three criteria: first the availability of new titles, which of course cannot be predicted in advance, and which arrive here in Vancouver in uncontrollable intervals; second, the subject matter has to be concerned with the twentieth century or later; third, I try to be as inclusive of as many branches of the Christian church as possible, regardless of denominational or geographical setting. This provides a wide and ecumenical variety of subjects, so that I hope one or other review is of interest to all of you, some of the time. I am aware that such an arrangement prevents any concentration on particular themes, or special issues limited to one topic. But I hope my preference still continues to find your favour and support. As of now, we have 503 subscribers, scattered all around the globe. May I wish every one of you the very best for 2009.
1a) Dietrich Bonhoeffer London 1933-1935
1b) “Ihr Ende schaut an .. “ Evangelische Märtyrer des 20. Jahrhunderts
1c) North European Churches/ European Integration
1a) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, London 1933-1935 English translation, edited by Keith Clements. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 13) Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2007. 524 Pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-8006-8313-9.
The English translation of the seventeen volumes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings, published in German between 1986 and 1999, proceeds apace. The latest volume to appear is Volume 13, which has been skilfully translated with extra annotations added by the British editor for the benefit of English-speaking readers. It is entitled “London” since it covers the period of Bonhoeffer’s service as pastor of two German-speaking congregations in London during 1933 to 1935. This was in fact a crucial turning point in his career. He was just short of twenty-seven when the Nazis came to power, and when the whole German Protestant community was convulsed and divided along both political and theological lines. At once Bonhoeffer recognized the dangers ahead. He was one of the few. But early on in 1933 he had thrown his support behind those determined to prevent the pro-Nazi faction in the Protestant churches from gaining control of church affairs. He had witnessed with increasing anguish over the summer of 1933 the manipulation of church elections and the apparent victory of the so-called “German Christians”, who sought the whole-scale and willing identification of the Protestant Church with the goals of the Nazi Party.
Bonhoeffer’s decision to apply for the vacant post in London was in one sense a means of distancing himself from the looming church struggle in his homeland. But he certainly did not want to be an exile, or to consider emigrating on a permanent basis. Rather, he saw the posting as an opportunity to arouse concern among his contacts in the wider church world, particularly amongst those engaged in the nascent ecumenical movement. He wanted to inform them of developments in Germany, and to rally their support by making them aware of the errors and indeed heresies being preached by his clerical colleagues. He was convinced that such misguided preaching demonstrated an abandonment of the strict orthodoxy of his Lutheran heritage for the sake of temporary political advantage.
This volume therefore necessarily gives a full account of the German Church Struggle and Bonhoeffer’s continuing engagement in it, often on an almost daily basis by lengthy telephone calls to Berlin, but also by frequent short visits back to Germany. At the same time, this volume also gives details about his running of his two parishes, as well as about his wider involvement in the ecumenical movement. These latter activities culminated in his participation in the 1934 meeting in Fanø, Denmark, which was highly significant in his theological development. In addition, this volume contains the sermons he preached in London. The introduction by Keith Clements gives English-speaking readers a valuable analysis of the origins of the German Church Struggle, which was, at least to begin with, in essence an inner-church conflict over what the nature of the Christian church should be. This reached its apex while Bonhoeffer was abroad in 1934. Because of his absence in London, he was not able to attend the Confessing Church’s formative meeting at Barmen in the Rhineland in May 1934. On that occasion Karl Barth was the principal author of the famous Barmen Declaration, repudiating the claims of the “German Christians” on theological grounds. Bonhoeffer’s comments on that brave statement are highly instructive.
1934 was also the year in which Bonhoeffer began to play a more pivotal role in the ecumenical movement. Despite his young age, his qualifications were considerable. He had already had the advantage of travelling abroad in the immediately previous years. He had served for a year as a curate in the German Church in Barcelona, and then had spent a hugely formative year at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where his theological horizons widened rapidly. Here too he gained added fluency in English. Immediately after his return to Berlin in 1931, he had been chosen to go to Cambridge for a conference of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches. Here he made such an impression on the older generation of leaders that he was at once recruited to serve as a Youth Secretary of the Alliance, and was given responsibility for promoting its cause among youth throughout central Europe. It was through this work that he first met Bishop George Bell of Chichester, a leading figure in the Ecumenical Council of Life and Work, who was to become so important for Bonhoeffer in the next chapter of his life in England.
Bonhoeffer arrived in London in mid-October 1933, and almost immediately was invited to go down to Chichester for a full discussion of the events unfolding in Germany. This volume gives the background, both in Germany and in England, for such deliberations, of which unfortunately a written record was seldom made. Nevertheless it is clear that Bonhoeffer’s clear and accurate knowledge of the events unfolding in Germany was helpful not only to Bell, but also to his superior, the Archbishop of Canterbury, with whom Bonhoeffer conferred in March 1934. These church leaders hardly needed to be convinced of the seriousness of the crisis in Germany. The dictatorial steps instituted by the Reich Bishop Müller against his opponents in the Confessing Church seemed to herald the attempt to impose more radical pro-Nazi measures on the whole church. Bonhoeffer of course rightly stressed that such distortions of the universal Christian gospel had to be opposed. But it proved to be an uphill task to mobilize other branches of the church, even in the ecumenical movement, to take action. The official “German Christian” authorities naturally protested against what they considered “unwarranted interference” by such bodies as the Council of Life and Work, led by Bell. Hence difficult and tortuous diplomatic negotiations were called for.
For his part, Bonhoeffer was eager for a strong and open protest. He even refers to the need for an ultimatum, which could be a test of the ecumenical movement’s reality and vitality. In his letters to the Geneva staff of Life and Work, he deplored what he saw as prevarication or vacillation. Instead he wanted the ecumenical community to make up its mind. In April 1934, he wrote: “There is much more at stake here than just personal or administrative difficulties. Christ is looking down at us and asking whether there is anyone left who confesses faith in him” (p. 127).
Naturally he was in favour of Bishop Bell’s Ascension Day message regarding the German Evangelical Church, sent in early May, and advised Bell on how it could be strengthened. In particular the message expressed strong concern about the autocratic measures taken by the Reich Bishop and about the introduction of racial principles in determining the nature of the German Church. Shortly afterwards, the delegates of the various regional branches of the Confessing Church met in Barmen and issued their notable Declaration. This meeting gave added strength to their determination to oppose the unscriptural and indeed heretical attempts to Nazify the Church. One result was the decision to establish the Confessing Church’s own seminaries for theological ordinands, who would thus be rescued from contamination at the state-run university faculties of theology. Bonhoeffer early on came into consideration as the Director for the proposed seminary of the Berlin-Brandenburg Confessing Church – a post he was to assume in the following April. This new development meant that his hope of going out to India to spend time in one of Gandhi’s ashrams to study life together had to be abandoned. But another alternative plan – to start a Protestant monastery inspired by the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount – was in fact to be realized at least in part when he subsequently returned to Germany.
The confrontation between the ecumenical community and the officials of the German Reich Church came to a head in August at the international conference held in Denmark. Actually there were two conferences held simultaneously in the same place. The first was the Youth Conference of the World Alliance with some sixty student members from all parts of the world. Bonhoeffer had taken care to ensure that none of the Germans present supported the “German Christian” position. It was to this gathering that he gave his powerful address in favour of a church-led pacifism and called on the whole Ecumenical Council to unite in proclaiming the peace of Christ against the raging world. It was to be the apogee of his youthful and ardent pacifist idealism. The text is fortunately preserved in full in this volume.
At the same time, the larger conference organised by the Council of Life and Work, saw representatives from the official German Church , attending as duly authorized members, including the head of the Church’s foreign department, Bishop Heckel. As the documents in this volume show, Bonhoeffer had already had his confrontations with Heckel who had tried to use his office’s authority to impose control over and theological views upon the congregations in Britain. Bonhoeffer’s strong resistance against this attempt and his success in gaining the support of Bishop Bell and other leaders of the ecumenical movement now culminated in the Fanø deliberations. Despite Heckel’s vehement objections, the Council was steered by Bell to pass a strong resolution condemning the policies of the “German Christian”-dominated church government. The Council also elected one of the leading figures in the Confessing Church, Karl Koch, to join its ranks, as a strong and public indication of its support. Bonhoeffer left immediately for Germany to inform Koch and his advisors of this support.
Despite these warnings and remonstrances, the “German Christian” campaign to bring all aspects of church life into line with the Nazi ideology, was stepped up in the next few weeks, making much of Hitler’s tactic of theFührerprinzip. Bishops were placed under house arrest, dissident pastors were disciplined, mission work was throttled, and all suggested compromises were denied. In retaliation, Bonhoeffer and his colleagues in Britain resolved to get the support of their congregations to switch their allegiance from the Reich Church to the Confessing Church. Extensive correspondence followed which is reflected in the surviving papers. But how this confession-based transfer could be brought about was still unresolved even after Bonhoeffer was called back to Germany in April 1935 to take up his duties as director of the Confessing Church’s training centre in the remote Pomeranian village of Finkenwalde. Before he left England, he just had time to pay brief visits to three Church of England residential colleges where the ideal of training the future clergy in a monastic setting was still being practised. Some of his correspondence also hints at how this idea grew on him, when he envisaged a community of life together based on the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount
Inevitably, the more personal and spiritual side of Bonhoeffer’s ministry in London is only here hinted at, but the memories of survivors from those days, newly collected in Keith Clements’ appealing and beautifully illustrated memoir, Bonhoeffer and Britain, (reviewed in our Newsletter, October 2006, Vol. XII, no. 10), show that his dedication to his parishioners was much appreciated, as were his thoughtful and often inspiring sermons, several of which are here reprinted in an excellent translation. For a young pastor, who had not yet reached his thirtieth birthday, his achievements in London were to prove formative for his later development. In particular his recognition of the urgency of the Church Struggle, and his determination to reject any form of compromise for the sake of his career, or for nationalist reasons, was to make him a singular figure among his colleagues and age-cohorts. His period in London was to deepen his convictions about the vital need to relate the ethics of the Gospel to the surrounding political events of his day, and if necessary to take up arms against injustice and intimidation. Inspired by the model of the Sermon on the Mount, these were the values he sought to instil in his parishioners and students in the subsequent years. And there can be no doubt that his friendship with Bishop Bell in these few months was one of his most supportive encounters and sustained him until the end. It was to Bishop Bell that he sent his final message from Germany on the day before his execution in Flossenburg concentration camp on April 9th 1945.
“Tell him that with him I believe in the reality of the Christian brotherhood that rises above all national conflicts and interests, and that our victory is certain”.
It was therefore entirely fitting that the first memorial service for Dietrich Bonhoeffer was held in Holy Trinity Church in central London and organized by Bishop Bell only three months later in July 1945. The service was recorded by the BBC and broadcast to Germany. This was how Bonhoeffer’s parents first learnt of his death. Bishop Bell’s sermon recalled: “As one of a noble company of martyrs of differing traditions, he represents both the resistance of the believing soul, in the name of God, to the assault of evil, and also the moral and political revolt of the human conscience against injustice and cruelty.”
It is therefore also fitting that Bonhoeffer is one of the ten Christian martyrs of the twentieth century, whose statues were to be placed on the west portal of Westminster Abbey and unveiled there in the presence of the Queen in July 1998, thus making his connection with London a permanent record of his faithfulness and example of ecumenical fellowship.
1b) “Ihr Ende Schaut an. . .”. Evangelische Märtyrer des 20. Jahrhunderts, Edited by Harald Schultze and Andreas Kurschat. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt 2008. 811pp ISBN 978-3-374-02370-7.
This encyclopaedia of German-speaking Protestant martyrs in the twentieth century forms a counterpoint to a similar large-scale compilation published by the German Catholic authorities. The object is to record the names of those Christian witnesses put to death for their faithfulness, both in order to preserve the historical record, and to uphold the ethical impulse these sacrifices can give to later generations. At the same time, these volumes can be seen as a further attempt at coming to terms with Germany’s chequered record during the past century.
This work consists of several hundred short biographical entries, arranged in geographical groupings, such as Germany, the Baltic lands, the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, and east and south-east Europe. These entries are preceded by two hundred pages of introductory essays, which are valuable in describing the settings in which these martyrs lost their lives.
As is made clear by Professor Harold Schultze, the problem of selection was an ongoing one for the editors. The decision to limit those chosen to members of the German-speaking Evangelical Churches or affiliated communities necessitated drawing boundaries. For example, the numerous martyrs among the Jehovah’s Witnesses were excluded. On the other hand, particular note was made of those who suffered death in the Soviet Union or its satellite territories. And the martyrs who lost their lives while witnessing in the German Democratic Republic, are here included, as are martyrs from the non-established Protestant communities, such as the Mennonites.
How should martyrdom be defined in the present context? Clearly the concept has become widened beyond the early ascriptions to those who confessed their faith publicly and were burnt at the stake. In the twentieth century, both the methods of persecution became more varied, but so did the motives of the persecuted. In many – possibly in most – cases, political and social motives went hand in hand with religious convictions to spur individuals to take up resistance against tyranny of various kinds. It is often impossible to try and prioritize such impulses, but the editors have struggled to find the attestation of Christian witness before the individual was included. Certainly they have sought to avoid honouring only the clergy or office holders in the church. In the wake of the overthrow of the Nazi regime, strenuous efforts were made commemorate those men and women murdered at the hands of the Gestapo or SS, especially those involved in the fatal Putsch of 20 July 1944, whose victims indeed became the best known in this group of Protestant martyrs.
But as this case demonstrates, the mixed religious and political motives of these men and women, and in some cases their previous adherence to or support of the Nazi regime, caused highly ambivalent reactions. The famous Protestant martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer was for many years regarded with aversion, even in his own church, because he had challenged the long-held Lutheran tradition of obedience to established authority, and had even conspired to assassinate the head of state. Only when the political climate changed, and the majority of Protestants acknowledged their previous complicity with the criminal Nazi regime, was due recognition awarded to Bonhoeffer and his companions. For the same reason, an increased readiness was found to widen the definition of martyrdom so that many of the victims of political repression could be included, even though some explicit Christian witness or conviction was needed in order to be mentioned in this compilation.
At the same time, numerous physical memorials to these martyrs have been built in Germany, not only for Protestants. Particularly such striking monuments as the Holocaust Memorial in central Berlin gave added impetus to the commemoration of these martyrs. Such architectural structures, however, naturally lack the detail of the individual’s service or contribution. So such undertakings as this encyclopaedia provide a valuable and necessary addition, and will help to ensure that the names of murdered and oppressed individuals and their specific witness will not be forgotten or erased with the passing of time.
Of course, commemoration of contemporary martyrs raises troubling questions for the ir surviving successors. Why were they so few? And why did their examples not lead to much wider movements to resist the tyranny of which they were the victims? The silent majority which failed to follow them stood and still stands accused. But at least younger generations are now being enabled through such books as this volume to look at the painful and also terrifying experiences of these martyrs, and hopefully to determine not to allow such circumstances to recur.
While the heuristic value of this volume for German-speaking readers and congregations can be taken fro granted, the historian has also to consider wider issues. Particularly, in the history of the Soviet Union, it seems somewhat one-sided to focus only on the Protestant victims of Stalin’s despotism. Many thousands of other Russian Christians suffered martyrdom, and whole populations were starved to death through famine, or worked to death in the notorious Gulag camps. Should these not also be remembered? And even more controversially, questions have to be asked about those German-speaking Protestants who served in Hitler’s armies, whose ruthless atrocities contributed to the deaths of so many civilians, including Jews. Even after sixty or more years, Germans, including Protestants, have much to contemplate with penitence in the history of their impact on eastern Europe. Remembering the sufferings of these martyrs is only one stage; it needs to be accompanied by a much more comprehensive reckoning, which takes account of the behaviour of the church as a whole. Only thus will the danger of self-justification or self-glorification be avoided. Martyrs must not become an alibi, but rather an abiding witness to a higher standard of Christian discipleship.
1c) Hugh McLeod, Risto Saarinen, Aila Lauha, North European Churches. From the Cold War to Globalization. Tampere, Finland: Church Research Institute, 2006. 135 pp. ISBN 951-693-270-3
Edited by Lucia Faltin and Melanie J.Wright, The Religious Roots of Contemporary European Identity. London: Continuum 2007. 230 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-8264-9482-5
For the past sixty years, the European churches have been attempting to restore and reconstruct the moral and spiritual values of their civil society, which was so ruthlessly and destructively torn apart by the totalitarian powers, first by Nazi Germany and subsequently by Soviet Communism. In the southern lands, around the Mediterranean, this task was taken up principally by the Roman Catholic Church. But in northern Europe, as outlined in the first of these new books, especially in the region of Great Britain, Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltic lands, it has fallen to the Protestant churches to tackle this issue. They have attempted to create a new climate of interaction between politics and religious communities in the search for viable and constructive patterns of political behaviour based on the ideals of peace, justice and the preservation of creation. They have sought to encourage the development of international institutions, in particular the fostering of post-war European political integration. This short book, co-authored by three distinguished church historians, one British and two Finnish, describes this process from a variety of national perspectives. With funding provided by the European Union, this team of historians was asked to study the political role of churches in Europe and their impact on the far-reaching project for European integration.
Given the often traumatic experiences suffered by the churches in the course of the twentieth century, some of them self-inflicted, the task of finding common ground on which to unite in binding up the wounds of war and political violence has not been easy. These Protestant churches were all closely attached to their own nations, often established as part of the national institutional structures, and saw themselves as central components of the national identity. Only a few far-sighted churchmen recognized the need to embrace new concepts of pan-European coexistence, while relegating to a back burner the supposedly glorious achievements of their own national pasts. For this purpose the nascent ecumenical movement, born after the first world war, was a valuable training ground. In Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the most notable theologian to expound such views, but he remained a lone and even suspect figure. In Britain, Bishop George Bell, and in Geneva, the Dutch General Secretary of the World Council of Churches after 1948, Visser ‘t Hooft, were similarly advocates of the new proposals for overcoming national rivalries through some form of European integration. But, on the other hand, the anguish caused by the second world war’s disasters, not only destroyed the rather naive idealism of the ecumenical movement’s founders, but also increased the influence of those who followed Karl Barth in believing that any human political institution would be bound to fail. The Church was instead called to be a prophetic voice of healthy criticism towards all worldly rulers and to throw its support decidedly behind the poor and oppressed, the victims of misused power. In the 1950s and 1960s this witness was to become particularly notable in the Third World, where the World Council aspired to become “the voice of the voiceless”.
But in Europe, even though these Protestant ecumenists thought a lot about Europe and its future, it was the Catholics who took the initiative after 1945. Largely due to Pope Pius XII, Catholics were encouraged to look for a restoration of a Christian Europe and to promote Christian cultural values. They therefore gave their support to such initiatives as the founding of the Council of Europe, which provided the ideological, background for the political moves resulting in the creation of the Common Market and subsequent developments in the economic sphere. These led successfully to the closer merging of western Europe, and were to form a model for its later expansion.
But some Protestants remained sceptical. They disliked seeing the notion of western European integration being subordinate to American-led Cold War politics. They suspected Catholic intentions in any new structures. In the Nordic countries, too, longstanding antipathies towards Catholicism were reinforced by their strongly Protestant heritage and equally strong Social Democratic political traditions. In Germany, the most notable Protestant church leader, Martin Niemöller, spoke scathingly of his West German government’s policy as being “conceived in the Vatican and born in Washington”. In such circles, the image of “Europe” was repeatedly portrayed as “capitalistic, conservative, corrupt and Catholic”.
Nevertheless, in the 1960s and 1970s, the obvious success of the European Economic Community led to a Protestant re-evaluation. Its institutions, and a more integrated European nucleus, now seemed to be an effective force for the defence of peace, security and human rights. The warmer ecumenical climate induced by the Second Vatican Council and the less rigidly dogmatic conservatism adopted by Catholics also encouraged more collaboration in pro-European initiatives. One offshoot was the founding of the Conference of European Churches which linked all denominations across the Iron Curtain in a sincere attempt to defuse the hostilities of earlier years, and encouraged a consciousness of pan-Europeanism. Another formative influence was the election to the papacy of the Polish Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian in centuries. His influence extended Catholic horizons in their understanding of a new European synthesis.
Historians are still in dispute as to how far religion, especially the Christian churches, was significant in bringing about the revolutionary events which swept over eastern Europe in 1989. But there can be no doubt that participation in religious rituals provided some of the strength for protest groups to combine and mobilize their forces against the totalitarian state’s ubiquitous control. Church members also played a highly important role in preparing the ground for new beginnings, including the proposals for becoming integrated with the successful economies of western Europe. The churches often provided a source of alternative values to those so long upheld by the previous communist rulers. In Russia, for example, the Orthodox Church was the principal link to the nation’s earlier history and culture.
In the 1990s and after the turn of the century, it became the turn of the Catholic Church to try and set the course of European integration along Christian lines. The specific proposal was to write a constitution for the whole European Union, which would explicitly spell out its Christian identity. In 2001 the Conference of European Churches and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Europe published a text which affirmed their willingness to participate in the building of Europe, and stated their conviction ”that the spiritual heritage of Christianity constitutes an empowering source of inspiration and enrichment for Europe”. Such a plan however ran into strong opposition. Not only was this seen as a clearly unilateral move designed to stigmatize other religions, such as Judaism or Islam, but it evoked the spectre of a revived and triumphalist Catholicism of earlier centuries. Even whether God should be mentioned in the proposed constitution was a source of discord. Catholics regarded such a statement as a very important reminder of the cultural roots and commitments of Europe. The eventual denial of this suggestion was deeply disappointing to the Vatican.
In the wider setting, this raised the heart-searching question of whether Europe had a soul, and if so what kind of a soul it was. Some European leaders believed that after the era of godless totalitarianism, the European Union needed a spiritual as well as a political and economic base. But with the incorporation of most European countries west of Russia, the demographic pattern was clearly pluralistic. And although the Christian churches were still powerful and influential institutions, they no longer held a monopoly. There were a rising number of alternatives to Christianity. Since 2001 however, there has undoubtedly been a rise in Islamophobia, which has been sufficiently strong so far to bar the possibility of Turkey joining the European Union. The process of European integration is still in progress, and it remains to be seen whether the religious factor or the attitudes of Christian churches will continue to be a significant contributor to the new patterns of political and social collaboration. The history of religious divisions in Europe is a long and often sad chapter. Has the time at last come when these faiths can decide to live in peace and mutual respect with each other?
The editors of the second book under review both teach at the Centre for the Study of Jewish-Christian Relations in Cambridge. The essays they have collected are written by scholars from different parts of Europe from a wide variety of perspectives, and range over different historical eras. Particularly helpful are the essays analysing conditions in the newly-liberated countries of eastern Europe. But they all seek to analyse the presence of religion in the development of national and continental identities, the manifestation of religion in secular society, and the role of religion in further European integration.
In the fifty years since the Treaty of Rome was signed to establish the initial cooperative measures for anew Europe, the hall-mark of such steps was pragmatism. Economic cooperation was dictated by the need to repair the destruction of the second world war, while political cooperation was prompted by the need for adequate barriers against the Communist threat. But such measures were not defended from any openly-adopted ideological stance. To be sure, the early founders of this movement were clearly aware that the traditional religious physiognomy of Europe is Christianity. But the recent experience of Nazi and Fascist ideological fanaticisms and their consequences deterred the repetition of any such far-flung rhetoric. Europe`s Christian roots were silently acknowledged, but the whole emphasis was on practical matters. At the same time, it was recognized that the sad history of Christian divisions would make impossible any attempt to synthesize some form of European identity out of such a history. Nor was it attempted. Indeed the expectation of many of Europe`s leaders was that the religious factor would soon enough be relegated to the past, or to the less controversial spheres of private life.
But with the addition of so many new members, especially those without the kind of secular traditions fostered in parts of western Europe, and with the question posed as to whether Turkey, as an Islamic state, should be invited to join, the religious issues have moved to the forefront again. Can a European identity be forged on a purely secular basis or not? Already, as can be seen over the question of inter-European immigration, questions of identity, either national or international, are continually raised. The members of the Union have adopted differing answers, some preferring a multicultural stance, others an assimilationist approach. With regard to the presence of so many Muslims in Europe today, we should perhaps note the view of one contributor, Sara Silvestri, who points out that at one period of European history, the late Middle Ages, a peaceful cohabitation and fertile interaction with Islam was both possible and practised, especially in Spain. On the other hand, she is also right that present-day Islam poses serious challenges to Europe, and shows how the legacy of European, and Christian, intolerance produced the failure of relationships which makes political as well as personal integration all the more difficult. Or, as Paul Kerry concludes in his essay: “ Just as the European experience includes multiple motivations and aspirations. . . so the recognition of this variety will allow for richer more thoughtful dialogue between those discussing the religious roots of contemporary European identity”.
With warmest regards to you all,