“There are no alternatives to the European Union. All other possible scenarios are worse than the one we are living today. That’s why we say: don’t give up on the EU – go to vote, and follow your values”. That is the “message” that the Conference of European Churches are launching, with only a few months to go before the European Parliament elections which will take place on 23-26 May, as summarized by Torsten Moritz, General Secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), which alongside the Conference of European Churches (CEC) has decided to take action in order to inform European citizens about what is at stake in the upcoming elections and, above all, to ask Europe’s Christians not to remain on the sidelines. That is the inspiration for the document “Europe: It’s Our Future” (“È il nostro futuro”) a light and easy read, published together with a series of promotional videos where the leaders of European Churches speak briefly, inviting European citizens to go and vote.
First of all, prejudice must be demolished. We’re witnessing how people in Europe are finding it more and more difficult to understand what the European Parliament actually is and what it can do”, says Torsten Moritz. “And on top of that, there is an upsurge in prejudice. Increasingly, the institution is perceived not as a place for decision-making and setting processes in motion. Instead, it is seen as a sad talk-show that has no influence on people’s lives, or on its member States. So on the one side, we want to inform people on what the Parliament is, and on the other, we want to highlight a number of issues which we feel are important and which the European Parliament will be called to act on in the future.
The future of the EU. Attractively packaged and concisely written, the document explains what the EuroParliament is, what its role is and who its members are, and invites those who want to find out more to visit https://www.thistimeimvoting.eu//. “Our Christian self-understanding places justice, peace, solidarity, and human dignity at the heart of all we do. Together we want to create a secure, socially just and open Europe. We hope for the same commitment in those who shape the future of Europe”, the document reads.
The Churches’ document tackles several issues: migration, climate change and sustainable development; the future of work and the social model of Europe; economic governance and the role of Europe in the world, and lastly, a more “equal and inclusive Europe”. We are not formulating principles, says the CCME representative. Rather, we put questions forward in order to “keep the debate as open as possible”. It is the way in which we approach each theme that makes the difference: the core values are peace, tolerance and solidarity. “We seek to build bridges”, and “in the face of conflict, we are called to act as agents of reconciliation”, recites the text.
Populism and sovereignism are testing Europe. From its foundation, the European Union was built as a community of shared values, but today this community is “under pressure”. The dangers of populism and of extremist politics have reached their highest level in history. It’s true that Europe has made its mistakes through the years – from the economic crisis to the way it has been tackled in recent years – lacking a true spirit of solidarity – to the migrant issue, where there has been no shared governance. But particularly to those shouting ‘my country first’ we repeat: there are no alternatives to Europe” says Torsten Moritz. The document ends with a series of concrete proposals: go to vote; get informed; interact with candidates and share your concerns and reflections with them; participate in local debates; get others involved; learn about the church’s position on issues. Most of all, exercise your right to vote. “What is at stake is the special responsibility that Christians are called upon to fulfil for society and for living together”, adds Moritz. “The elections will only last a few days but their impact will be felt for a long time”. CEC – the Conference of European Churches – is an ecumenical fellowship bringing together 114 churches from Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican traditions from all over Europe, and is based in Brussels.