Friday, November 28, 2014

Pope Francis calls upon Europe to be a ‘force for unity’

Mohan BhagwandasAs Europe marks 100 years since WWI and 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is a time to look back and look ahead. 

Speaking at the Council of Europe and European Parliament in Strasbourg, on a whistle stopping short trip on 25 November 2014, Pope Francis stuck a note of reality and hope to a 'lonely' and 'self-absorbed' Europe to 'recover its soul.'

He urged the 500 million citizens of Europe to see the Union’s problems – economic stagnation, unemployment, immigration, rising poverty levels and a growing polarization -  as a 'force for unity' to overcome fears and mutual mistrust.

The Pontiff urged, 'The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership, a repository of science, art, music, human values and faith as well. A Europe which contemplates the heavens and pursues lofty ideals. A Europe which cares for, defends and protects man, every man and woman. A Europe which bestrides the earth surely and securely, a precious point of reference for all humanity!'

A Historical Perspective of the origins of the EU

Robert Schuman with Buchman at Caux (Photo: Peter Sisam)The foundations of this Europe referred to by Francis were set in place after WWII.

In 1946, the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill delivered a celebrated speech at Zurich University (Switzerland). It was considered by many people as the first step towards European integration. Churchill said of his vision for Europe 'It is to recreate the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom.'

In 1950, in the face of rising international tensions, Jean Monnet set out to give it this structure. In his house in Houjarray, he and his team conceived the idea of the European Community.

On 9 May 1950, with the agreement of Chancellor Adenauer, Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman made a declaration in the name of the French government. Prepared by Jean Monnet, this declaration proposed placing all the Franco-German production of steel and coal under a common High Authority open to the other countries of Europe.

Thus the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was born, laying the foundation of the European Community.

Historical Perspective – The Role of Caux and Initiatives of Change

In 1946, at the opening of the Initiatives of Change global conference centre in Caux, Switzerland, founder Dr Frank Buchman focused on the need for healing the wounds of war in Europe and facilitating reconciliation between former enemies. It brought French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann and Chancellor of Germany Konrad Adenauer to visit Caux.

Conversation between Konrad Adenauer and Frank Buchman in Los Angeles, 1960 (Photo: Rickard Tegstrom)In 1949, the United States Congress sent a special bi-partisan committee to Caux, created by the unanimous vote of the House of Representatives, before the authorization of the Marshall Plan. 

A member of the delegation, The Hon P. H. Preston Jr of Georgia, reported back to Congress: ‘I recall very vividly Mr Georges Villiers, President of the National Association of Employers of France, stand on the same platform as Mr Hans Böckler, leader oft he coal miners of the Ruhr Valley, Germany. The Frenchman said, “I have every reason in the world to hate your people. Your people condemned me to death. But all that is past and now we must seek together to create the atmosphere in which these things can be forgotten, and that is why I wish to offer you my hand in friendship. The economic and moral union of France and Germany is the keystone of the European structure.”'

This is history. But what about the present? Can Initiatives of Change and Caux facilitate a new conversation for Europe and can Caux pick up on the challenge and vision set out for Europe by Pope Francis?

Read more on Pope Francis in Strasbourg 

Mohan Bhagwandas currently serves on the International Council of Initiatives of Change International. After working with IofC in South Asia, Europe, North America and Australia/Pacific, Mohan moved into a career in the Information Technology industry in 1990. He was employed for 15 years in a senior position in Business Strategy in a global Information Systems company. From 2006 to 2013 he served as the International Coordinator of the Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy conference programme held at Caux, Switzerland.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.