2003, Europe, Rights - Religious, Human

European Religious Exceptionalism

European Religious Exceptionalism

Grace Davie

The traditional theory about modernisation is that it necessarily involves secularisation. In my 1994 book Religion in Britain since 1945: Believing without Belonging I showed that a decline in churchgoing in Britain was matched by a decline in active membership of political and social organisations, and that what we were seeing in Britain was not so much a decline in belief but a change in the way that belief was expressed. The phenomenon seems to be a general symptom of late modernity. As young people escape from the authority of a church structure they don’t just lose their belief; it simply changes – becoming immanent rather than transcendent for example. And there is some evidence that once the shackles are shaken off people return to ritual. In countries like Poland or Eire, where young people still feel the pressure of church discipline, they tend to rebel; but in other European countries at least some young people (in contrast to their parents) are opting, once again, for church marriages.

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2003, Europe, European Union

The Impact of Prospective EU Entry on the Cultural, Social, Political and Economic Situation in Central Europe

The Impact of Prospective EU Entry on the Cultural, Social, Political and Economic Situation in Central Europe

Maurice Fraser

In December 2002 it was agreed that ten countries would join the European Union: Cyprus, Malta and eight formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe (the three Baltic States, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia). Their accession date has been set for 1 May 2004. All these countries had fulfilled entrance criteria named in 31 ‘chapters’ and covering a very wide range of concerns; the European Commission had taken a very tough stance on all of these. Hungary is regarded as the best prepared of the accession countries, with a large slice of foreign investment. The Baltic States, where there has been a remarkable story of reform, are led by Estonia, which for some time has been the darling of international economic institutions. Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and Estonia have recently been experiencing 4 per cent annual economic growth as opposed to 2.5 per cent for the EU as a whole. Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia started their accession process only in 2000, but have made good progress on catching up with those who started in 1998. Romania and Bulgaria are progressing, but much more slowly, and Romania has been experiencing economic stagnation for a number of years. The time line for the accession of these two countries is now around 2007.

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2003, Romania

Building Bridges with People in Romania

Building Bridges with People in Romania

Five members of the European Liaison Group of Churches Together in the Borough of Croydon recently spent four days at an International Ecumenical Conference in Romania at the invitation of Studium Academicum, an ecumenical training institution set up by a group of pastors of the Reformed Church around Oradea. They were led by Revd Alan Middleton, Croydon Archdeaconry Ecumenical Officer and Chair of the Liaison Group, and included Revd John Greig, his predecessor, and Revd Anna Heffernan, the group’s secretary.

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2003, Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women

Called to Compassion and Freedom: Christian Women Shaping the Future of Europe

Called to Compassion and Freedom – Christian Women Shaping the Future of Europe

A Message from the Sixth General Assembly of the
Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women
held in the Czech Republic 25 August – 1 September 2002

Compassion and freedom are a gift of God, to women and men, said Bishop Jana Šilerováá of the Czech Hussite Church. Dr Gret Haller, from Switzerland, Human Rights Ombudsperson for OSCE to Bosnia Herzegovina, urged women to participate fully in politics and in the whole life of the state, in order to help shape the future of Europe. She said that our contribution could challenge existing patterns, which were often one-sided and male dominated. The senator of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Jaroslava Moserová, drew attention to the duty and power of women, in their capacity as mothers and educators, to break the vicious cycle of hate which passes from generation to generation. A paradigmatic view of relationship and community came from the Bible Study on Philippians 2:1-5 by Carmen Marquez, a Spanish theologian. The image of the Triune God provides a pattern for human communities, through unity in diversity.

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2003, Roma

The Roma in Central and Eastern Europe Today

The Roma in Central and Eastern Europe Today. An Appalling Situation

Richard Crowson

For the last three and a half years I have been working with the Roma in the Czech Republic, and my eyes have been opened to an extent I would never have believed possible.

The circumstances of the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe today are absolutely appalling. One basic aspect of their plight is that they are readily distiguishable by their colour, and have thus provided an easy target for persecution over the centuries. They were targeted for genocide persecuted by the Nazis; at the end of the Second World War there was not a single Roma left in the Czech lands; all those there today are recent immigrants, mainly from Slovakia. Today throughout Central and Eastern Europe they are subject to overt discrimination, exacerbated in a context of growing right-wing nationalism: far-right groups explicitly target them. They are routinely excluded from cafes, swimming pools, dance halls. Most of the countries concerned have passed anti-discriminatory legislation, in line with EU norms; but these laws are routinely ignored as far as the Roma are concerned.

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