Thinking Creatively about Europe

Thinking Creatively about Europe

Faith in Europe AGM, 9 July 2015

The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams

former Archbishop of Canterbury and now Master of Magdalene College Cambridge

Text compiled from notes by Philip Walters and approved by Rowan Williams

I would like to focus on a number of aspects of European identity. Two obviously important constituents are the Classical heritages of Greece, to which we owe the idea of democracy, and of Rome, which has mainly meant organised militarism. However, it not enough to think of European identity just in terms of these two legacies. There is also the Christian legacy, and other legacies.

There were no weekends in Ancient Rome. This is not a frivolous point: weekends are markers for the passage of time in a religious context. With weekends we mark the reliving of the human story of the life of Jesus weekly and yearly; and this is tied in with the evolution of the European individual. Boris Pasternak said that Christ is a human life printed on the world. Nobody is exempted from this image: slaves, the poor, women. Yes, this legacy lies under the debris of patriarchy; but as Thomas Aquinas said, there are some areas of human life that are ineradicable.

Europe also has its Muslim and Jewish legacies. Christianity, Islam and Judaism are a family quarrel rather than a clash of civilisations. We need to remember that Medieval Catholic theology was crucially informed by influx from the Muslim and Jewish peripheries.

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2015, Ukraine

A Christian European State: Religion in Modern Ukraine

A Christian European State: Religion in Modern Ukraine

Faith in Europe AGM, 16 April 2015

Robert Brinkley
British Ambassador to Ukraine 2002-2006


Over the last year and a bit the Ukrainian people have suffered greatly, not for the first time in the past century. Part of their state has been forcibly annexed. Some of the Donbas – the eastern coal and steel region – has fallen prey to separatist criminals, sponsored, armed and supported by Russia. The Ukrainian currency has lost 80% of its value, a steeper drop than any other currency, inflation has risen and the economy contracted by 5% last year. This is a man-made disaster. Over 6000 people have lost their lives. Many more have been injured. Some one and a half million have had to flee their homes.

These numbers hide individual faces and names. A few examples:

  • Last September in L’viv (Western Ukraine) I met the young widow of a Donets’k social activist, with her teenage daughter. In April, at the start of the uprising, he had been abducted by separatists and killed. Their house had been destroyed. The widow and her daughter were now being cared for in Kyiv.
  • In Crimea the Tatar community is again under threat, having returned to their homeland only in the late 1980s following their expulsion to Central Asia by Stalin. Some of their leaders have been barred from Crimea. Some Tatars have been abducted and killed. Their media outlets have been closed. Thousands of them have left for mainland Ukraine; I met some of them in L’viv in September at a festival of Crimean Tatar culture. Other communities in Crimea – Orthodox parishes of the Kyiv Patriarchate, Catholic and Jewish – have also faced menace and obstruction.
  • In the territory controlled by the separatists in Eastern Ukraine, three Catholic priests were kidnapped; the residence of the Greek Catholic Bishop in Donets’k was robbed and sealed; the Bishop and almost all his priests were forced to leave the Donets’k area; on 16 August the convent of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Donets’k was seized by separatists while the sisters were away on summer retreat and children’s camps; the sisters cannot return to their home.
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