Central Europeanism and Cultural Diversity
Not only is Europe the meeting point of nations, it is also where the greatest conflicts among those nations take place. Not only has it been the birthplace of grand ideas and thoughts over the centuries of world history, but also the home of ideologies capable of vanquishing or even destroying peoples and nations.
Europeanism and the idea of the European Union represent a new beginning, a new purpose and an opportunity at the same time: to learn how to live to the benefit of each other, seek connections with each other, and turn away from everything that separates peoples, nations and individuals. Becoming European, however, does not mean that we give up what determines our life, our culture and self-identity. It would be contrary to our Christian faith and conviction. If we truly believe the teachings of the Bible, we cannot throw away the precious treasures received from God for some economic or material advantage or the seductive idea of wealth. God made it clear in the Bible that the time we live in is the time of peoples and nations, which must not be changed or forcefully rearranged, as that would have grave consequences. We can see that Europe has all these political problems because of such ideas and angry attitudes, causing puzzlement for politicians, and great pains and bitterness for the average citizen.
We who are confined to live in minority know it best what a lifelong struggle it is for us to remain what God has created us to be, and yet how much enrichment we can experience and bring to others as well.
If I consider my own life – I am from the easternmost corner of the European Union (where the Slovak, Hungarian and Ukrainian borders meet) –, I realised at a very early age that I was living in a multicultural setting, where one had to take into consideration the feelings of others. This attitude was further reinforced later when I studied at Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, as well as in a German-speaking environment. I got familiar with the habits and thinking of people coming from other cultures, their ideas about life, and thus I became enriched.
Nevertheless, it always saddens me when a country or people treats another people in a way it would not like or accept to be treated. When the same thing happens that happened in the life of Israel, when God “looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry” (Isaiah 5:7).
The European Union has taken considerable steps to get peoples and nations to come closer to each other. Borders have virtually disappeared, we can freely travel from one country to another, it is possible to represent the needs of European nations, to remedy any breach of rights with the tools of reconciliation and interdependence. Therefore I – and I hope I am not the only one – perceive the European Union’s endeavours not through the lenses of economy and market, but through those of the blessed opportunities of God’s love manifested in Christ, peace, understanding and mutual respect. And as these are values in themselves, but with the help of them further values could come about, I would like to experience an atmosphere in which I can be proud of the fact that I am Hungarian because my Hungarian nature is respected; I can openly use my mother tongue because it is a colourful linguistic marvel of Europe; I can enjoy the opportunities provided by our culture because thus I can enrich my environment; I can profess being a Christian of my own nation because that is who I am and no one else.
I hope and believe that the Hungarian EU presidency will be instrumental in emphasising these values and interests, and as a result, make the cultural diversity of East-Central Europe more visible, as well as highlight the fact that we all are God’s creatures.
Reformed Bishop (Felvidék, Slovakia)