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The Defining Moment

The defining moment

We’ve just sent out the agenda for Schuman Centre activities for the new academic year. Here is an overview. It begins with a reception in The Hague on October 26 to launch the Dutch translation of Deeply Rooted, the small book I wrote about how Christian values and vision shaped the birth of what has become the European Union.
We have invited half a dozen academics, politicians and media experts to respond to one of the propositions I make in the book: that Robert Schuman’s declaration made in Paris on May 9, 1950, proposing the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, was the defining moment of post-war Europe.
If this is (even partly) true, then why is this story of Christian forgiveness and reconciliation, enabling deep wounds of bitterness and hatred to be healed, barely known, rarely taught and scarcely appreciated?
It only took Schuman a mere three minutes to read his declaration and thus lay the foundations for the European house, in which today half a billion Europeans from 27 nations live together in peace.
So too each respondent has a mere three minutes to say their piece.
Curious
I’m curious to hear what they will say. I doubt that the Berlin Wall would have been breached on November 9, 1989, without the declaration of May 9  nearly forty years earlier. For Schuman’s prior declaration led directly towards a united and prosperous western Europe, making eastern Europeans aspire to the better life of their western neighbours.
If you’re curious too, and would like to attend the reception in The Hague, email me for further details.
We start a new Evening School of European Studies in Amsterdam on November 1, a series of twelve fortnightly classes covering Europe’s past, present and future, lasting through to late April. Past students of this school have said the course gave them understanding of what made Europe ‘Europe’, and offered a framework on which to hang all the details of history. Looking backwards to see what God has done in the past through faithful minorities had given them hope and vision for tomorrow’s Europe.
The course includes four historical outings in Holland, where we walk through the inner cities of Utrecht, Amsterdam, Zwolle and Deventer, as well as drive north to Friesland to learn about Boniface and Menno Simons. These outings are open for all to join. Details and dates of the course itself and of the outings are on the Schuman Centre website: www.schumancentre.eu.
But if you don’t live in Holland? Then you can follow the Online European Studies Course, by accessing the appropriate webpage to download the video lectures, teaching notes, power points and other resources.
A good idea is to to do this course with a group. It takes a little self-discipline to follow the course alone. Setting a regular fortnightly or monthly session to work through the sessions together has worked well for groups in Switzerland and the Czech Republic following the course.
If you happen to live near Dublin, then there is a third possibility: the Saturday School of European Studies. Covering essentially the same ground as the evening and online courses, the Dublin-based school is being offered on the third Saturday of each month from January through to June next year, the months when Ireland holds the presidency of the EU. This course needs to be confirmed as it is dependent on there being at least a dozen participants.
Soul-searching
When Denmark held the presidency earlier this year we held a similar course in Copenhagen, where the State of Europe Forum was also held. Plans are also well under way for next year’s forum in Dublin, 9 & 10 May. Sociologist Os Guinness and economist Tomas Sedlacek will help us do some serious ‘soul-searching’ over how we should respond to Europe’s current state. More about this as details are confirmed.
The annual Continental Heritage Tour next summer, June 29-July 15, will again take us to 40 places in 15 days. We are also planning the first UK & Ireland Heritage Tour , August 10-20, starting in Belfast and Dublin before crossing to Edinburgh and travelling down to London.
In between, we will hold the first Masterclass in European Studies, on The gospel and the making of Europe, in partnership with the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Leuven, July 22-26, in Amsterdam. Dr Evert van de Poll and I will give daily lectures, supplemented by evening lectures by visiting professors.
Watch for more details on line, or contact me directly if you are interested in the any of the above.
Till next week,
Jeff Fountain

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