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The Forgotten Roots Of The European Union (Part III)

The forgotten roots of the European Union (Part III)

We publish today the third part of the introduction of the book Deeply Rooted by Jeff Fountain. Click here to read the first part and here for the second part. For more information or order, click here.

How then did this New Zealander become so engaged with the European story? In 1975, I came to Holland where I met and married a Dutch girl, Romkje, who had started the work of the international mission organisation Youth With A Missionin Holland.

I settled in my wife’s homeland, working with ywam, and eventually was granted Dutch, and thus European, citizenship.

By 1989, I was appointed leader of ywam across Europe. As the momentous events of that year unfolded, culminating in the dramatic demolition of the Berlin Wall, the spiritual landscape of Europe underwent a seismic shift. 

I was invited to meet with other leaders of Christian youth movements to wrestle together with the huge implications of these changes. Still in our thirties and forties, we looked around for mature evangelical ‘fathers and mothers’ able to guide us through these uncertain times. Frankly, we found few interested in the broader European picture. Leadership seemed more concerned with local church issues. Few were concerned about ‘Brussels’ and the European Community project. Some even dismissed ‘Europe’ as doomed to become the Beast and therefore not worthy of our attention. 

Only later did I discover insightful reports and addresses from mainstream church leadership, especially from Catholic bishops such as Cardinal Basil Hume.

Meanwhile I decided we should go to Brussels to learn for ourselves. So in 1991, I met with our ywam leadership team outside the star-shaped Berlaymont building in the European district, home of the European Commission. Some of us were wondering about claims spread by endtime-watchers that somewhere in this ‘Berlaymonster’ was a Big-Brother computer gathering information on every European. Somewhat apprehensively, we presented our passports to the security personnel as we entered the building.

Imagine our surprise then as we were greeted by a European Commission official with a warm handshake and the friendly statement: “So, brothers, shall we begin with prayer?” 

Our host, an Irishman named Eamonn O’Rouairc, explained that he led a prayer network of staff working in the building. Asked about the computer, he laughed and said, “If only people knew how incompetent we were with our computers!”

He then launched into a fascinating story about a small group of devout Christian politicians who saw the need to reconcile their constantly-warring nations, as they faced the daunting task of rebuilding post-war Europe. He also highlighted the role of a Lutheran evangelist who played a key role behind the scenes,  building trust among these men.

This was such a different understanding of the origins and motives behind what has since become the European Union than anything I had heard before! 

This then is the story told in the following chapters, a story largely forgotten, ignored or simply never passed on, particularly in the English-speaking world. 

We suffer from short memories. And short memories breed short-sightedness.

Jeff Fountain

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