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A Moral Rearmament?

A Moral Rearmament?

A column in de Volkskrant, a leftish Dutch newspaper, grabbed my attention this week: ‘Europe must rearm itself, especially morally.’ 

For the first time in two generations, the term ‘rearmament’ is reappearing in the headlines. The shock-effect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been to recalibrate everything over the past month, including galvanising German resolve to pick up shared responsibility for the defence of Europe.

The use of the terms ‘rearmament’ and ‘moral’ in this column immediately brought to my mind the dynamic movement last century called Moral Rearmament. Its founder was the charismatic and influential Lutheran evangelist Frank Buchman (pictured on right above), who introduced Robert Schuman (left in photo) and Konrad Adenauer to each other, and shaped their lives with his message of forgiveness and reconciliation.

To my surprise, as I began reading the column, the writer described his 95-year old grandmother telling him of her banker-family’s engagement with Buchman’s movement. A sort of ‘Salvation Army of the rich’, he wrote, the movement attracted the likes of Frits Philips, head of the Eindhoven-based global electronics firm. It also championed French-German reconciliation and a European integration with strong moral foundations. Buchman believed the West not only needed to be strong militarily but also morally. The columnist noted Buchman’s emphasis on daily ‘quiet time’, listening to your inner voice to hear both correction and direction.

The movement also influenced Harry Truman’s observation that all western problems had their roots in ‘prejudice, rivalry, apathy and greed’. Which sounded familiar, noted the columnist, ‘for the war in the east was after all a logical consequence of Europe’s moral shortcomings’. While Putin had made no secret of his imperialist ambition over the past twenty years, Europe had only been concerned with itself. Europe was happy to bankroll autocratic regimes and accept their dirty money building superyachts, buying football clubs and warming our houses. Meanwhile, the writer continued, we postponed essential investment in climate policy and defence.

The column’s bottom line was that the ‘richest and happiest among us should morally rearm and exercise quiet time: those who do everything for money, but will always deny it; those who have knowledge and skills, but choose to use them for the wrong things.’

Lament

In this Lenten season, that’s worth creating quiet time to reflect on, listening to our inner voice to hear correction and direction. In those church traditions which make the most of Lent, sorrow, regret and lament are woven throughout the liturgy and the music. In this war season, it is certainly appropriate to lament, to weep with those who weep. 

We lament the loss of life and limb of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, of young Russian soldiers merciless sacrified to the gods of war, and the bereavement of all families broken by reckless barbarism. 

We lament our part in perpetuating the deep and ancient spiritual schism between the Church east and west – occasioned by an argument about the Godhead and a creed which for centuries united, but then divided, God’s people. 

We lament this spiritual faultline becoming a millennium-long source of ongoing cultural, political, economic and militaristic hostility, directly stoking today’s war.

We lament having forgotten the truth spoken by the Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn that the line dividing good and evil runs not between countries but through every human heart. 

We lament having allowed fear and hatred to eclipse love and forgiveness by nurturing the hurts of the past. 

We lament having been wooed by those ‘defending the Christian faith’ against those of other race, culture and belief.

We lament on behalf of our nations pursuing consumerist lifestyles of comfort and possessions, neglecting spiritual and moral values. 

We lament that the one continent most shaped by the Bible paradoxically has become the one continent most shaped by the rejection of the Bible.

Questions 

Beyond lamentations and the immediate task of stopping the war and saving lives, many questions are awaiting answers:

  • What role does religion play for better or for worse in the current eastern conflict? 
  • What role did faith communities play after World War Two in applying theological language to political dilemmas, such as forgiveness and reconciliation, solidarity and common good
  • What contributions can faith communities make today towards restoring peace and a new international order guaranteeing freedom of speech, of belief, from want and from fear?

These are questions which we plan to address at this year’s STATE OF EUROPE FORUM in Paris, May 6 & 7. Held annually since 2011 in the capital of the country holding the presidency, the forum has been a platform for Europeans from various faith backgrounds and disciplines to evaluate the state of the continent in the light of Robert Schuman’s vision for ‘a community of peoples deeply rooted in Christian values’. 

Plan to join us in Paris as we seek answers and responses to these questions.

Till next week,


This Post Has One Comment
  1. From Dr John Carlisle in Sheffield, UK.
    I absolutely agree with your Lenten sentiments.
    MRA I am touch with my colleagues who have been working with what is now Initiatives of Change, stemming from MRA. They are working all over Europe trained as they been on a programme in India called Action for Life from the early 2000’s. We also designed and worked on a programme for Eastern Europe – Foundations for Freedom – in about 1992, which has been led by a neighbour, David Curtis, in Ukraine for over twenty years . The goal was to introduce them to the principcles of real democracy, as opposed to just the universal franchise, and to give them capabilities to “change” people along the principles of the 4 Absolutes: Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness and Love. A key discipline is a Quiet Time for your spirit every morning. The vehicle was communities for the common good, confronting corruption and instilling responsibility in the leaders. Over 2000 people have been on the programme and were to be the vanguard of changed lives.
    The War in Ukraine:
    Another colleague in the UK is BHav Patel, now living in Moldova, helping with the refugee organisations there. Here are extracts from his report from yesterday on the latest developments. This should give a picture of what these “alumni” are capable of in this terrible situation.

    His email to me yesterday:
    Dear Friends,

    “…….. Another Ukrainian friend whose home is Irpen and who has been risking his life driving humanitarian aid around Ukraine wrote (about the Russian withdrawal):

    “This is unspeakable, I can’t find any words to describe or answer why is so, what was in the minds of those russian killers, soldiers, and anti-humans. For sure, they don’t have any values or any humanity. I’ve attended two international zoom calls where I tried to speak out about the war in Ukraine, russian genocide towards Ukrainians, civilian people and I faced misunderstanding of the real situation in Ukraine. People in the “West” and other parts of the world don’t understand it clearly or in my opinion don’t want to accept the truth, real heart breaking, terrible truth that Russians doing here. This is pure terrorism, the genocide of Ukrainians, it’s not f_cking operation or tension NATO -Russia, and it’s a full-scale war in Ukraine, the war against civilians, women, children, residential buildings, schools, and kindergartens. Where Russians killed hundreds/thousands of people trying to escape the war or hide, as some of you they also didn’t believe that it could happen, they didn’t believe they could be killed so they didn’t escape on time. I shared a video from Bucha and Irpin my cities where almost every building is damaged, partly destroyed, or at minimum with blown windows. The video was deleted from FB as many killed people, just dead bodies of civilian people were lying on the ground on the streets. Do you understand that these monsters were and are killing elderly people, raping women killing children, and committing marauding?” ”

    [This video is about life in Kyiv these days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqIF2U4g7H8 (and it gives hope because of the intelligence, right spirit and actions of the younger generation of Ukrainians.]

    There was a missile attack on Odessa over the weekend, which has made us pay more attention here in Moldova.

    In Moldova, the kind of good news is that the refugee situation is being noticed more and mentioned more. The bad news is that although budgets of millions are being allocated, it will still take weeks to see any real action on the ground. The big agencies seem to be struggling to actually get going in any meaningful way. For a refugee to receive financial support, they have to sign up and then it takes another 15 days for them to be processed and get approval.

    The queue at my friend’s business which is now a distribution centre for food, medicine, etc, is getting bigger and bigger, and many that come are reporting that they have nowhere else to go. It’s been a month so maybe personal resources are starting to run out, as well as host families no longer able to keep supporting. The daily expenses have increased to around $8,000 a day and over 2,000 people are being supported daily, all from personal donations. Here is the queue on Friday 01 April: https://www.facebook.com/12821465/videos/5084994991558950/

    I don’t speak Russian, so I am the muscle there, which is funny if you know me. (He does speak Moldovan: JC) Last Wednesday, I was breaking up and carrying boxes around.

    In the north of Moldova is a town called Balti and the situation is difficult there with little coordination and 1,000s needing support. So the team who are running the distribution centre will set up something similar up there. Over the weekend, I met the person who had just come back from assessing the situation and will direct some of your donations there immediately: https://www.facebook.com/thefriendsofmoldova/posts/700052958083354

    This video is about 10min and gives a good overview of the present situation and a bit of Moldovan history as well: https://www.euronews.com/2022/03/25/moldova-is-holding-its-breath-as-the-war-in-ukraine-threatens-its-neighbours

    The village in which ecovillage is situated has started supporting host families to improve their own homes so that they can host Ukrainians, as well as connecting a host family with a host family in Germany. They have identified 5 villages so far to work with: https://active-commons.org/en/ukraine-aid-in-moldova/

    . . . . A big thank you to everyone, and for those who want to donate:
    • The distribution centres, you can send money to me or use this link: https://thefriendsofmoldova.com/#ukrainerefugeerelief – your donations are being used to provide basic help in terms of food, hygiene, medicine, clothes:

    • The other big need is the main voluntary group that has been working non-stop: https://chuffed.org/project/moldova-for-peace-solidarity-for-ukraine

    Smiles Bhav…

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