Transforming hope: a European perspectiveTransforming hope: a European perspective

 

As a Christian minister and missiologist I am engaged in the constant attempt to understand and work towards the transformation of the social, political, religious, cultural, and personal dimensions of Europe. By nature I am an optimist. I am not pessimistic about current European endeavours. However, it is also important for me to avoid naïve judgements about the direction of some European developments.


Orienting my approach to Europe is a deep conviction that a Christian hope for Europe begins in a different place than its secular alternatives. Of course, it may also end in a different place. Christian hope is rooted in the person, ministry and ongoing presence of Jesus Christ and its transformative power lies in its capacity to imagine a future that is not merely a continuation of the present. Social visionaries are usually people of hope. The Church of Jesus Christ, carrying the responsibility to bear witness in Europe, is charged with nurturing and sustaining a vision of hope. Jesus of Nazareth stands for the Christian Church as the model of visionary hope. I find the most challenging aspect of this to lie in the fact that his vision is never clearer than when he realises that transformation at the profoundest human level will require his obedience in the face of death and its vindication in the resurrection.


The nature of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ remind me that Christian hope is neither to be privatized nor privileged. Nonetheless it is a determinedly public hope. It has a profoundly ethical character that shapes the nature of the Christian Churches to which we belong, the responsibility we bear towards Europe’s people and institutions, as well as our personal discipleship. The promise of hope draws the Church into her engagement with, for example, human beings caught in the trap of poverty, those struggling with relational or emotional breakdown, peoples traumatised by civil or ethnic conflict, women and men ensnared in modem forms of slavery, and with the countless individuals and communities that live with little or no reference to the eternal God that we confess as the Lord of all hopefulness.


My struggle to understand and offer hope in these apparently hopeless situations is motivated by a belief that hope foresees its own, ultimate demise. Hope thus points backwards from an as yet unrealised future and challenges me to a hopeful engagement with the present. I want to live in the hope of a future where the lion and the lamb co-exist peacefully. This biblical vision portrays a future of profoundly mutual relationship and relationality. Through, and in these, individual identity remains distinct yet at the same time it discovers its true sense of personhood; a personhood enriched, even determined, by others.


Europe today is characterised by complexity, diversity, and transition. In too many instances I am disappointed that confusion, fear, and prejudice are the most common reactions to these characteristics. Living hopefully prepares me for living in enriching and disturbing relationships with a diverse range of people, often representing cultural and social backgrounds that are far removed from my own. Europe can, and should be, a hopeful continent for migrant people, for people of all faiths and none, for people caught up in devastating events beyond their control, and for those eager to experience the transformation of a new beginning or a second chance.


I recognise that I may making such a claim relies on prior convictions about what I assume to be the relevance of the life and death of Jesus Christ. However, that does not automatically mean that I exclude the possibility that others may make the same claim, albeit beginning with different assumptions. I meet such people regularly and I believe that my public witness, alongside them, is to convince the people and institutions of Europe that hope and hopeful living are invaluable common currencies for all Europeans.


I also concede that such claims may seem somewhat utopian. For that reason, perhaps one can only ever present them adequately in the hopeful language of prayer. Prayer and prayerful action are essential if I am to retain a sense of the divine perspective. In praying hopefully for Europe, I express my conviction that…

Europe is not inevitably closed to the transforming ethic of the Gospel of Jesus Christ;

Europe’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law are essential in promoting civil and international harmony;

Europe can be a continent that values diversity;

Europe can be a continent committed to the welfare of the socially marginalised;

Europe can be a place of hopeful new beginnings for the immigrant;

Europe can be a continent where religious and political freedoms flourish; and that

Europe can offer a sanctuary to everybody fleeing from the oppressions of poverty, violence, political sanction, or military conflict.


The Revd Darrell Jackson,

Director, Nova Research Centre, Gloucester UK