Cold War fears haunt European churches

Published September 1, 2003

Trondheim, Norway
More than a decade after the dismantling of the Iron Curtain, new divisions may be opening up between eastern and western Europe, a senior European church official warned. Just when it seemed “the last vestiges of the Cold War really were dead and buried, comes again talk of division, this time between ‘old Europe’ and ‘new Europe,'” Rev. Keith Clements wrote in a report presented in late June to the 12th general assembly of the Conference of European Churches. Mr. Clements is general secretary of the CEC. He was referring to controversy over the U.S.- and British-led military action in Iraq, which received support from leaders of some eastern European countries scheduled to join the European Union next year but was strongly resisted by EU-founding members France and Germany. The CEC was founded at the height of the Cold War in 1959 as a bridge between churches in Western Europe and in the Communist-ruled East. The church grouping had welcomed the enlargement of the European Union to include countries in the former Soviet bloc, but Mr. Clements warned that the split over Iraq might threaten this new-found unity.”Do we in fact have a new kind of division in Europe, between those in the West anxious for Europe to be a counterweight to the U.S.-led unipolar world, and those in the East who in fact trust the U.S. rather than their West European neighbours to safeguard their interests?” Still, noted Mr. Clements, European churches had been prominent in criticizing the military action in Iraq. More than 800 participants participated in the assembly, reportedly the biggest ecumenical event to take place in Scandinavia for more than 30 years. CEC has more than 120 member churches from all European countries including most mainstream Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox denominations. CEC’s last assembly took place in Graz, Austria, in 1997.


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