Commitment to Community Building: A Primary task for the Federation in Europe

August 13th, 2012 2:09 pm

Jean-François Delteil – Former Regional Secretary for WSCF-E

The present issue of the WSCF Journal focuses on Europe: the concerns are many, as are reflected in the articles that follow. Who are we to face up to such considerable needs and questions?

The face of Europe is rapidly changing because of the dramatic developments in eastern/central Europe and in the European community. There are certainly reasons to rejoice in the fall of dictatorial regimes and in ongoing reconciliation of nations which have been fighting or threatening each other for such a long time. If an era of peace is ahead, it should certainly release a lot of tensions, energies and resources.

But we know, as well, that there are certainly no reasons to by euphoric. There will be, as there are already, many bitter disillusions: the GDR, as well as other eastern European countries, is discovering that there is a price to pay for joining the “club” of wealthy nations, starting with a drastic increase in prices and unemployment. The existence of the poor in our midst, the so called Forth World, constantly contradicts the triumphalism inherent in capitalist societies.

We know from the economic crash in socialist countries – and this is confirmed historically by such analysts as F. Braudel – that we cannot afford to ignore the “market”.  But will the market be the one and only driving force in the formation of a reconciled Europe? While the implementation of the single European market is already will on its way (capital will be circulating freely by July 1990), where are the corresponding social and cultural charters? Furthermore, as Jean-Martin Oudraego points out in his article on Individualism, “What are the fundamental goods which are not marketable, are neither to be bought, not to be sold: citizenship? basic needs? health? education? attribution of positions of responsibility and authority? This question is not one of the economics but is political”.

There are other questions. How are we going to respond to the increasing fragmentation of societies and social groups, including families, into individual consumers? How long are we going to chase the myth of everlasting growth? How long will we keep on building our wealth at the cost of the exploitation of other parts of the world? When shall we start implementing an ecologically sustainable development?

The number of students in higher education has increased very rapidly in the last twenty-five years (in France students make up approximately 2% of the populations) and in some countries the goal is to double the number of students in the next ten to twenty years. From a very small elite of the middle and upper classes, students have already become a significant component of our respective societies, particularly in regard to the responsibilities they will have. Although on several occasions there has been some talk of the apathy of students, more recently there have been student uprisings, such as in Berlin (1988-1989), in Czechoslovakia towards the end of last year, and more recently in Britain on the issue of the Poll Tax.

Students are put in a position of permanent pressure, and this could well lead to more uprisings in the near future: limited time to complete their studies (two to four years), heavy competition, limited access in certain disciplines, constant constraints, the increasing cost of studying, privatization of universities, increasing links with corporations and the business world, less student scholarships, the necessity to have summer or permanent jobs while studying, poor conditions for studying, and above all, at the end, no guarantee of being able to enter the job market, unless you are ready to fight, or are among the best.

You’d better run my friend. Don’t stop. Don’t look around. Don’t waste your precious time.

Given this context, the primary task of the Federation and of the Student Christian Movements in Europe is to be committed to community building. But what kind of communities are talking about?

Allow me to try some answers, in the form of a prayer, modeled on the one of Saint Francis of Assisi:

Oh Lord,
Lord of the SCMs and the Federation,
Lord of the students and the universities,
Lord of the Jews and the nations,
Lord of Europe and the whole inhabited earth,

Where there is individualism, loneliness and isolation, let us build communities, love and friendship.

Where there is competition, winners and losers, let us learn solidarity, mutual support and respect for all.

Where values are based on success, money and power, let us cherish humility, simplicity and shared responsibilities.

Where we are pressurised to buy, to sell, to accumulate, let us give and receive, being thankful for what we have, and not concerned with wanting more.

Where there are barriers of race, sex, and class, let us smash them down with hospitality, partnership, and a clear commitment to the equality of all human beings.

Where there is nationalism, sectarianism, and denominationalism, let us respond with visits, exchanges and action in order to strengthen our understanding of others, and to stand for the values of belonging to a worldwide ecumenical fellowship.

Where there is specialization, corporationism and clericalism, let us develop and lay communities where students and others of all disciplines and backgrounds can be challenged and enriched by each other.

Where there is injustice, oppression and exploitation, let us claim the rights of justice, freedom, and a sustainable life for all now and in the future.

Where there is a lack of values, sense of belonging, orientation, let us be witnesses to the light of the Gospel, to the memory of the people of God, and to the hope of the coming Kingdom.

Lord of the past, of the present and of the future,
Hear our prayer, Amen.

This piece was written for the August 1990 edition of the WSCF Journal of the World Student Christian Federation entitled Europhoria. It contained student submissions that looked at the changing face of Europe, and WSCF’s experience and visions during this time-period.

Printable version available: Delteil

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