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Europe needs reconciliation commission akin to South Africa’s

HAMBURG, Germany (BP)–A European “truth and reconciliation commission” like the one in South Africa is needed, said David Coffey, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, in his final address as president of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) Council.
Because the Balkans wars of the 1990s, in large measure, resulted from centuries-old animosities and hatreds, Coffey said a truth and reconciliation commission might help Europeans to address its divisions and open the door to forgiveness and reconciliation.
“This decade commenced in such hope for peace,” Coffey said during the EBF Council’s Sept. 23-26 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, “but it closed with the revelation that the poisoned cup of ethnic cleansing had still not been drained to the dregs.” While the visible walls may have come down, Coffey said, “invisible walls still exist in the heart, walls of fear, hatred and enmity,” he said.
European Baptists should be prepared to work in partnership with other churches to “create opportunities for whole communities to tell the truth concerning ancient animosities and prepare the ground for the possibility of reconciliation,” Coffey said.
“If we are really courageous,” he said, “we should begin this process within our EBF family.”
Coffey called on Baptists to continue working for freedom at a time when human rights and religious liberty continues to be threatened. “This is such a precious part of our heritage as Baptists we must continue to maintain a vigilant watching and responding role,” he said.
Concerning Russia, Coffey said the West found it much easier to oppose communism, and now in the new Europe, Western governments are less interested in protecting the rights of religious minorities and are more concerned for the dramatic economic collapse in Russia. “We are holding our breath for this mighty nation as it teeters on the brink of another catastrophe,” he said.
Concerning the state of religious faith in Europe, Coffey used a term from the Herald Tribune describing Europe as “the most godless quarter on earth.”
Citing three signs of the poor spiritual state of Europe, Coffey listed the declining numbers of believers in churches; folk religionists who live their faith superficially; and a large number of baptized believers in Baptist and evangelical communities who leave the church within five to 10 years of their baptism.
Coffey called on Baptists to bear witness in the public square to the good news of Jesus Christ. “We will fail in our duty as Great Commission Christians if we grow ghetto churches which may be strong numerically but weak in their understanding of the world in which they live and ineffectual in reaching the peoples of this spiritually needy Europe,” he said.
There is good news in many parts of Europe, Coffey noted: “[I]maginative and creative mission and evangelism is taking place; believing communities are discovering the truth of being sent out to witness as lambs among wolves, and they are proving that God’s power is magnificently displayed through weakness and vulnerability.”

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  • Wendy Ryan