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Nationalism in Europe revisited

So much has changed since the last European Parliament election in 2019, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the influence of nationalism. If anything, it is a bigger issue in 2024 than it was in 2019 or back in 2010. 

VISTA JOURNAL AUTOR 46/Jim_Memory 05 DE JUNIO DE 2024 17:04 h
Flags of European countries. / Photo: [link]Sebastiano Piazzi[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

When the Vista Journal editors sat down to consider what should be the theme of the very first edition back in 2010, we quickly agreed that it should be about the rise of nationalism in Europe. 



Given that Vista is a research-based journal on mission in Europe, some were surprised at our choice of topic but it was, and continues to be, one of the primary contextual realities that shape European society; the soil into which we are sowing the Christian gospel.



This 45th edition is launched just days before the EU Parliament elections when European citizens will choose their representatives in the European Parliament. 



The elections take place every five years with the last ones being held in May 2019, before Covid-19 and before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 



So much has changed since 2019, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the influence of nationalism.  If anything, it is a bigger issue in 2024 than it was in 2019 or back in 2010. 



So fourteen years on, Vista revisits nationalism in Europe and delves deeper still.



[destacate]Nationalism continues to be one of the primary contextual realities that shape European society; the soil into which we are sowing the Christian gospel [/destacate]The two lead articles provide an overview of nationalism in Europe today. Evert van de Poll explores the influence of nationalism and populism on the new European political landscape and suggests ways in which Evangelical Christians might respond. 


Christel Ngnambi traces the evolution of the idea of nationalism through history, its impact on our contemporary ideas of national identity, and concludes by considering its existential and spiritual implications.



The second half of Vista presents three more particular perspectives. Kosta Milkov gives an overview of the complexities of Balkan nationalism(s) and their influence on the church today and concludes with a passionate call for the church to promote unity and reconciliation. 



Michael Cherenkov provides a balancing perspective, arguing that Ukrainian nationalism is both a necessary protection against the pretensions of Russian neo-imperialism and a missional opportunity for the church as Ukraine fights to defend and define itself as a country. 



Finally, Harvey Kwiyani provides a third perspective; that of an African in Europe. The national borders in Africa are one of the legacies of European colonialism. Since mission in Europe today is no longer only a matter of Europeans seeking to reach Europeans, a better understanding of nationalism in Africa might help European church and mission leaders to better communicate and collaborate with our brothers and sisters from Africa. Harvey’s article is written with that in mind.



The historical sociologist Anthony Smith, one of the leading academics in the field of nationalism studies, affirmed that “the core doctrine of nationalism…(is that) the world is divided into nations, and that each has its character, its destiny, its history…that people belong, or should belong to a nation, that nations should be free and express themselves fully, and that a world of peace and justice is the one that’s founded on free nations”.[1]   



At first sight, this seems to echo the Apostle Paul’s address before the Areopagus in Athens:



“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:26,27)



[destacate]Tribes, peoples, and nations provide a sense of common identity, security and purpose, but orthodox Christian doctrine is that our only true identity, security, and purpose, is found in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:12-21)[/destacate] Certainly, Christian nationalists have sometimes used these verses doctrinally; to argue that their modern nation-states are immutable and sometimes even to legitimise the use of aggression against their neighbours. 



Yet we cannot ignore two other doctrines revealed in Paul’s words: that all humans share a common humanity (as sons of Adam)  and that God’s ultimate purpose is that all nations would come to know Him. 



For any nation to see itself as manifestly better, that “we” are more important than “them”, that our national destiny requires the oppression of our neighbour, is anathema to the Christian gospel.



Tribes, peoples, and nations have a place in God’s purposes. They provide a sense of common identity, security and purpose, but orthodox Christian doctrine is that our only true identity, security, and purpose, is found in Jesus Christ, the new Adam (Romans 5:12-21). 



Our ultimate destiny as nations, however, is to be part of “a great multitude that no-one (can) count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…(and to) cry out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb”. (Revelation 7:9,10)



We pray that this articles help you, not just to vote carefully, but also to better understand the influence of nationalism on the contemporary European political context, and even more importantly, that it challenges you to reflect on your perspectives on national identity and belonging, and to commit yourself afresh to proclaim the good news of Jesus and his New Society wherever you are in Europe.



[1]  Interview with Anthony Smith, in the newspaper The Ukrainian Week about his book The Cultural Foundation of Nations (2007).



Jim Memory, regional co-director of Lausanne Europe and a founding editor of Vista. Vista is an online journal offering research-based information about mission in Europe. Founded in 2010, each themed edition covers a variety of perspectives on crucial issues for mission. Download the latest edition or read individual articles here. This article first appeared in the June 2024 edition of Vista Journal.



[analysis]



[title]One more year[/title]

[photo][/photo]

[text]At Evangelical Focus, we have a sustainability challenge ahead. We invite you to join those across Europe and beyond who are committed with our mission. Together, we will ensure the continuity of Evangelical Focus and Protestante Digital (Spanish) in 2024.





Learn all about our #OneMoreYearEF campaign here (English).



[/text][/analysis]


 

 


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