Impression from a pro-life conference: Rome and Athens are in the background, but where is Jerusalem?
Rev. Cornelius Sonnevelt, RD
“Our European civilization has been built on the pillars of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome,” Dom Nuno Brás, the bishop of Madeira in Portugal, said last week. He was one of the key note speakers of the One of Us-conference in Lisbon.
“Athens stands for wisdom, Rome for justice, and Jerusalem for God's mercy. Unfortunately, Athens and Rome have now faded into the background, but we have completely lost Jerusalem. In such a climate of thinking, man takes matters into his own hands. Life created by God is no longer safe.”
As Protestants, we can’t follow this bishop in everything. But these words are wise. And they are sobering too. They put Protestant churches and Christians to shame who are watering down the Christian faith and bouncing on the waves of modernism.
Let’s ‘liberate’ all citizens
One of Us was founded in 2014 around an citizens’ initiative to draw the attention of the European Union to the protection of the unborn life.
The recent ‘One of Us’ conference in Lisbon was intended as a counterweight to the ‘new’ Europe: the Europe of a stifling liberalism that wants to ‘liberate’ its citizens from all Christian norms and values.
Illustrative of this liberal thinking is the Matić report recently accepted by the European Parliament, which describes abortion as a human right. The Slovakian Miriam Lexmann, member of this parliament, mentioned this in a moving contribution that made a deep impression on all present.
Networking in the corridors
I went home with three things in particular that stood out at this important conference. In the first place, the international character of this gathering. It was clearly noticeable that we were in Southern Europe. Spanish and Portuguese was spoken everywhere. However, there were also many French, several Germans, and even a few Dutch. They all had plenty of opportunities to network in the corridors of the conference.
Secondly, I am thinking of itsinterdenominational character. It is true that the influence of the Roman Catholic Church was large. Several forum members referred to papal pronouncements and encyclicals with approval. At the same time, the input of other churches and Christians was welcome, and the Reformed viewwas appreciated.
All of this touched me. A day before the commemoration of the 16th-centurt Reformation on October 31st, a Protestant minister was allowed to speak on the premises of the Catholic University at Lisbon, to point to the everlasting Word and to call for a return to the Bible.
Thirdly, I was struck by the spiritual battle that is also going on in Spain and Portugal. The director of a bioethics institute in Spain spoke about a far-reaching euthanasia law that had been pushed through. He also referred to the threat of dismissal for all doctors and health workers who have conscientious objections to abortion.
In Portugal things are changing as well. The fifteen so-called Sustainable Development Goals are vigorously promoted. One is gender equality. Who could have expressed our surprise when we moved into the cafeteria of this Catholic institution around lunchtime and saw the words “Gender Equality” written in large letters at the entrance. The bishops saw it too and put their heads together. After lunch, the poster had suddenly disappeared.
Was this battle won by that single action? That's another question, and the answer is doubtful. The conference in Portugal was just a start. But it was a good start, a start that deserves a solid sequel. Let God's Word be the starting point and guideline in all further deliberations and actions. Then Athens and Rome may perhaps remain out of the picture, but then the final destiny may yet be Jerusalem.
Rev. Cornelius Sonnevelt is a Reformed minister in Alblasserdam, the Netherlands. This impression was published previously in the Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad on November 1st, 2021
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