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Jürgen Johannesdotter

Obispo luterano, Alemania

Dear friends!

When Pope John Paul II for the first time spoke to the Community of Sant’ Egidio – it was in July 1980 in Castel Gandolfo – he said: “Two words are   important for your spirituality, your simple life and also for your hymns: Hope and solidarity. These two words cling together, because man is asked to find himself through communion with others and solidarity with them. You discovered this formula, and it is the oldest one. We find it in the book of Genesis in the first chapters. It is a very simple formula taken from the gospel, and it is very human. This formula is the principle and the foundation of your community. It is a very effective and a very deep formula, because it is taken from the gospel, simple and human.”

Dear friends, 35 years later this formula is still the charisma of Sant’ Egidio, and that’s the reason, why we are here on this International Meeting entitled “PEACE IST ALWAYS POSSIBLE”. 35 years ago Pope John Paul II said: “You live the human communion with the same intensity Christ has shown us. He has given us the extraordinary chance to live our personal and common human life as intensive as the communion with God. The community of Sant’ Egidio is something like a sourdough within the church.”

Faith has to be deeply rooted in reality, because nothing real is outside of God and outside of faith. The primacy of compassion, the primacy of love to the poor is the primacy of the gospel. And now we dare to put these two things side to side: Reality – the reality of economics, of the market, in the dimension of the global market – and a completely different dimension, the dimension of gratuitousness. How does that fit together? Or is the connection of these two dimensions sort of social romanticism? No, dear friends, those who put us together on this panel coming here from different countries, from different churches and religions, from different professions, did want us to find a new sense of reality, a new vision of living together in this one world God has created to give space to all mankind, not only for a few of them.

During the 1960 years IndiraGandhi, Prime Minister of India, used to say: We should no longer speak of foreign affairs, but only of home affairs, domestic policy.

The bible offers many examples for this new vision of living together. It encourages us to a new vision of reality, even in the field of economics. St. Paul writes in the second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 5: Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code, but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life.

What does that mean to us? Our competence is not ours. It is from God. Our success is not ours, it is given by God. Our efficiency is not our, it is a gift to us. God has made us successful.  When in my country they developed after World War II the social market economy, they said: It is based on two pillars, one pillar is efficiency, and the other is solidarity. I always found this idea amazing. Not “either efficiency or solidarity” but “efficiency and solidarity”. It is more effective! As far as my country is concerned I might say: The longtime social peace in my country is due to this “two – pillars – system of  social - market -economy”.  But things are changing. There is no more national economy.  We speak of “Global Market”.  The actors in this global market act according to their economic power and influence. The social market economy does not regulate itself. It is a vast field of political decisions and developments and interests – and power. The two pillars under the bridge of social market economy have to be rebuilt under the conditions of the 21.century.

That is what we are dealing with today. We have to do it in an adequate way. That means: not too simple. (A grandmother told me her grandson hat been in the Sunday Service. She had asked him about the sermon. He answered: The pastor spoke about “sin”. And what did he say about sin? – He was against it!) If somebody asked us: How about social, economic inequality in our own society or in the world – and we would just say: I am against it – this would be taken as a little adequate answer.  But now our panel is entitled “Gratuitousness and the Global Market”.

What does “gratuitousness” add to our question of the global market and social, economic and legal equality? Millions of people are living as refugees all over the world. They flee from Africa, from the Near East, from the Balkans. They flee within their countries. They flee into neighboring countries. Many of them try to flee to Europe, many of them to Germany. Most of them try to come as political refugees and apply for asylum. Many of them are refugees from war areas or disastrous economic areas. It reminds me of my childhood. At the end of World War II more than 10 Million Germans came from the eastern provinces to the western. How many millions had fled in front of the German armies during the war initiated by Germany.  How many millions had not been able to flee to safety.  How do we look at these people?

My grandmother was an economic refugee from Sweden to Germany in the 19.century. She died at my father’s birth.  My wife was born 1945, her mother and grandmother were bombed out in Berlin – and they escaped. We still own the handcart they took with a few things they were able to take with them.

How do we look at all these people? Jesus once said: “You will always have the poor with you.” (Matthew 26,11) The poor are part of the reality of this world, and we speak as Christians of this reality as “beloved reality and world” of our Lord.  And we are part of this reality and those coming as refugees are our brothers and sisters. Last Sunday in my church we celebrated the “Sunday of the Good Samaritan”. I hope the people of my parish learned how foolish the question in this parable was: And who is my neighbor? Now these neighbors come and we start to debate over accepted and non-accepted neighbors? Right now many people start to recognize what has to be done and more important what can be done in this situation. Of course, there are others, too, but fortunately the majority is more courageous than some of our politicians.

Our secular state needs values and virtues it cannot produce itself. Therefore the state needs citizens who believe “gratuitousness is possible” and “peace is possible”.  Thanks to God they exist: men and women, encouraged by their religion, by their faith, by their way of living and thinking.For almost ten years I am the bishop for the spiritual communities and monasteries in the Protestant Church in Germany. For almost 15 years I know the Community of Sant’Egidio and for almost ten years I met many Anglicans in the Meissen – Commission which is an agreement between the Church of England and the Evangelical Church in Germany “On the way to visible unity”. In many of our very secularized western countries there are movements and spiritual revivals within the local churches and sometimes in loose connection. Many of them are close to the charisma of Sant’Egidio with its outstanding love to the poor. Hope and solidarity – where they come together, gratuitousness and global market will no longer be hostile towards each other, but get on the way to more visible unity.