The launch of ‘Christians for Europe’ took place in Leeson Street on 19 September. This new movement takes as its foundation three statements about the basic values of the European Union as presented in the Lisbon Treaty. Those values are ‘human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law’. The statements are as follows: ‘These values are Christian’; ‘Christianity has shaped them’; and ‘Christianity has a role to play in Europe’s future’. Forty people attended the launch. After each of the contributions there was a lively discussion, opening up many issues for discussion. The session could easily have been an all-day one. By the end of the meeting there was clear agreement that this kind of forum was badly needed. The intention now is to schedule further meetings and to throw them open to broader participation.
The first session was chaired by Miriam Hederman O’Brien and the speakers included Tony Brown, former Chairman of the Commission for Justice and Peace and editor of ‘Lisbon: What the Reform Treaty means.’ He spoke about the Christian values underlying the development of the European Union. He was followed by Edmond Grace SJ, Director of the Conversation on Democracy in Ireland and author of ‘Democracy and Public Happiness,’ who spoke about the civic duty of Christians to contribute to public debate from a faith perspective. The third speaker was Canon Adrian Empey, Chairman of the Church of Ireland European Affairs Working Group. He spoke about the historical dimension of Christianity in Europe.
The second session was chaired by Dr Margaret MacCurtain, and the first speaker was Bishop Noel Treanor. He reflected on his own experience working in Brussels in the development of dialogue between the European Union and the churches. He also spoke about three strands in the anti-Lisbon campaign. Firstly, there were those with ‘seriously grounded concerns’ which were ‘genuinely expressed around misconceptions and fears’ on issues such as abortion or family law; then there were ‘friends and neighbours’ who were being manipulated and, thirdly, there were those ‘who knowingly misled and misguided’ the ‘friends and citizenry whom we respect.’ (Afterwards Bishop Treanor was interviewed by RTE Radio 1 for ‘This Week.’) He was followed by Paul Walsh, Head of the School of Politics and International Relations, UCD, who spoke about the fundamental need for discourse on values in today’s world, especially in relation to Ireland’s and Europe’s obligations towards developing countries. The third speaker in the second session wqs Neville Keery of the Quaker Council for European Affairs who spoke about the role of the European Union in the promotion of world peace. The final speaker who summed up the previous contributions was Ethicist and theologian, Gina Menzies.