If the EU is to meet the global challenges, cooperation with Christian aid organizations needs to be strengthened, not weakened. That is the opinion of Tomas Sandell, who works for the Ecumenical EU Office in Brussels.
It has been many years since the Christian aid organization that wanted to apply for EU aid in Brussels was asked if the money would be used for revival meetings. Knowledge of the worldwide Christian aid movement was weak in Brussels and mistrust was high despite the fact that several Catholic organizations had long been EU partners in aid and humanitarian aid.
Today, there is another life in the gap in Brussels and cooperation with Christian aid organizations is extensive. What has happened? Probably the same as for the former Norwegian Minister for Development Aid Erik Solheim, now active in the OECD in Paris. After being skeptical of the Christian mission for a long time, he learned something new as Minister for Development Aid. Wherever he met with representatives of civil society in African villages and towns, he encountered Christian pastors. Organized African civil society simply consisted of the Christian congregations. Without them, there would be no functioning civil society.
Solheim learned something that, among other things, the rock artist Bono has also opened his eyes to; wherever one moves in disaster areas around the world or among the world's most vulnerable, the Christian missionaries are there. They not only engage in traditional preaching activities, but instead embody the Christian message by digging wells, starting schools for street children, and sending out doctors and nurses to the most vulnerable. Today, Solheim and Bono are strong advocates of Christian aid activities around the world.
During his time as Social Democratic development aid minister in Norway, Solheim shocked many by openly saying that an increasing part of state aid should be channeled to Christian organizations. "As a state, we do not support mission, but we support the work of missionaries," said Solheim in 2012. Today, he continues to work with the same ideas at the OECD in Paris.
If we were to ask Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the answer would probably be the same. Today, his most important work is carried out within the framework of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, where he informs about the growing role of religion in society. He does not turn a blind eye to the growing extremism in several places, but notes that religion is in most cases something positive that brings out the best in a person.
The EU has finally woken up late. The rigid controls of religious aid organizations have gradually come to an end when their activities have been studied closely over the years. Today, it is not only the major Christian aid organizations that are interested in the EU. Even the smaller aid organizations have realized that cooperation with the EU opens up new avenues for funding and partnerships.
In the late XNUMX's, a number of evangelical aid organizations began cautiously approaching Brussels. The mistrust was great from both sides. The aid organizations saw the EU as a large capitalist institution, while the hesitation in Brussels concerned the question of whether these organizations really worked with aid and not just with preaching. But in the end they found each other. Swedish aid organizations such as Läkarmissionen and Erikshjälpen discovered that there were several Christian organizations in Europe that did the same things and that together they could be more effective.
At a first reconnaissance meeting, a Swedish consultant explained the idea of the collaboration by comparing it with SAS's collaboration with Star Alliance. Each organization could maintain its independence, just like SAS, but together donors and recipients could be offered more for their money. The organizations' equivalent of the "Star Alliance" eventually became the EU-CORD, and the national organizations that became members came from the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland.
If the EU is to meet major global challenges such as poverty, Ebola, trafficking and AIDS, cooperation with Christian organizations should be strengthened - not weakened. This, of course, presupposes that their characteristics are respected and that they are not reduced to being seen only as subcontractors. The Christian aid activity - which reaches all those in need, regardless of religion, gender or ethnicity - is a social force that the world needs more of. To travesty the Norwegian Social Democrat Erik Solheim; The EU can not support Christian mission but can and should support the work of missionaries!