Cultural diversity in Central and Eastern Europe

Central and Eastern Europe can be distinctly recognised on the map of Europe, its specific development within European history also can be clearly indicated, and the unique features of its social structures and cultural diversity can be analysed as well. However, the region can only be regarded as the special outcome of the spiritual and physical processes of Europe. Central and Eastern Europe is a kind of axis or, to put it in other words, a region of clashes. It was born within Europe’s ever-changing force field of politics and power, swinging between East and West.

Europe has always desired great issues. The grand values of humanity came out of intellectual and political conflicts – stagnation, senility, living without aims have been never tolerated for long. The European Union has to face the same situation now. What does Europe mean today for itself and for humanity in terms of culture, science, society and morality? What will tomorrow and the day after bring for us? What does being European require of us? What can we achieve as Europeans? Can we talk about “a matter of Europe,” or is life really elsewhere already?

We believe that in Central and Eastern Europe there is indeed a matter of Europe as it questions our identity as a region. As Christians, we think that the matter of Europe is the reconciliation of peoples and nations in this region. For centuries, the nations living here have been exposed to a mixture of similar values and religions. Their cultures are deeply intertwined, and yet cultural diversity, which is a productive value in everyday life, has become a destructive force in politics. Despite the fact that we share the same historical experiences as all of us have been both victims and perpetrators of historical injustice, this common path hardly ever enhances reconciliation, but it heightens fear and mistrust instead.

However, we as Christians are aware of the teaching that fear turns us into enemies, but if the grace of Christ defeats the fear in us, we will become brothers and sisters. Reconciliation, that is, the victory over division, is a matter of Europe. Apart from being an economic and social framework, it is this way that the European Union can mean the key to freedom for Central and Eastern European people. Our countries can only become mature democracies if the historical fears passed on from generation to generation are finally dissolved. Similarly, in our national self-image we can only experience new and exciting horizons if we find a brotherhood of various nations through Christ.

(In Community for Europe. Contribution of the Hungarian Churches to the Hungarian EU Presidency. ECCH, Budapest, 2011)