First of all, I think that today the issue of nationalism is back in the limelight, not only in Europe, but in much of the world. For example, in Chile we are currently discussing whether or not we should be a plurinational country, which would imply recognizing the indigenous people of the territory. This has led to criticism, such as that the country could fragment and lose its sense of unity. It is therefore worth asking, what is it that unites a State and its population, and whether we are prepared to discuss the diversity of its members. In this sense, I see with concern how nationalist discourse is used at the political level in order to exclude those who “do not belong” to a certain place, without carrying out a deeper reflection in terms of identity. Therefore, the relevance of talking about this issue and its implications in the life of society and the church.
On the other hand, talking about identity is always a complex matter, and even more so if we have to define ourselves in those terms in a country that has different peoples and cultures. I could say that I am a Chilean from the south of Chile, with German roots (my name, my paternal origin, the school where I study, etc.) which differentiates me from a good percentage of the Chilean population in general.At the same time, I have my maternal origins on an island in the south of Chile, Chiloé, which is also somewhat particular for the Chilean context. Still, I identify with the Chilean idiosyncrasy, with its particular language and culture. I would then define myself as a Chilean, southern, with German and Chiloé roots.
Why the topic of nationalism concerns you personally and how your identity is defined. My name is Jonas, I’m 25 years old and I am approaching my last year of my master’s degree. Im from Denmark and study at Aarhus University Arts, Theology.
Though my personal interests and studies I’ve worked with the topic of extremism within Christianity. Quite often the topic of Christian extremism and right-wing nationalism goes hand in hand and as such I have experience with that as well. As such I have also in regards to my work studied multiple nationalistic manifestos on the topics that concern Christianity. Namely those of Brenton Tarrant and Anders Breivik. Extending that, I have investigated the more fringe organizations such as Qanon, Incel culture, 3%ers and the like. I have not as such worked with the more mainstream politics on a professional level though I do have some political interest. Personally I find that there is a worrying increase in nationalist sentiments that are unhealthy for unity and cooperation, and I find that many of these tendencies needs to be counteracted on multiple fronts, primarily, as in concerns us, the church front. I find there is a need for greater understanding of the issues of nationalism and how to increase cooperation across cultures and, by extension, religion. This may very well place me on the more cosmopolitan aspect of the spectrum.
Nationalistic ideas are not just widespread in Middle-East Europe of the 21th century, but they also seem to get stronger political representation in most of the countries. The rhetoric of Nationalism is so much present in the public life and debates as it cannot be left unnoticed or ignored. I was always interested how the followers of the same ideas can be sometimes the worst enemies of each other. By studying the logic of Nationalism, I hope that we can get insight into the failures of the past, and we can shape our future better. It is important to perceive the dangers behind nationalistic ideas, which lead to exclusion, but also to identify the resources lying in the benevolent national sentiment of the individual.
I would describe myself as a reformed Hungarian, who comes from a region with rich cultural heritage. The multilingualism, -etnicity and -culturalism of Transylvania can show us how living together in peace is not self-evident, but possible, and working together for an inclusive society should be one of the top priorities of every community. The history of Transylvania in the last century provides us both good and bad examples – we have to choose our way, which one we want to follow.
Nationalism is a hard word to describe. In the later years it has become some what a buzz-word – an adjective that brings connotations to isolationism and fascism. While history shows that nationalism can bring totalitarianism it has also brought with it a feeling of safety – a place to belong to. It has brought movements of democracy. To have a national identity or to be proud of the country you belong to can be a great thing. The same applies to studies of nations history, to find examples of great leaders or events that formed a given nation. But nationalism is like a wild animal – it becomes dangerous if threatened. When a group of people get scared that their traditions, rituals, or life quality is slowly slipping out of their hands, they will rise to protect it. Then national history becomes a steppingstone for an aggressive, land gripping policy. Then identity becomes a border – religion a weapon.
I define myself as Danish. I am born in Denmark; I speak Danish and I feel at home in the small northern kingdom. But these geographical things are not what have formed me. Rather than my skin color or place of birth it is the Danish mentality that I find most important. Two things of this mentality should be presented here. Firstly, is the idea of an educated populace both in the traditional school way: history, maths, languages, and in spirit (german: geist). Secondly Denmark has had a high historical tolerance level. For example: Some cities had religious freedom before it was constitutionalized in 1849 and our strategic position geographically meant, that Denmark could have relative positive relations with the Soviet Union. I am of course a product of all this history. And I embrace it. Both the regrettable things that have happened throughout history and the warm feeling of home when I cross the border into the Kingdom of Denmark.
My name is Anna (Neldeberg Fallesen) Ravn, and I’m 25 years old. I’m born and raised in Sønderjylland (the southern part of Denmark that is linked to Germany), but today I live in Aarhus where I study theology at Aarhus University. My family isn’t very religious, but they more have a kind of “cultural Christianity”. I have especially got my interest for the church and Christianity during my childhood and a church choir I sang in. I’m dreaming about becoming a priest in the Danish church when I have finished my university studies, and I want go back to Sønderjylland to get a job.
For me nationalism is a very interesting and important issue – especially in connection to Sønderjylland. The area is originally the Northern part of the duchies Schleswig and Holstein, that had been under the Danish king – and later was made a part of Preussen in 1864. In 1920 after WW1 there was a vote about where to place the new border between Denmark and Germany, and that was the foundation for the Danish-German border today.
All this makes Sønderjylland an area with a lot of Danish nationalism. On the other hand, is the Danish and German minority on both sides of the border some of the best cooperating minorities in the world today. I think that is very inspiring.
During my master I have studied Protestant Theology in Zürich and did an ecumenical exchange program in Jerusalem (Theologisches Studienjahr Jerusalem). In Jerusalem I had the chance to take classes in Jewish and Islamic studies and I got in touch with contextual Palestinian Theology. I am currently a vicar in the Reformed church Stäfa-Hombrechtikon, which is part of the Reformed church canton Zürich. In August I will be ordained as Verbi Divini Ministra at the Grossmünster Zürich, Switzerland.
Switzerland has four recognized national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. The history of the Swiss reformation was with Zwingli and Bullinger (German), Calvin and Farel (French), Gallicius and Chiampell (Romansh) et al. multilingual from the start. The Protestant Church in Switzerland (PCS) represents roughly 2 million Protestants and is associated with 24 Reformed cantonal churches and the Protestant Methodist church in Switzerland. So, my questions – living and working in Switzerland – are: How can this (maybe forgotten) inward diversity be made fruitful for a welcoming and integrating church culture? And how can outward facing diversity, ecumenism and cosmopolitanism be fostered in a more complex and connected world, with the thread of nationalism on its horizon?
I grew up in a small town in the middle of the Czech Republic, where there was a very homogeneous society. On the other hand, I was strongly influenced by the collegial environment of my parents – both of them are priests, my father from my early childhood worked intensively with prison chaplains in the Czech Republic and abroad, we visited each other often, and we made a concerted effort to understand other cultures, which was not very common outside of Prague in the 1990s. I have to say that I enjoyed it very much, yet I was rather discouraged by the demanding nature of the parish priest’s vocation for my family.
In high school, I made strong friends with the school’s Catholic community and managed to participate in the then budding exchange visits. Eventually, I was drawn to theology and during my studies I was very interested in ecumenics and took the opportunity to study for a semester in Leipzig, Germany. After 5 years, I interrupted my studies to work in Diakonia, in charge of professional training for social workers. I managed to . In 2017 I finished my studies and entered the vicariate and then the pastoral ministry. I now work and live on the periphery of Prague (Horní Počernice), many people from the congregation have spent part of their lives abroad and we have managed to cultivate warm ecumenical relationships in the local community. For konference: 1) A year ago I started to get involved in the Evangelical Preachers’ Fellowship – with my colleague Pfann (who was originally coming as well) we are in charge of the international agenda. Much of the contact has been established over the years, but we would like to extend our cooperation to a few more countries. 2) Personally, I observe a bit that many of the personal international contacts are with the generation on the verge of retirement. I very much appreciate this continuity and mature experience, yet I would very much like to attend a conference where people who are at the start or in the first stage of their service come together. 3) I will stay in Vienna until Monday, and have arranged to visit the Gaubenskirche Lutheran congregation in Simmering, where the congregation is warmly open to various minorities.
The topic of nationalism in the old continent has been gaining importance over the past decades. Nationalist parties are increasingly shaping the political spectrum of European countries. After France avoided a far-right turn by losing to a pro-European candidate and general condemnation of the Russian nationalistic activities in Ukraine, it might seem the nationalistic crusades in Europe suffer one severe blow after the other. Nevertheless, the countries with their political parties and churches are obliged to face the new challenges brought by the recent political happening and take action to prevent serious consequences, reaching far beyond rejecting refugees and building fences.
I consider nationalism, especially its far-right form, a dangerous relict of the past, territorial times utilized as an easy-to-use weapon against not always unproblematically functioning democracies of the modern European countries. This is especially evident in the post-Soviet states, where problems such as corruption or malfunctioning social systems occur daily. I do not want my identity to be defined by a particular nation, I rather support the cosmopolitan point of view.
I am Juliette (she/her), 25 years old and I come from France. I am currently studying Protestant Theology between Strasbourg (France) and Berlin (Germany) in order to become a pastor in my church: the Reformed and Lutheran Protestant Churches of Alsace-Moselle. Before that, I studied political science, cultural science, and gender studies. I am particularly interested in feminist and queer theology. But what I really love is drinking coffee and eating cake.
The topic of nationalism concerns me because I think that in France, because of the separation of religions and the State, our churches are scared to raise their voice in public and to be a counter-power to the nationalistic and discriminatory policies in place. For me, it is important as churches to dare to take an interest in politics and to have an opinion on it. Because it is not our nationalities that bind us as Christians but our faith, let us dare to strive for less nationalism and more solidarity with our neighbors, even if they are not from the same country.
I was born in an atheistic family. God came into my life only 4 years ago. To deepen my knowledgde about religion, I started studying at the Faculty for Protestant Theology and Religion Studies (FPTR) in Brussels. In the Master programme, we worked during this academic year around the themes ‘identity’ and ‘polarisation’, which are closely linked to the general topic of the Youth Theology conference in Vienna.
Before studying theology, I finished a Master in International Relations and Diplomacy at the University of Antwerp (2013). Currently working in a European Institution, I am familiar with the ongoing discussions about cosmopolitism versus nationalism. For this reason it’s very interesting for me to see how my academic backgrounds from the fields of political science and theology are coming together during this conference.
The United Protestant Church in Belgium (VPKB/EPUB), from which I am a member, shows furthermore that it is possible to merge several Protestant denominations in one broader church, to be open to the world and work together with people using different national languages (Dutch, French and German), in a country where nevertheless nationalistic tendencies are popular in the political polls.