The Nobel Prize committee assigned the 2012 Peace Prize to the European Union. The committee evaluated more than 100 candidates. After the announcement, there was sadness from the side of those who pinpoint the negative aspects of the EU. There was an explosion of joy from those who see in the EU a greater opportunity for peace. My reaction is of appreciation and joy. And here are the reasons why.
An infallible indicator of the coming of the Kingdom of God is the convergence of people towards fraternal and just relations through the removal of walls of hostility, prejudice and domination. The movement of many European nations and peoples towards a greater internal unity seems to me to be a fact of high human, social and spiritual value. The difficult journey of the European nations towards a greater unity, solidarity and political dynamism is one of the ways used by the Kingdom of God to pervade the continent and make globalization more positive. I am also happy that the inspirators and the initiators of this process were three great Catholic statesmen: the Frenchman Robert Schuman, the Italian Alcide De Gasperi and the German Konrad Adenauer. The journey towards the European Union started formally in 1957 and is still far from its conclusion. The Nobel Prize without a doubt will emphasize reflections and betterments especially in this time of economic crisis and nationalistic temptations.
As a missionary I am interested in the positive influence that the European integration has already had and continues to have in the continent where I am working. Africa is fragmented into 54 nations; there are still ethnic groups that dream of new independences keeping alive tensions and wars of attrition. The two African Synods of 1994 and of 2009 have called together the local African Churches, more than 500 dioceses, asking them to promote clearly the union of the continent, starting from regional groupings. Yes! The Church must act as the catalyst towards cooperation, solidarity and unification. In practice we see very little! We missionaries often highlight the division by multiplying parishes and dioceses more then by favoring processes of communion and cooperation. Without a growing work of integration the continent is open to interferences and corruption; it is not capable to have a solid and credible voice and will continue to be taken advantage of by other continents where unification is more advanced. The founders of African independence such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Albeit Luthuli dreamed of a united continent: Africa must unite. It was one of their preferred slogans! The example of the European Union is helping to rediscover this original vision and is motivating regional processes of unification such as East Africa and the African Union. The disintegration of the process in Europe would have immense negative consequences for the unifying processes taking place in Africa. Even from this point of you I cannot but rejoice for the encouragement and the strengthening of the European Union that comes from the Nobel Prize.
The third motive that makes me appreciate the decision of Stockholm is that we live in a multi-polar world. We arrived to it very fast with the crumbling of the bi-polar world of 1989. Very short was the unipolar time when the United States thought they were the only power in the world. Thanks be to God this illusion lasted but a breath. Now we are moving towards new geo-politics. I hope that within the next 10 years Europe will have a credible and authoritative voice. The logics and the objectives that inspire the emerging power such as India and China, besides the one of the United States, do not make me enthusiastic. Europe has traditions of values inherited from Christianity that no other continent has; it would impoverish humanity if the European experience were to disappear. There are new colonialisms that are advancing; Europe as a good interpreter would make them less inhuman with more attention to human and environmental rights.
Africa and Europe have a common destiny. We have languages that unite us; the Mediterranean is a lake where Africa and Europe meet. The migratory fluxes cast ridicule on borders without omitting that Europe has a physiological need of new blood. Christianity has deep roots on both continents. Tourism from North to South is increasing. What unites us is much more than what divides us. The strengthening of Europe becomes a blessing for Africa. I don’t want to canonize Europe but a future of the world without Europe would lack a formidable positive partner.
Founder of the Institute of Social Ministry, Nairobi