Saturday, December 31, 2016

Personal New Year's Message

"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" Jeremiah 29:11

Dear friends,

Another year has passed. Usually, during the last days of every year, most people contemplate what happened in the past year and try to envision and plan their next steps. Last year, in my New Year's message, I wrote that "2015 was a year filled with fear and uncertainty." When I composed last year's message, it was a few weeks after Brussels was locked down because of fears of a terrorist attack. Unfortunately, this became a reality when a double bomb attack took place Brussels on the 22nd of March, followed by other terrorist attacks in Nice and more recently in Berlin. Moreover, the humanitarian tragedies that came as a result of conflicts around the world, especially in the Middle East, were also prevalent this year and they are expected to continue to shock and cause us distress in 2017. 

Fears and Uncertainty
The fears and uncertainty people were experiencing  were also reflected in the political life of Western countries, as it was shown by the  campaign on Brexit as well as by the highly divisive presidential campaign in the United States. It seems that people can no longer receive adequate answers from a political philosophy that focuses only on individual freedoms and individual rights and was promoted through a decades long left-liberal domination in media and politics.

Also Christians and followers of Jesus can become afraid for the future. We can become very discouraged as it is written in the song O, Lord the Clouds are Gathering: "O Lord, over the nations now, Where is the dove of peace? Her wings are broken. O Lord, while precious children starve. The tools of war increase. Their bread is stolen. O Lord, dark powers are poised to flood. Our streets with hate and fear. We must awaken! O Lord, let love reclaim the lives. That sin would sweep away. And let your kingdom come". But if the time has not yet come, how should we act in these difficult times?

Our role in the society
Chapter 29 of Jeremiah gives us an answer. It is a message of God to the exiled Israelites. Their homes were destroyed, they were persecuted and lived far away from their homes. They probably also lost their hope for the future and were guided by fear. However God gave them a command: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters (...) increase in number there; do not decrease. Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile" (Jeremiah 29: 5-7). Moreover, God calls His people not to listen to false prophets, but to focus on Him. 

God asked them and us that even in the time of fears we should continue our work, and not be discouraged. No, we actually should trust in the future, because everything is in God's Hand. And although there seemed to be no way out, God promised a way out to the Israelites: "For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). Even if life is hard, our faith in Jesus can bring us perspective and hope. Difficult situations can also become an opportunity. We need to bring hope in times of fear, forgiveness in times of anger and love instead of hatred. 

ECPM in 2016
This was also my experience this year, working as Director for European Affairs for ECPM. We had a turbulent, but also special year as we built further on the foundations that were laid before. Some of the highlight of 2016: Encouraging results we obtained via our members in Parliamentary Assembly in the Council of Europe. Different reports have been adopted and an attempt to legalize maternity trafficking and surrogacy has been blocked three times. 

In the European Parliament, we witnessed the flourishing of activities of the European Parliament Working Group on Human Dignity that organised several well attended events on palliative care, the refugee crisis and trafficking in human beings. I am happy that new lines of cooperation have been opened through this Working Group by MEPs who may belong to different Political Groups in the Parliament, but are committed in upholding Human Dignity. Additionally, the ECPM was involved in organizing or participating in large conferences. For example, in the Ukraine a big conference on family values was organized with the participation of hundreds of Members of their parliament, representatives of NGOs and institutions.

Another encouraging development this past year was the strengthening of our relations with Israel. A stronger collaboration has been established between the Christian Allies Caucus in the Israeli Knesset and the ECPM. This resulted in a large conference on "Terrorism and Security, what the EU can learn from Israel" with main speaker the Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset. We are determined to further develop this collaboration in 2017.

I was also blessed to participate also in 2016 to the Cornerstone meetings for young professionals in Brussels. It is a network of young professionals where we discuss on how to implement Jesus'principles in our professional and personal lives. We also organized the annual Cornerstone dinner three weeks ago that attracted 82 participants, a record number. And with Gods Help we hope to continue in 2017.

Conclusion
How can we then conclude the evaluation of 2016? It was a difficult year, a turbulent year, but also a year where we experienced many blessings. What 2017 will bring? We do not know, but what we do know is that everything is in God's hand and that we can look to the future with trust and faith. With Gods Blessing, we have to build our houses, establish our families and continue to be Light and Salt for many. 

With this trust, and hope, I wish you all a blessed 2017!

Leo   



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