Intergenerational Solidarity: Setting the parameters for Tomorrow’s Society in Europe

High-level Religious Leaders Meeting 12 July 2012 hosted by President José Manuel Barroso, European Commission, Brussels

Distinguished President Barroso, President von Rompuy, Vicepresident Surján, Your Excellencies, dear colleagues.

First of all, let me express my gratitude for having been invited to this very important meeting. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is actively committed to European Affairs, and it is indeed an honor for us to be able to take part in the discussions here today.

As has already been said, the challenges in today’s Europe are manifold when it comes to promoting intergenerational solidarity. Way too many young Europeans face unemployment and a feeling of hopelessness – we are indeed speaking about a lost generation. The rapid aging of the population in Europe challenges various systems of elderly care in the Member States, and many elderly experience loneliness and exclusion. And the so-called “sandwich generation” is struggling to balance between work and family life and to meet the demands of both their children and ageing parents.

And all these are also affected by the ongoing economic crisis. The crisis is not only an economic and financial crisis, but also a crisis of trust and solidarity on the European level. It creates a feeling of insecurity and powerlessness across all age groups.

For the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, promoting intergenerational solidarity and spreading the message of hope, love and faith across all age groups is indeed a core competence. But how can we really make a contribution?

I would like to make three points on how we as Churches and religious communities could add value and support the aspirations of the EU in this respect.

1. First, we must recall the whole raison d’être of the EU. The Union is founded on the common values of justice and equality, solidarity, democracy, human dignity, human rights and sustainable development. Promoting these values is, in this time of crisis and insecurity, more important than ever. Every man and every woman is created and redeemed by God. The human dignity of all Europeans, from the very beginning of life until its end, must be safeguarded in all situations.

2. Secondly, we have to promote intergenerational solidarity by enhancing mutual appreciation, respect and understanding between generations. We have to promote age integration instead of age segregation. In this respect, we need to create meeting places where different age groups can exchange both professional and life experiences as well as tacit knowledge. In addition to political solutions and structural reforms, we need a change of attitudes, an enhanced collaboration with various partners and new, fresh and innovative ideas. Here Churches and religious communities can undoubtedly make an active contribution.

3. Thirdly, we need to work for a more participatory, inclusive society for all age groups. In this respect Churches and religious communities can contribute by involving people of all ages – both young ones and elderly – in volunteering activities. Volunteering brings joy, well-being and personal fulfillment to those doing volunteer work, and it also contributes to the common good of our societies.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland wishes to work for a just, intergenerationally solidaric, participatory and inclusive Europe. A Europe, where our common European values – such as mutual cohesion, caring for the weaker, the equal value of all humans and justice – prevail and are translated into practice in all policy areas. A Europe that offers hope, togetherness and a sense of community for both current and future generations.

Seppo Häkkinen

Bishop of the Diocese of Mikkeli

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland