What did Churches do to ease the Cold War? Were they independent actors or tools serving political ends? How did the Western Churches maintain contacts with those in socialist Eastern Europe? What has been the role of the Churches in the process of European integration? What has been and what is the political commitment of Churches? These were some of the questions that five European universities were trying to answer.

"Our research will examine, on the one hand, what positive input Churches have brought to European integration. On the other hand, such a project may reveal mistakes and neglect. The aim of the European Churches and the ecumenical movement is to bring harmony among people and build peace, to increase mutual understanding, regardless of religion. We are studying how these principles have been translated in practise. The European Union has also shown keen interest in the project and has granted a full funding for our work."
   - Professor Aila Lauha, University of Helsinki

Do churches have a sufficient basis today for speaking about hope and confidence for the future? It is necessary to require accurate and fair-minded scholarship on how churches acted in the recent past. Unravelling these questions will enable the Churches’ full potential in building sustainable and safe development and quality of life in Europe. This was the aim of the European Union-funded "Churches and European Integration" research project.

Churches and European Integration project:
  • Aimed at clarifying the picture concerning how the Churches acted during the Cold War in relation to European integration and what has been and what is the political role of the churches;
  • Had a practical dimension in providing tools through scientific knowledge for the political and ecclesial authorities today and in the future;
  • Provided useful information to politicians, churches, ecumenical organisations, non-governmental organisations and media;
  • Brought together church historians, historians and systematic theologians;
  • Was a joint venture by Universities of Glasgow, Helsinki, Lund, Münster and Tartu.
"Different countries have different histories. In this project researchers from different backgrounds work in dialogue with one another. Such an interactive way of learning from each other is one of the best things about working together internationally. So far, things have worked out very well."
   - Philip Coupland, Researcher, University of Glasgow

A scientific basis was sought on the following issues:
  • The peace issue in ecumenical dialogues during the Cold War and its implications on the life of the churches,
    Contact: University of Münster, Professor Thomas Bremer, th.bremer@uni-muenster.de;
  • Churches in the context of recent political and economic changes in Europe,
    Contact: University of Helsinki, Professor Risto Saarinen, risto.saarinen@helsinki.fi;
  • The political commitments of Western Christianity,
    Contact: University of Helsinki, Professor Aila Lauha, aila.lauha@helsinki.fi;
  • The Churches in the context of the Cold War and European integration: the British perspective,
    Contact: University of Glasgow, Dr. Nicholas Hope, n.hope@arts.gla.ac.uk;
  • The Cultural and Social impact of the Nordic Churches on European integration,
    Contact: University of Lund, Professor Anders Jarlert, anders.jarlert@teol.lu.se;
  • The political commitments of East European Christianity since the Cold War: the Estonian case,
    Contact: University of Tartu, Dr. Riho Altnurme, altnurme@ut.ee;
  • The significance of churches for political changes in Eastern Europe and its theological and social background,
    Contact: University of Münster, Professor Thomas Bremer, th.bremer@uni-muenster.de
Contacts to the Churches and European Integration Project
Professor Aila Lauha, Project Coordinator
Department of Church History
P.O. Box 33
FIN-00014 Helsingin yliopisto
Finland
Tel. + 358 9 191 23037
Fax. + 358 9 191 23 033
aila.lauha@helsinki.fi
http://www.helsinki.fi/teol/khl/cei

The Churches and European Integration Project was financed through the support of the European Commission.