Continental drift: Europe’s century of change
By Greg Mundis
Look in a history book at a pre-World War I map of Europe and you’ll discover countries and borders now forgotten for generations. The 20th century’s two global conflicts and the rise and fall of what Winston Churchill aptly named “an iron curtain” repeatedly restitched Europe’s patchwork of nations. The geographical restructuring — both decades ago and in recent history with the breakup of nations such as Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia — is just one symptom of a more fundamental metamorphosis.
The people of Europe are changing. This century promises to put a new face on Europe’s population to an even greater extent than did the last.
The January 16, 2000, issue of the The Sunday Times of London carried the headline “Europeans Are a Vanishing Species.” Patrick Buchanan, in his book Death of the West, states that in 1960 people of European ancestry were one-fourth of the world’s population. In 2000 they were one-sixth. In 2050 they will be one-tenth. He goes on to say that these are the statistics of a vanishing race.
When you look at Europe over the past 20 years, the question naturally arises — Why such a population decline?
I offer the answer from the vantage point of God’s Word. “You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky,” Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 28:62, “will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God” (NIV). Although the statement is directed at Israel, I believe it has application to Europe’s current dilemma.
Buchanan states that of the 20 countries in the world that have zero or negative population growth, 18 are in Europe. I believe two factors — euthanasia and abortion — are largely responsible for this decline.
Buchanan notes that in 2000 the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament voted 104 to 40 to legalize assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. University of Belgium studies have found that 1 in 10 deaths in Belgium are doctor-induced.
The other indicator, abortion, is taking on bubonic plague-like numbers. Consider this sampling of abortion rates across Europe as a percentage of live births: Albania, 45.2 percent; the Czech Republic, 44 percent; Slovakia, 35.5 percent; Romania, 110.8 percent. In 1999 in Romania 234,600 babies were born while 259,888 babies were aborted.
In the place of these European children who were never given a chance at life, the children of African, Asian and Latin American immigrants are rapidly changing national demographics. This trend sheds further light on Europe’s changing face and its need for the gospel.
A dramatic shift in Europe’s ethnic makeup is fueling an equally dramatic shift in many regions’ majority faith. Majority religions from Africa and Asia are rapidly supplanting Europe’s traditional, though nominal, Christian culture. Where many Europeans who claim a Christian heritage barely adhere to any expression of the faith, these new majority faiths are active. In some instances, they are also aggressively anti-Christian.
You can read statistics until your brain rebels. However, I ask you to engage your heart. The numbers come to life! People — Europeans, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans — in Europe need the Lord.
Will you make 2006 a year of prayer for Europe? Will you pray as we seek God’s wisdom and restructure our leadership team to address the changing face of Europe? Will you pray as we seek to accelerate the spread of the gospel and model the integrity of New Testament missionaries? Will you pray as we seek out those who need eternally significant answers in the midst of Europe’s transience?
Greg Mundis is regional director of Europe for Assemblies of God World Missions.
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