Nearly twenty years have passed since the wall fell between East and West Europe. But what did the new “freedom” bring?
In Modra, Slovakia, delegates of twenty-two countries took part in Hope for Europe’s Women in Leadership conference. Both older and younger generations were represented. After all the reports were shared on the conference, the big picture was put together from all of the puzzle pieces.
Even in the present financial collapse, countries of the West are still better off economically than in the East, where there is still much hardship. The “middle class” is all but gone; there are only the rich and the poor working class. However, the East and West have similar problems.
For example, the highest number of teen pregnancies are found in England, and terminating pregnancies are legal until the very moment of birth. In Germany, there is a high rate of underage mothers, and in Byelorussia, ninety-eight percent of all abortions are performed on girls aged fifteen to nineteen. Abortion is legal throughout Europe. Populations are dwindling. Many from the East travel to the West to find work. Twenty-five percent of the total population in Moldova live and work abroad. In Romania it is the same, with more and more people moving out of the country in search of a better life.
Some countries, like Greece, are a goal for refugees from Turkey and Albania. Holland is the most liberal country of all. Here, euthanasia is legal, as is the use of narcotics and legality of same-sex marriages. Marriage between same-sex partners is being made lawful in other countries as well.
The rate of domestic violence is highest in Moldova: seventy percent of households have some form of violence. Second is the Czech Republic with sixty percent. In Byelorussia, twenty-four percent of children are born in either single-parent homes or to couples who are not married.
In both the East and the West there is a rising tendency for couples to not get married. In Eastern countries, Romania and Bulgaria in particular, women are considered “less important.” In Greece, sixty percent of women are unemployed, while with men it’s only six percent. Every second or third marriage will end in divorce.
The Czech Republic ranks number one in the world for prevalence of atheism. Half of the population in Holland and Greece call themselves atheists. In Greece, there is still a small minority who believe in the twelve mythological gods. In France, forty-five percent of the people profess to be atheists; in Germany it is forty percent and in Denmark it is ten to fifteen percent.
In East Europe the ratio is not as high. After the fall of communism it became fashionable to be “Christian,” even if there was no faith behind it. The power of the Orthodox Church has grown in Byelorussia, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Serbia. Although the people of these countries call themselves Christian, only three to four percent attend church regularly. In other countries, either Roman Catholicism or other historic Protestant churches have become stronger. Throughout Europe, born again, evangelical believers compose 0.01 to three percent of the total population. Mega-churches, however, can be found in some countries; for example, in Holland there are thirty churches with more than one thousand members.
Islam is spreading throughout Europe; Muslims are now found in every country. The Muslim communities of the Balkan countries (like Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, and Bosnia) are descendants of those who were forcefully converted to Islam in the Ottoman Empire in centuries past. Today, some of these peoples try to find work in Western Europe; however, these Muslims are only a small minority in the larger immigrant groups of Western Europe. Most people come from Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and North Africa. In some places, Muslims number between twenty and thirty thousand. However, in some countries this number is much larger. For example, about five million Muslims call France home. Islam is also spreading by birth and through inter-marrying.
Freedom of Religion
In Western atheist countries liberal laws have created anti-Christian societies. As a result, there is strong persecution against believers. For example, in England, witnessing to an associate outside working hours can cause someone to be fired. An orientation-seminar about homosexual lifestyle during the Christian youth event Christival 2008 in Germany caused a question-time in the Parliament. Some of the meetings with the fifteen thousand young people were attacked by militant groups.
In post-Communist countries, however, Christians are enjoying a great awakening and freedom. Prison ministries are functioning in Croatia, Moldova, Slovakia, and Romania. Bibles are freely distributed on the streets of the Czech Republic during Easter. Open air, public evangelism is accepted in Ukraine and Moldova. In Finland, celebrities can affirm their faith on television shows and use the same platform for evangelism.
Unemployment in the East causes many people to seek better circumstances in other countries. However, leaving home is dangerous for women and children, for they can be easily deceived by work agencies and ensnared in today’s slave trade—prostitution. Passports and valuables are taken away and victims are intimidated. Countries of origin are mostly Romania, Bulgaria, and Moldova; however, many come from the Far East, Africa, and South America as well.
The exact number of victims is not known. Their destination is Belgium, France, Holland, and Germany. By information obtained from Germany, forty percent of men from that country claim the service of prostitutes, internet, and telephone sex. The government openly advocates prostitution. In Russia, there is an advertisement for the richness and easy money of the West; yet it is only a hook to enslave people.
“There is no official government action that would stop human trafficking,” said the Greek delegate at the Hope for Europe’s Women in Leadership conference. This quote is true in each of the countries. Some delegates could not obtain information on this issue. They could only rely upon the internet, feeling that government officials hide the problem very cleverly. Some delegates didn’t even know this problem the existed in their own country.
Evangelical Christians are trying to deal with the issue. They fight through organizations like Stop the Traffic in England, Door of Life, or A21 in Greece. Shelter homes have been opened in France and black churches are working hard on this issue in Holland. For the International Women’s Day on 8 March 2009, churches in Switzerland organized a march to free women. In Romania and Moldova the emphasis is on educating the population so that it won’t get lured into this trade. In countries like Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania many children grow up on the streets because their parents are abroad working. These kids are being cared for by Christian organizations like Child Rescue.
“We are the nation of tulips, yet cut off from the roots,” said Romkje from Holland. But this isn’t just true for them; it defines all of Europe who has cut off itself from its Christian roots. This is our prayer request—that new shoots will grow from the roots and life will once again be celebrated in Europe.