Thursday, December 31, 2015

Personal New Year's Message

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God,the Creator of the ends of the earth.He will not grow tired or weary,and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-30)

Dear friends,

2015 is almost over. Therefore I would like to share with you a few thoughts of reflection about the year that has passed and to share a message for the coming year. The year 2015 was a year filled with fear and uncertainty. It ended with those dreadful terrorist attacks in Paris. But also Brussels, the city where I live, was in lock down for a week and automatic rifle carrying soldiers became a common sight on the streets And The New Year Eve’s celebrations are cancelled today.

The large influx of refugees to West European countries was also a source of significant concern. Populistic parties use these concerns  to increase their appeal to their electorate. They spread fear for Muslims in their countries. In the Netherlands there were riots to avoid the establishment of asylum centers in their towns. causing often riots in towns..

It looks like that 2015 ends among a pervasive feeling of fear for the future. It is therefore justifiable for people to wonder: What will 2016 bring? All the terrible things that took place last year: the wars, extreme weather phenomena attributed to climate change, terrorist attacks and threats, the refugee crisis, the fear for the future can make us tired and weary.

The Bible fortunately gives us another message. It spreads a message of hope in turbulent times. Prophet Isaiah points to God: He has everything in His Hand! He created the Heavens and the Earth.

Although we human beings make a mess in this world, God does not get tired or weary with us. We humans often get depressed, tired and weary, having to face the consequences of the problems we create. However, God is always there for his children. He opens doors that seem closed and he strengthens those that are weak. Even when we stumble and fall He will lift us up and share His understanding with us. 

God's love for us gives us vision, perspective and guidance so that we can act out of love towards Him and towards the others. Especially in these challenging times we need to spread the Good News of Jesus' Salvation that gives us hope and perspective. Then we fully enjoy the message of the angels on Christmas night:  “peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased”. 

When I am looking back to 2015 these messages inspired me. Despite of the fact that  in the last year several resolutions were adopted in the European Parliament pushing for recognition of the killing of the unborn life and the continuous pressuring countries to legally accept alternative definitions of marriage,” there were other developments as well. The revelation of the trading of baby tissues by Planned Parenthood Foundation in the U.S. showed the cruelty and criminal philosophy behind the abortion industry and made the true nature of this organization visible to everyone. 

Additionally, under the chairmanship of MEP Bastiaan Belder, a working group of human dignity in the European Parliament has been established. This working group is based on the Universal Declaration for Human dignity that recognizes the fact that we are all created in the image and likeness of God and that therefore life should be protected from conception to natural death. Twelve MEPs from six different political groups (from left to right) became the founders of this working group.

Moreover, despite the fact that most of the Central and European countries were under significant pressure to change the current definition of marriage (a union between one man and one woman), they remained firm. Slovenia recently rejected with a big majority the redefinition of marriage and in Romania the civil society is also preparing actions to include the traditional definition of marriage in their constitution. 

Another piece of good news was that Valeriu Ghiletchi from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) drafted a report on “tackling the intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe”. This report that asks clearly for respect for Christians' involvement in the public space and the use of the concept of reasonable accommodation to avoid that Christians are forced to act against their conscience. The report was adopted unanimously in the Equality and Anti-Discrimination committee of PACE and with 67 against 2 votes in the Plenary assembly.

These encouraging developments give us also hope and strength for 2016. We do not have to be fearful but we need to be hopeful; not to feel awful but be faithful.

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you (…) May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”  Psalm 20:1 and 4

I wish you all a happy and blessed 2016!

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