Thursday, February 28, 2008

MODO Fashion Show UCL 2008

Organised by the Fashion Society at UCL

Synergy Project Party

Monday, February 04, 2008

Religion and the EU

This is my first published article! It is in UCL's European Society Magazine 'EUREKA'. The first of many I hope. Feedback/ discussion most appreciated. Thanks.

Religion and the EU

The concept of a unified Europe was created in 1950 with the ‘aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours in order to secure lasting peace’ ( This was the beginning of a lasting enterprise that was to become one of the strongest presences in the world economic arena. Fifty seven years on, what started as the European Coal and Steel Community with its six original countries has evolved into the European Union and its twenty seven member states.

Clearly it has been a long journey! One may ask, apart from history, what do all these European countries have in common? One possible answer to this question is religion. Not that all countries subscribe to one particular religion - and of course many different faiths are present in each country - but certainly all of them claim to ‘practice’ some sort of Christianity at large. Again, this also has been a journey, this time centuries long and it certainly hasn’t been a bloodless one! In the name of religion many wars have been fought, alliances forged and dissolved. Nevertheless, in the dawn of the 21st century one can safely say that at least within the European Community this type of war between European countries is no longer a possibility.

Each country subscribes to its own faith, each culture dictating morals in varied different degrees of orthodoxy. Italy for instance, the home of the Vatican City, the pinnacle of Catholic religion; Germany the birthplace of Protestantism; France, with strong secularist tradition; Greece, where the Orthodox Church finds it’s strongest expression, & so on and so forth. At a closer look, its not as clear cut as first suggested. Each country claims a particular faith and consequently has very different ideas on moral conduct.

One issue that illustrates this well is abortion. In most member states abortion is legal. However, in Poland and Ireland this practice is still illegal. This is tightly connected to the fact the state religion in these countries is Catholicism which condemns the practice. Both have held referendums on the matter and even though pro movements exist, women who choose to terminate their pregnancy still have to recur to illegal clinics. So even though all member states claim Christian beliefs, each has its very own interpretation on what’s morally acceptable or not.

Throughout these almost six decades of building on common ground religion and morality have never been a contested field as it was long agreed that certain areas of a countries sovereignty is to remain under its own control and outside the Community’s remit. Each country has freely practiced it’s faith without any interference from the European Union apart from exceptional cases where Human Rights issues have been put into question. With all its increased diversity, Europe has managed to maintain its head above water when it comes to religion.

But we are now in 2007 and new challenges lay ahead. Europe has endured great expansion since it started with a very clear geographical denomination and the world is a different place from the 1950’s. With this expansion, many questions have been asked the latest one being the case of Turkey becoming a member state. Some Greek parties firmly oppose its membership on the grounds of its track record for Human Rights abuses which has prevented this country to join.

I wonder though if underneath this claim there is an element of fear on the possible consequences of a non Christian country joining the European Union. The growing Islamic community in Europe has become more evident in the past few years making it impossible to go unnoticed. The case of Bosnia is possibly the most sticking even though this country is yet to become a member of the Union. Every member state has an Islamic population that increasingly has made its voice heard, sometimes not in the most peaceful way reminding us all of the times when the IRA was unwilling to negotiate peacefully. The fact that Europe as an institution advocates secular practices is also something to think about given this is not the case with Islamic nations, not to mention women’s rights. This is a very sensitive issue especially when the war on terror is so high in the International agenda post 9/11. It is something that will have to be addressed sooner or later if we are to make any progress and Europe is to expand further East.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

My friend Nicole LIVE in Portugal