Feature Article No: 04/22
26 September 2022
By Susan Kim (*)
Dr Valerie Duval-Poujol, a Baptist theologian, is a board member of the Conference of European Churches (CEC). Below, she reflects on how creativity and effort may well be what’s needed to usher CEC into a new era full of challenges—yet carrying great hope as well.
As she considers the challenges facing Europe and CEC today, Dr Valerie Duval-Poujol looks back in history to the founders of political Europe for a bit of inspiration to keep going in modern times.
“Because of their faith, they truly believed that life after the war was possible,” she said. “Because we had people of faith, it was possible to live into reconciliation and forgiveness, to go beyond not just the Second World War, but also the first one and three generations of wars!”
These leaders, Duval-Poujol believes, are inspiring examples of how churches and believers can bring “salt and light.”
She quotes the Schuman Declaration, presented by French foreign minister Robert Schuman on 9 May 1950: “World peace will not be preserved without efforts of creativity to face the threatening challenges.”
As she attended the World Council of Churches (WCC) 11th Assembly recently in Karlsruhe, Germany, she reflected that, in part, the location was chosen because of the reconciliation between France and Germany.
“While in Karlsruhe, I preached in the German Baptist Church, and I did the Holy Communion,” said Duval-Poujol. “It was a powerful moment.”
Elderly people in the congregation came forward to welcome her as a sister, she said.
Recalling German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s speech at the assembly, he thanked the WCC for including Germany in 1948—just after the war. “I thought, yes, that’s true, they did it,” she said. “There was not a human reason for doing that,” she said—but a divine one.
Duval-Poujol believes world peace will be preserved with a combination of effort and creativity.
“Effort—meaning it’s not easy because we are really diverse,” she said. “People and churches are not hiding from who they are. We are well in our confessional shoes but we welcome others in their own traditions—that takes effort.”
Duval-Poujol believes that churches—and CEC—must also be creative. “Every single generation is finding new ways,” she said.
As a practical example, she cites the refugee crisis Europe is now facing. “Effort, because it means opening your house, welcoming millions of refugees, and creativity in that you have to adapt,” she said. “Churches have been hugely active in this.”
Duval-Poujol is a descendant of the Huguenots, who were persecuted because of their faith. “I’m very sensitive to the issue as well—protecting all who believe, even the ones who don’t believe,” she said.
In her home country of France, she said, sometimes churches are looked upon in a suspicious way.
“We have more and more governments who try to reduce the rights of people of faith,” she said. “CEC is playing a role in advocating for those rights.”
(*) Susan Kim is a freelance journalist from the United States.