Christian Evangelical Baptist Union of Italy

Ucebi - Ucebi

Rome (NEV), October 31, 2014 - From October 30 to November 2, in Chianciano (Siena), the 43rd General Assembly of the Evangelical Christian Baptist Union in Italy (UCEBI) is taking place. Convened every two years, the Assembly gathers a hundred pastors and delegates from local churches to evaluate the performance of the UCEBI Executive Committee, define priorities for the future work and discuss the Baptist witness in the Italian society. The general theme of the meeting is "God is faithful," a Bible verse taken from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1: 9). Among the topics on the agenda, the definition of UCEBI long-term priorities; the relationship between the Baptist, Methodist and Waldensian churches; financial matters; guidelines for the use of the 8/1000 funds; a reflection on the crisis in our globalized world. In accordance with the 2012 UCEBI Assembly an evening has been scheduled on the issue of male violence against women. The Federation of the Evangelical Youth in Italy (FGEI) organized its "Youth Pre-Assembly” for October 20th last.

Rome (NEV), September 30, 2013 – A joyful party with great music and lots of moment consecrated to fraternity. This was the atmosphere of the Festival for the 150 years of Baptists’ presence in Italy held in Rome from 5 to 8 of September. The event was organized by the Christian Evangelical Baptist Union in Italy (UCEBI) on the premises of the Taylor Institute where about 400 people, coming from all over Italy, met not only for the celebration but also to renew their commitment to witness in the Country. The issues discussed proved this commitment that ranged from “eco-community” to prisons, from intergenerational relationships to multiculturalism, from migration issues to the political sphere. An exhibition way dedicated to baptist history, from the origins of the movement to the life of Italian Baptist congregations. A huge cake, on which headed the number 150, was shared by all the participants. What perhaps gave the sense of a witness coming from the past and looking to the future, were the three concerts, from tradition to modernity: from the hymns sung by grandparents and great-grandparents to those sung by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Among the current topics the Syrian conflict was not forgotten and moments of prayer have been devoted to that situation together with a declaration of the UCEBI Executive Committee. Many guests, among whom Regina Claas, vice president of the Baptist World Alliance, Eugenio Bernardini, moderator of the Waldensian Church, Alessandra Trotta, president of the Methodist Churches’ Work Organization.

Rome (NEV), November 30, 2012 – Pastor Raffaele Volpe was confirmed president of the Christian Evangelical Baptist Union in Italy (UCEBI) by the about 100 delegates gathered in Chianciano Terme (Siena) from November 22-25 for the UCEBI’s XLII Assembly. Re-elected for a second two-years term Past. Volpe thanked the Assembly for the renewed confidence and asked for prayers, suggestions, criticism and advice to continue the journey towards the renewal of Baptist churches. The Assembly also confirmed Giovanni Arcidiacono as vice-president; the other memberof the Council are Dunia Magherini, Ruggero Lattanzio, Elizabeth Green, Giuseppe Miglio, Massimiliano Pani, Ettore Zerbinati and Manoel Florencio Filho.

ROME, February 2012 - Dear churches, this year as well the Baptist Union organizes an intergenerational Summer retreat, to live a time of training,
spirituality, play and rest: Camp VariEtà. The theme of this year will be: "As the lilies of the field (Matthew 6:28)" - learn to
grow in the school of our Master Jesus dismissing anxiety from our heart, entrusting to the care of our Creator and following a
sober life-style, respectful of the environment and others. Cultivating a culture of peace. And sharing with others the good news of Jesus Christ. For info write to: Questo indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo.

Rome, 19th January 2011 - The following is an open letter the President of the Baptist Union in Italy (UCEBI) has sent to the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi:

Mr Prime Minister

I am writing this letter as president of the Baptist Union in Italy, but above all as pastor, to call your attention to some verses from one of the psalms of David (101) Although responsible for government, David did not always know how best to administer the delicate relationship between power and responsibility. In this prayer to God, he makes some clear pledges, placing limits on his power and evidencing his own responsibility.

 

I am amazed how normal it was. Such human normality. When the time came to give birth, that is when Mary’s waters broke and, one after the other her contractions began, she gave birth to her son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.

 

How normal! Bringing a child into the world. Finding somewhere to live. If we want to look for the divine in this story, we have to focus on something clearly human. God became flesh, but he did it so well that in this story told by Luke, God is not to be seen, but there is so much ordinary humanity!

How normal, we might say, even though it is not normal for a woman to have to give birth in the street and to lay her baby in a manger. The most normal things became exceptional because of human behaviour. Because of absurd laws made by those who govern against human kind. Why on earth did that poor family have to undertake such a journey when Mary was nine months pregnant. Because of a law! The ruler of the time had decided to  censor his subjects, to make sure that everyone paid their taxes.

But today too, even if not always in full view, because society today tends to hide that which disturbs normality; today too there are still women who give birth in the street because they have no home. They give birth on a rickety boat that will never land on our shores. Today, too, many are denied the right to a home. The right-the desire for a better life. Forced to live in derelict buildings and often also reported because they have claimed a right.

How normal!  But it becomes extraordinary : Jesus is born into a world that denies rights. And what is normal becomes a privilege. Certainly, God will then turn the history of the world upside down and transform the negative elements into positive ones. The Jesus without rights will become the Lord of the world. What total defeat for the world!

How normal! For once we have to pretend that the world hides this normality: Mary’s natural gestures: wrap, lay. For once we won’t let ourselves be conditioned by that ‘as’: as there was no room in the inn for them. The world needs normality. It needs mothers and fathers who take care of their children. The world needs fewer frontiers and more houses: less barbed wire and more places offering welcome.

A immense symbolic meaning is at the heart of this passage. While I was reading it, some words reminded me of at least three other gospel stories. I would like to begin with the scene of the last supper. In this case too a room was needed. While when Jesus was born, his parents could not find a room where he could be born, now, Jesus demands to be given a room. He exerts his authority. Jesus sends his disciples to the city to ask an unknown householder: where is the room in which I may eat the Passover with my disciples? (Luke 22: 11). Where is my room? Jesus demands the room that was not given to him at his birth. Where is my room? Jesus does not ask a favour, but gives an order. Where is Jesus’s room in our lives? And if there is one, is it a room that can host the one who comes to eat with us, or is it the usual stable? Where is Jesus’s room in this inhospitable world? In our church? In our laws? In the way we behave? God has a right to live within us and in the world that cannot once again be denied him as it was at his birth.

The second and third ideas are linked to those two verbs: Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. They are actions that describe what happened after Jesus’s crucifixion. When some strangers, not his disciples, not Christians, but strangers took his tortured body from the cross, it was wrapped in strips of linen cloth, says St. John’s gospel, like a baby in swaddling clothes and laid him in a tomb, similar to a manger.

Wrapping and laying Jesus is for us today an invitation to take care of God. Yes, I know that we expect God to take care of us. But at least once in our lives, let us take care of God. If God became man, it is also because we are to take care of him. It is an exchange: God says I will take care of you and you will take care of me.

All this is a summary of the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is there that all the images connected to the birth of Jesus are to be found. In the parable there is someone who binds a wounded traveller, who wraps him bandages. There someone looks for a room where the unfortunate traveller can be laid. We know that the Good Samaritan is Jesus. He who wraps us in the bands of grace and mercy and offers us a room of faith and hope where we can lay.  But we are also the Good Samaritan and the unfortunate traveller is Jesus, he who wishes to be wrapped by our hands and placed in the room of our life.

Christmas this year tells of so much normality! But in this world these normal things are always more difficult. Each day the right is denied to children who are born to live in this world of ours. So this little and delicate story reminds us of the greater story of Jesus’s life, of he who seeks a room in our life, so that we can take care of him, wrapping him round and placing him in our soul. Simple gestures that describe what faith is. Welcoming Jesus in our life. Welcoming God in our life. Welcoming those who are excluded, abandoned, ill-treated, abused, humiliated. Welcoming them as if we were welcoming God himself into our life. Amen.

The Romani people are probably the most hit by the wave of xenophobia which is inundating our country. The forced dismantling of unauthorized campsites  often carried out at night leaving whole families homeless.  no longer hits the headlines. Such action has become  common among local authorities  believing they are supported by the populace who often express relief and satisfaction at the work of the bulldozers. The Romani people are torn up like weeds and their rights and the rights of their children trampled on. European institutions and human rights organizations like Amnesty International have often protested at this blatant violation of rights but in Italy few people seem to care.

As Protestant Christians we want to do what we can to overcome prejudice and to support the rights to protection of the least. To do so we want to begin by getting to know them, hearing their stories, honouring their experience, becoming spokespeople for those whose voice in our country  is not heard. To promote this venture which we hope will reach people in and outside of the churches, the Italian Baptist Union is organizing the following action (more details will be provided shortly) .

A Romani People  Friendship Camper

15th-20th June, 2010

The Italian Baptist Union, together with other groups and associations is organizing a Camper trip which will visit six towns in order to

– enable the Protestant churches to get to know the Romani people present locally;

– support human and civil rights;

– promote Romani culture

– recognize successful projects of integration

– Overcome prejudice.

The camper trip, the first of its kind, will stop off at the following cities: Venice (15/6), Turin (16/6), Florence (17/6); Rome (18/6); Naples (19/6); Bari (20/6).

The initiative supported by the Department of Refugees and Migrants of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy takes place as part of the European Churches’ Year for Migrants and has an inclusive and interconfessional nature.

Every stop has been organized locally.

The Italian Baptist Union supports the Peace March and the petition launched by AI on the 11th March to suspend and review the “ Nomad Plan” set up by the City  and prefect of Rome which plans the closure of 100 camps in the city of Rome alone. The “Nomad Plan” is the first of its kind to be developed after the granting of special powers by the Prime Minister in May 2008 to deal with what was then called the “Nomad emergency”. For further information and to sign the online petition connect to the site: www.iopretendodignita.it/appellorom

At its last sitting, the Executive Committee of the Italian Baptist Union decided to distribute the funds received from last year’s “five per thousand” in the following manner:

  1. To the Sanyati hospital in Zimbabwe for machine and vehicle maintenance as well as for the purchase of new mattresses and bedding.
  2. To the Tafara nutritional centre which is situated in an extremely poor area of Harare (the capital of Zimbabwe) to install a sewerage system.
  3. To support micro projects in youth education.
  4. To the G.B. Taylor rest home, Rome in support of the costs of low-income residents.

Our support granted to Zimbabwe, one of the most deprived and abandoned countries in the world, especially to the sick,  orphans, future generations and women is a concrete way of combating poverty to which as Baptist churches  who have adopted  the Millennium Goals we are committed. Our support to low-income elderly people aims to take into account the new poor whose numbers are increasing in our own country.

The “five per thousand” is only one way of lending a helping hand but it is a way open to every tax payer. We therefore ask you to make your choice carefully, as carefully as we will spend every euro we receive.

Here is the link to an Italian television broadcast on the engagement of the Italian Baptist churches in Zimbabwe.

http://www.rai.tv/dl/RaiTV/programmi/media/ContentItem-d6366d8c-7d89-45e6-b807-3b08dfd86022.html?p=0

It’s not just a question of numbers. It’s true that today 12 million people belong to the Protestant churches in Korea and that, together with three million Catholic Christians,  they make up a third of the population. The fact is that these believers of reformed faith are an interesting movement because, unlike other historical protestant churches, they are growing. No, it’s not only the numbers which are astounding. What really is astounding is their faith! What strikes one is their seriousness, their faithfulness, their unity. It is striking to see people of all ages going to  Sunday services, joining choirs, reading their Bibles, a book which is studied, meditated upon and lived out, praying fervently, living soberly and unostentatiously a discipleship which, however, is not hidden. Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and Pentecostal churches is the habit – shared by all – of spending the first hours of the day in individual prayer,  lived out together in the churches. Every morning at about half past five troops of Christians silently come out of their houses to reach one of the  nearest Protestant churches,  illuminated at night by a red cross. That’s how the day begins, in prayer, for Protestants in Korea. They’re not just a odd groups of people,  old women for example, but thousands and thousands of people of all ages, women and men. The people gather, the minister suggests a hymn and reads a passage from the Bible which is quietly meditated upon for about fifteen minutes and then everyone prays, not in turns, but all at the same time. A few people raise their voices but most of them pray silently so as not to disturb the others. Hymn music plays quietly in the background. After about 45 minutes quietly and one by one the church goers leave and go to work or go home. The day has begun. Just like that.

 

Perhaps prayer is precisely the secret behind the spread of Protestant faith over the last century. Without wars of religion or impositions of any sort but  through the witness first of hundreds and then thousands,  small churches built at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the twentieth century have grown and got bigger. In the meanwhile Korean society has changed. Once poor, (in 1953 after the war the country was completely destroyed) it has undergone an almost miraculous development. There are churches with 50,000 members; the largest Presbyterian church has 80,000. These are not just names on old lists but they’re people alive, well and active in the churches to which they belong.

Dedication and a missionary spirit have obviously been united with great organizational skills so that each one of those thousands of people is engaged in useful services essential for the work of the Lord in and outside of the local church. Everyone is God’s minister and a disciple of Jesus. All are sent and all go.

The theological colleges are full of students who are studying for the ministry and the ministers themselves live out their ministry. like the first reformers, with dedication and discipline, led by the Word of God.

What can we say? A week’s visit is not long enough to really get to know a reality so vast and complex but it’s enough to realise that something is going on here which cannot be expressed in sociological categories alone. Believers are called to recognize the signs of the Kingdom of Heaven as Christ invited his disciples to  do and they are also to call upon the Spirit to renew, in these times of decadence, his church everywhere, sending us out to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Here too, In our midst.

The director of the Service for Refugees and Migrants of FCEI, Franca Di Lecce, even before the decision of the European ecumenical body, declared: “The churches have decided to dedicate 2010-the Year of Fighting Poverty and Social Exclusion-to the migrations which are case studies in the major transformations of contemporary societies.  At the same time, they are a wonderful ecumenical opportunity for our churches:  the creation of a space of peace and reconciliation, where diversity is not a motive for exclusion but an opportunity for reciprocal growth.”

 

In the past, we as churches have denounced the rising tide of racial intolerance in our country and of complicit silence in the face of the now frequent violations of inalienable rights of many of the foreigners who come to live in Italy, both those immigrants who hold a permesso di soggiorno as well as those who do not.  We sounded the alarm even before the passing of the pacchetto sicurezza, and in a specific circolare, we have sent to all the churches guidelines that would help us to coordinate our actions of resistance against the discrimination against migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers.  We declared that no human being is clandestine if not the one, Italian or foreigner, who seeks to hide his or her own crimes.

From last September until today, as we expected, things have grown much worse.  The criminalization of being undocumented is overwhelming the prison system and multiplying episodes of the paradoxical criminalization of honest people and labourers.  In these weeks, only bad weather is preventing people from fleeing Africa by crossing the Mediterranean, but even if it were possible to leave, the incidences of the indiscriminate turning back of people to Libya without treatment are multiplying, condemning already sorely tried people to unspeakable suffering.

The revolt at Rosarno has dramatically made plain to what degree those who do migrant labor are exposed to every sort of abuse and exploitation, also at the hands of organized crime.  Our churches in Calabria and Sicily knew of and had denounced the dismal conditions in which such workers lived and had expressed to these workers their solidarity before and after the tragic news items.

The grave episodes of urban warfare at Milan a few days ago have brought to light the complete lack of a politic of integration even in the rich metropolises of the North.

The continuing violent and sudden evacuations of Rom camps in the middle of winter as took place recently at Florence, often at the expense of children and very poor people and without provision of alternative housing, demonstrate the absolute lack of a desire to address humanitarian problems while preserving the dignity of all.

In these and many other cases, which have not been reported in the newspapers, our churches have been and are present.  They are involved in the work of denouncing injustice, but also in positive practices of hospitality, liberation, and support:  Italian language courses, activities of social solidarity, legal assistance, practical help for resolving housing questions and finding work.  These are just a few of the ways which the churches have chosen to embrace and to defend the rights of immigrants.  Also, it is noted that almost all of our churches host other first-generation immigrant churches.  Some of these enter into a covenant even formally with the regional Baptist association or choose to covenant with the Union.

2010, the European Year of the Churches for Migrants, does not find us unprepared and can represent for all of our churches a further occasion of witness, even ecumenical, of friendship with those who come to live with us from countries far away and unknown.  We listen, then, to their stories and we get to know them; we come to their side without fear of abuse and injustice, even if it should cost us.  We involve ourselves in the events, we go against the tide, and we defeat indifference.  We are careful:  we could also get used to the situation and begin to consider inequality and daily racism as “normal”.

We, as the Executive Committee, have committed to celebrate this year, giving even more visibility to our efforts.  We are completing plans for several national initiatives of which we will inform you in time and in which we will, of course, involve all the churches.

I remind you of the very recent publication of the supplement to the weekly “Riforma” entitled:  Dopo Rosarno. Immigrazione, diritti, democrazia” prepared by FCEI which can be requested from the editor ( Questo indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo.).

Finally, I remind you of the important consultative role of the Service of Refugees and Migrants of FCEI, the recent empowerment of the federative commission Essere Chiesa Insieme, and the work of formation and developing connections done by our International Church Department.

A calendar entitled “Migration 2010” can be requested from CEC by writing to Questo indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo..  Information on this theme is available at:  www.migration2010.eu.

I recommend that you keep us informed of the initiatives of your churches supporting this theme by sending us announcements and articles for our site www.ucebi.it and for “Riforma”.

The Rom people are a nuisance, they smell and steal, great I thought. So, being a bit crazy myself, I invited Don Ciotti to follow up his letter by helping us to reflect together in a Protestant setting , our church here in Turin. As we have a Rom church in the Venice area I decide to organize a round-table discussion on the subject inviting the president of the Baptist Union , pastor Anna Maffei together with Don Ciotti. The name of the anti-mafia priest always attracts attention and the church, in fact, is full. The next Saturday a Rom group, the Svoboda Orchestra sings and I take nearly all the girls from the community in which  I work in San Mauro Torinese to hear them.

The girls dance a bit and clap their hands to the rhythm of the music. Days go by but then the time comes to translate theory into practice. Three months on a Rom girl is lying in pain crying in the street here in Moncalieri. A woman from my church passes by just at that moment and bending over her asks what the matter is. The girl’s name is Laura*, she’s seven and not having eaten anything for a whole day,  is writhing in pain. The woman, Anna-Maria asks her where she lives “in a hut, down by the river” she replies. So, gathering her courage because it’s dark, she takes the girl back to the hut and so discovers a reality she knew nothing about up till then. There is a tiny run down settlement  on the banks of the Po, seven little huts in one of which Laura lives. They have come from Romania seven months ago where the husband had already abandoned the family. There’s the mother and four children, three girls 5,7 and 11 years old and a little boy of 9 as well as the maternal grandmother. There’s also an uncle, the mother’s brother who’s obviously mentally ill, he looks into space and laughs. The young mother who supports them all “earns” money washing windscreens at the traffic lights but she doesn’t make enough to feed them all. It’s the only decent way she has to earn some money. It is however an activity punishably by fining. Last week she got a fine of 60 euros which of course she’ll never be able to pay.

Let’s take a step back though to the beginning of our story. When Anna Maria meets Laura I’m at work in Gruppo Abele. Anna Maria phones me on her mobile and tells me what’s happened. It’s a Friday. The next day my wife goes to the hut to check things out and take some food. There’s only a gas cylinder which heats a little stove to heat the food on as it is very cold. There’s no electricity but there  are a lot of rats just outside the hut. With no work contract the children’s mother (an irregular European community  immigrant) is invisible. I talk to the church about her and we decide to help her, not with money which we don’t have but with primary goods. That means those things which are vital to survival and which we take for granted but which for her are a luxury. They had no cutlery and the children ate with their hands, they had no sheets nor towels nor glasses etc. We contact the social services in Moncalieri. Gypsies are a problem and there are no funds. At my house, however, there is a shower, a washing machine (you just can’t wash everything by hand) and the possibility of bringing the children home  on Sundays so that at least for them that day isn’t the same as all the others but a holiday, as it is for us. Sometimes the pastor’s house proves providential. They just want normality. They even begin to come to the Sunday service because there are hymns and they like singing. Our little church offers them an hour’s worth of warmth and they start coming to Sunday school. Our Sunday school teacher comes from Peru and she welcomes them joyfully. When she was in Peru she knew what it was like to be hungry. My daughter Alessandra becomes friends with the eldest girl, Carla aged 11. They’re the same age and immediately Alessandra realises that Carla has been robbed. This time, however, it’s not the gypsies who are the thieves but civil society. She has been robbed of the joy and beauty of childhood. The social state doesn’t count, what counts is the purchase of arms and the maintenance of soldiers sent round the world on “military operations”, another way of saying to fight wars. Then, I can’t forget the only male child, he’s only 9 and quite deprived of love. He’s looking for a father figure and of course he attaches himself to me like glue. Mid January we gave them an electricity generator which works off petrol. David, an electrician who is a member of my church got it going. No more candles, the children and the old grandmother break out in smiles. They’ll now be able to watch television.

Then there’s the health problem. They’re entitled to a doctor from Moncalieri “the foreigners’ doctor”. Our Rom family, however, has less trouble explaining their symptoms than getting their doses right. My wife then, Graziella (and pastor’s wives in general, it’s true that they share their husband’s ministry) goes with them to the doctor’s who has surgery only Mondays and Thursdays. On the other days you just can’t get ill or you have to go the Emergency unit.

It’s cold, it’s the beginning of February and our story continues and will do so even when I’ve put a full stop to these lines.. In the meantime if any one of you has some luxury item they want to get rid of, please let me know, clothes, stationery for the children, towels, potatoes (they love potatoes and they don’t cost much)….


The author is pastor of the Baptist Church of Moncalieri, near Turin. For further information please write to Questo indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo.

E’ ovvio che questi fenomeni non sono tanto i frutti avvelenati di una crisi economica grave e foriera di esiti ancor più negativi,  quanto la conseguenza di una preoccupante perdita di riferimenti stabili e condivisi. Man mano che la classe politica dirigente perde credibilità, si aggrava la crisi profonda dell’autorità. Non ne sono immuni i genitori, a volte poco credibili presso i figli, perché immaturi nei comportamenti, o per ragioni diverse gli insegnanti, sfiduciati e avviliti nella loro professionalità, sfidati  dai propri alunni e dai loro genitori. Delle autorità politiche si è detto, mentre l’autorità dei giudici viene ogni giorno screditata dagli stessi esponenti di istituzioni che dovrebbero onorarla. Rimane forse qualche autorità religiosa cui si rende formale ossequio, ma quanto sincero?

 

La crisi di autorità  è crisi di fiducia e una società in cui crolla la fiducia non può reggere.

Le nostre chiese risentono anch’esse del clima in cui sono immerse. Anche da noi si soffre di sfiducia e disincanto – siamo in questo mondo, non viviamo sulla luna! - e l’alto grado di conflittualità che attraversa a ondate le nostre comunità ne rappresenta un sintomo preoccupante.

L’autocritica è d’obbligo, se non vogliamo fare la parte del grillo parlante che parla saggiamente, ma è condannato all’irrilevanza perché non applica su di sé la stessa unità di misura.

La predicazione di Gesù  Cristo soltanto può sollevarci dalla nostra confusione.

La lettura dei Vangeli può aiutarci a capire che anche la realtà in cui Gesù visse era caratterizzata da un clima di sospetto e da una profonda crisi dell’autorità. Chi avrebbe affidato i propri figli a Erode?  O a Pilato? Come fidarsi di un esercito di occupazione violento e parassita? E i religiosi così intenti a conservare i propri privilegi e la propria rispettabilità nella cornice di una fede ormai mummificata? Erano loro forse più degni di fiducia?

Proprio questi ultimi posero a Gesù la domanda cruciale alla quale egli non rispose mai: quale autorità ti muove? Che diritto hai di fare quello che fai e di dire quello che dici? Chi ti ha autorizzato a criticare l’economia del tempio, a trasgredire la regola del sabato, a perdonare i peccati?

A queste domande Gesù non rispose mai perché la sua autorità non era spiegabile. Di quel tipo di autorità puoi soltanto fare esperienza. La puoi intuire, percepire. Puoi anche tu stupirti di quell’autorità aprendoti ad essa, come infinite volte avvenne a tanti quando Gesù parlava e agiva.

L’autorità a sovvertire le gerarchie, per esempio, proclamando la vicinanza di Dio agli oppressi e agli affamati, prendendosi cura di lebbrosi e pazzi, esclusi e maledetti. Quell’autorità che consisteva nell’essere veramente “autore” delle proprie azioni e delle proprie scelte. Perché Gesù faceva quello che diceva e diceva quello che faceva. Viveva un’integrità, un’unità profonda fra ciò che sentiva e ciò che era. Era uno in se stesso ed era uno con Dio. Tu potevi percepire questo perché lo stesso Spirito che aveva battezzato Gesù, lo stesso Dio che lo aveva chiamato “Figlio” era quello che parlava al tuo cuore. Lo Spirito in te “riconosceva” lo Spirito in Lui. Per questo la gente stupita diceva che egli parlava con autorità, non come i loro teologi di professione (i loro scribi).

Quando Gesù aveva detto ai suoi: “Siate perfetti come il Padre vostro celeste è perfetto”, non parlava di perfezione morale, che non è mai stata alla nostra portata. Parlava di integrità, di essere “uno”, non duplice, di essere veri, non ambigui. Di bandire le maschere, l’ipocrisia e la menzogna.

Oggi l’autorità è in crisi ad ogni livello perché questo è il regno delle maschere. Viviamo un grottesco carosello mediatico, un carnevale endemico che disorienta. Non sappiamo mai chi abbiamo di fronte.

E questa malattia a volte non risparmia le chiese.

La chiesa di Gesù Cristo deve restituire piena fiducia alla parola di Gesù che è parola di Verità. Su noi stessi prima di tutto. Del Cristo che ci vuole al suo seguito siamo chiamati a riconoscere piena autorità sulla nostra vita. Non a parole, ma nei fatti. Dobbiamo presentarci agli altri senza maschere, così come siamo. Senza paura. Con le nostre debolezze. La ragione del nostro spogliarci del vestito buono della nostra rispettabilità sociale è una sola: Dio ci ama così come siamo, accoglie anche la nostra meschinità. Non dobbiamo nasconderla. Egli ci innalza se ci abbassiamo, ci perdona se ci pentiamo. Ci restituisce dignità. Ci chiama figli di Dio.

Noi, Figli di Dio!

Ripartiamo, dunque. Forza! Le nostre coordinate nello spazio e nel tempo le ha già poste Gesù Cristo. E ci ha indicato la via. Perciò facciamoci animo: non ci perderemo!

The main item on the agenda was the unification in process between the Swedish Baptist Union and two other Protestant churches, the reformed Mission Covenant Church and the Methodist Church. All three confessions were founded in the mid nineteenth century as a result of  a spiritual revival and as early as 1905 various concrete attempts at unification have been made. The Italian Baptist Union was called upon as a reciprocal agreement, first regarding members and ministers and then regarding ordinances has existed with the Waldensian and Methodist churches for over twenty years. As well as the President of the Union (and author of this article) present at the meetings was also Past. Massimo Aprile, secretary of the Department of Theology.

 

The General Secretary of the Swedish Baptists, Karin Wiborn, explained that the Common Future Project is a pressing issue in Sweden as about half of the Baptist churches are already united with other churches. Out of 215 Baptist churches, 55 are already working together with churches of the other two denominations involved in the unification project, while another 36 churches have formed other communions on a local basis. Furthermore, the young people of the three denominations are already united in one movement and are taking an active part in the present process of unification. “We are not seeking a unity which only faces the past”, added Wiborn, “but one able to imagine a missionary future together here in Sweden. In such a secularized country people are no longer aware of the differences which were once considered crucial. These differences, however, exist so what we want is to build a new church with a new name and a joint mission yet able to respect the specific contribution of us all.”

For the unification process to go ahead successfully (celebrations are planned for 2011 or 2012), various problems need to be faced. Six working groups have already been formed and are working on statements which will then be sent to the churches. The greatest theological problem concerns infant baptism and so-called “re-baptism”. Here the issues are the same as those which have emerged both in Italy and in the dialogue between the European Baptist Federation and the historical protestant churches in Europe. The Swedish churches are firmly convinced that this open question will not, however, prevent complete communion.

The Italian and Swedish delegations agreed on three principles. Firstly, that a bilateral or multilateral communion should not limit other forms of communion. This means that in Sweden the agreements which already exist between the Methodist, Reformed and Lutheran churches should not interfere with the present unification process. Secondly, the novelty and creativity evident in the agreement between the three denominations means that past history is not more important than future vision. Thirdly, that freedom of conscience should be upheld not only regarding baptism but also as far as inter church relations are concerned. Another open question, in fact, is how to find a balance between the independence of local churches and the interdependence of those churches in the new united church.

The visit to Sweden was marked by another important occasion, the official presentation of the Martin Luther King prize to a Swedish rap singer, Timbuktu who is very popular with young people and whose songs promote non-violence, inter-cultural issues and  fight against poverty. The Swedish Baptist Union, together with other pacifist and humanitarian groups, has annually awarded this prize ever since 2003. The ceremony was brought to a close by a torch lit march through the snowy streets of Stockholm so that King’s message and vision for a just and caring world remains alive even in civilized Sweden.

I only knew the plight of orphans through my mother’s lifetime testimonies. She herself had been born an orphan and over these years I and my siblings were always victims of these historical stories. It was until April 2009 when I got employed as an on site Distance Adoption Programme Coordinator that I came to understand that you cannot change what you do not acknowledge.

The Distance Adoption Programme Zimbabwe is a partnership between the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe (BCZ) and the Baptist Union of Italy (UCEBI). It started five years ago with the aim of mitigating the effects of orphanhood in children of member Baptist churches across Zimbabwe’s ten administrative provinces. Baptist Union of Italy provides financial assistance through adopting parents and the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe provides technical support.  According to the Distance Adoption Programme records; there are six hundred orphans under the age of eighteen. The programme supports fifty percent of these children. It has coverage of eighty percent of Zimbabwe’s administrative provinces. The financial assistance mainly caters for the children’s school fees but can extend to cover health concerns of the child. The programme was walking and now it is marching, tomorrow it will be sprinting. It has now become part of the language.

The day I started executing my duties I quickly saw that it was my moment to bless and to be blessed. I did not see it as an occupation but I saw myself as a pillar of strength to these little angels. I stopped being driven and got back to the driver’s seat and started driving the vehicle of Distance Adoption Programme. I become the fuel that drives the vehicle of orphans and other vulnerable children’s welfare. During my initial initiation I did not understand it because I was stuck in the office with my calculator and phone trying to dish out money. Indeed, I was like a blind man judging a beauty contest. Impossible! My first visit was in Sanyati. I was greeted with melodious drumming beats on rawhide skin with ululating voices from young orphaned girls. I saw that these little angels need more than money; they need love, they need to belong to a family, a community, to a people, to a culture; to a world of love, they need you and me. Despite their HIV positive status, their hunger, their dirty feet, their lovely dark moon faces managed to smile.

Their stories range and vary as much as their names and ages range and vary. I used to cry and feel for them. Later on when they cried I cried with them, when they laughed, I laughed with them and when they recited their little prayers I closed my eyes and meditated silently. We are today prevailing with them until we, one day prevail. This programme has so far mentally emancipated, socially transformed and economically empowered the most vulnerable members of our community.

My most memorable day was when I visited Ganyungu in Gokwe. I saw one child, ill clothed, sitting under a tree during the night. The naked tree stood silent, waiting for spring. I thought the child was a little ghost. She had gone for two days without food so she was just loitering in order not to think about her empty stomach; but how can a ghost get hungry? I wanted to run away with much speed. But how was I supposed to run away when I was called to lead children into Canaan? The child’s parents had passed away due AIDS; she is only ten years old and stay with her sixteen year old brother. I knelt down and wept. I empathized with her, that despite her plight she had the zeal to go on and greet the sun of the future as it dawns. I quickly incorporated her into the programme. She is now going to school and eating decent meals. Her dream is of becoming a nurse one day.

Through this partnership I have seen children’s spirits rising to greater heights. I saw hope and power, life and liberty, health and wealth; motivated by love and activated by faith. When the Italian delegation visited children in November 2009, it was dreams come true for many of these children. They saw their mother in the person and character of Anna Maffei; President of UCEBI. She painted a picture of love and wrote a chapter of compassion in their hearts and little minds. Never again shall they be imprisoned by the imprisoning past. Like Paul in Philippians 3 V 13 they have forget the pessimistic past for the positive present.

As a young sociologist, I have learnt through this programme that a life lived for others is a life well lived. It reminds me of African “ubuntu”, a spirit of togetherness, I am because we are, we are therefore I am. One Shona idiom says “Rume rimwe harikombe churu” meaning “One man cannot surround a ….. alone” Together we can do more! It is my confession, to borrow from Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr, that I have been to the mountain top and I have seen the land of milk and honey, I might not reach there but I know that one day all these children will reach there because mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord. May God always grant favour to the fatherless.

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Lancelot "Lance" Muteyo is the Coordinator of the Italian Baptist Union Distant Adoption Programme in Zimbabwe in partnership with Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe - To receive information about the Distant Adoption Programme, please send an e-mail to: Questo indirizzo email è protetto dagli spambots. È necessario abilitare JavaScript per vederlo.

A hundred years on from the missionary conference held in Edinburgh which marks the birth of the modern ecumenical movement, your new experience is born. Like Edinburgh, so this new Regional Council is not really the beginning of a journey but the first result of a movement in which many church realities have been already engaged on various levels in the diversified reality which makes up your region. It is, however, also a new beginning.

I express my appreciation because over the last few years the movement towards the unity of Christian churches has suffered several setbacks and many people have noted a decrease both in motivation and in engagement. Even though the movement towards dialogue among believers and the common mission is a minority one, it is here to stay. It relates (even though we are humbly aware of its limitations), to the prayer of our  Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and is a precious occasion offering  greater credibility to the witness of the Christian churches.

In Campania, where a  document taking a stand against the mafia and crime has recently been published jointly by the churches, the Council of Christian Churches which is officially founded today, has undoubtedly an important role to play.

At it’s  centre, the ministry of truth.

Together we need  once more to offer an incarnate preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ standing with the oppressed.

We need to denounce the counterfeit truths and ideologies which serve the violent and dishearten the weak.

We need to courageously denounce corruption in politics and superstition in religion.

You have an important task. You will need great faith, perseverance in prayer and the living strength of the Holy Spirit.

May God bless, protect and guide you.

Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you oh men of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink , nor be of anxious mind. For all the nations of the world seek these things; and you Father knows that you need them. Instead seek his kingdom and these things shall be yours as well. (Luke 12,22-52)

At the beginning of a new year we usually look towards the future in front of us and, in times like these, dominated by economic crisis and unemployment, it’s easy to be overtaken by fears and worries about our future and the future of our children. Who knows what this new year has in store for us!

Fear and worry predominate in the lives of the Italians and Berlusconi’s false optimism is less convincing than ever. As Christians, however, we have a word which reassures us. It is the word which Jesus proclaims to his church: “Do not fear, little flock, because it has pleased the Father to give you his kingdom”. God has not abandoned us in a panic on life’s sinking sands but, granting us access to the Kingdom in Christ Jesus, he enables us to rest on the one reality immune to crisis, fruit of his grace and love.

The economic  situation has its ups and downs but the love of God remains the same. As the apostle Paul writes: “I am persuaded that nothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom 8,38-9). Now, somebody might object that the love of God doesn’t put food on our tables or pay our bills. What is this love we’re talking about? Doesn’t all this talk about the love of God lead to false optimism both politically and religiously?

To understand how God’s love works in our lives, let’s look at what Jesus says to his disciples about worry “Do not be anxious about your life what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on” Here we see that Jesus encourages his disciples to re-discover their priorities: life is worth more than food and the body more than clothing.

Re-discovering  life’s real priorities is a first step against fear for the morrow. A second step, which we can detect in Jesus’ teaching, is learning to distinguish the means from the ends. Eating and clothing ourselves are only means for the real end: living our life. It might be stating the obvious, but if we think about how much food is wasted over the festive period then it might pay us now and then to remember what are the means and what the ends of life. Food is a means which sustains our life, clothing a means of protecting the body.

Over the last ten years many people have lived wasting both food and clothes to the point that a wealth of consumer goods is considered a goal to be reached and not  a means of survival. For many people, then, the present economic crisis has to do with means and not ends. In other words, our life is not under threat as we have both clothes and food but it is the wealth of consumer goods that the crisis threatens.

No more waste, then, as we’re forced by circumstances to live more soberly. For many of us this means giving up the superfluous and concentrating on what is really necessary. If we knew how to distinguish between what is necessary and what is superfluous, then we would save ourselves a lot of useless worries! Worry for the morrow is a serious business when the necessities of life themselves are threatened, when jobs are lost and we have to rely on our families for support or go into debt. It’s normal that in such cases we begin to worry!

Brothers and sisters, if we are overcome by worry for ourselves or our offspring, God does not abandon us in our fear but comes, with his powerful Word, to encourage us so that with his help we are able to manage in the situation. The word which the Lord gives us is the same word which Jesus said to his disciples in a simple but effective way: “Consider the ravens, they neither sow nor reap and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds”. In this way Jesus reassures his disciples reminding them that God never abandons his children because they are worth more than any other creature in the world. The Lord himself promises that he will be at our side sustaining us and promising that we will lack nothing for a life lived with dignity.

God’s love, then is not a spiritual sentiment with no grounding in reality but is incarnate in real life with all its material needs. God knows our needs and promises that we will not lack the minimum in the way of food and clothes. If we cling to this promise then we will be able to face our worries and not be overcome by them.

Sisters and bothers, at the beginning of this new year, God calls us to entrust ourselves to him and to confide in his loving kindness. He knows all our troubles, every fear and worry and he is not indifferent towards them. He is by our side waiting for us to entrust our concerns to him. Let us begin 2010 by putting our faith in God knowing that worrying about things does not solve our problems and, as Jesus says, cannot even add an hour  to the length of his life.

In other words, it’s not by despairing that our situation will improve but only by putting our faith in the Lord as Isaiah says “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength” (Is 40,31) Only God can gives us what we need to face our crises and emerge from them strengthened. We really need this strength which is born is us when we trust in the Lord entrusting to him our lives and our tomorrow.

May God come to strengthen us, giving courage to the discouraged, faith to the disappointed, hope to the despairing, perspective to the lost, peace and serenity to the troubled.

In conclusion, God exhorts us always and every way to seek the Kingdom of God above everything else. We look for it because it has already been given to us! Through Jesus Christ God has already opened the doors of the kingdom, inviting us to enter. Today, then, we are invited to seek the kingdom of God, welcoming it into one’s own life. The Kingdom which God in Christ gives us means repositioning our life under the Lordship of Christ so that he and not we rule over it guiding and protecting it in the light of his Word and in the power of the Spirit.

If God reigns in our lives, we will learn to live not worrying about what we don’t have but being grateful for what we do have. Everything we have will be lived as a gift which comes from our merciful Lord and we will learn to rejoice over the little things rather than worrying about what we don’t yet have.

Brothers and sisters, our Heavenly father knows what we need, so let us put our trust in him so that we can live the year which face us believing that he will uphold us in times of plenty and in times of scarcity because God’s love consists not in empty words but in a Word incarnate in Christ Jesus.

The previous sessions of the second round of talks were held at the Besson Divinity School of Samford University, Alabama, in Rome in 2007 and at Duke Divinity School, North Carolina in 2008. The Baptist delegation was headed by Prof. Paul Fiddes from the University of Oxford while the Catholic delegation was led by Bishop Arthur Serratelli.

Up till now talks have revolved round “The Word of God in the life of the Church: Scripture, Tradition, Koinonia”. The subject of the recent session was “Episcopacy and primacy in the ministry of the church”. The  method adopted was the time honoured one  for bilateral talks: introductory reports by experts from both denominations followed by discussion. At the end of the session a document was drawn up in which items of unity, questions open for further discussion and basic divergences were noted.

The talks were, as always, frank and fraternal. The document whose general content was agreed on by the group will be worked on by a small commission and then presented for approval and publication at the next session.

A whole morning was dedicated to an interview by Cardinal W. Kasper in which he recalls his experience in the ecumenical movement.

My impression, as the only Italian to take part in the talks, is that on a world wide scale,  Baptists are becoming more open towards Catholicism including those Baptists who have historically suffered at the hands Catholic majorities. In the light of these talks it is definitely harder to uphold the caricature of Catholic theology often present in Baptist churches.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, shows greater respect for the diversity present in the Baptist churches which cannot be summed up easily for r intrinsic  ecclesiological reasons.

Furthermore, and perhaps of greater interest to the Italian reader in particular, the impression I have from the last session on the episcopal ministry and the primacy of Peter is that the Papal ministry is now  looked upon with more interest to Baptists than in the past. Paradoxically the reasons for such openness are the same which tend to make our relations as Baptists, with Italian Catholics difficult and polemical: ethical questions and the opposition to secularity.

Perhaps I’m not a sufficiently good Italian or a sufficiently good Christian? Or do I pay insufficient attention to symbols? Or perhaps because I am a Baptist I don’t feel that this particular symbol belongs to me? Who knows, perhaps among the various thoughts passing through my mind all these are valid reasons, together with the consideration that I’d like to live in a country where no one expects that their own culture is privileged over others. ?

I think, though, the main reason lies in what I believe is the heart of our faith and in a fundamental question: can the crucified and risen Christ be better known, respected or loved if his statue is nailed to the wall of a classroom or a law court? If the statue of Christ on the cross hangs on the walls, as almost everyone in Italy is demanding, also the xenophobic and intolerant parties, is it more likely that this country will be freed from superstition, from the cynicism of power, from corruption, from verbal and physical violence and from racism, both the kind seen in the streets and that perpetrated by the State?

If that were the case, then I too might have to think again and join the protests of those who are resentful, of those who are convinced defenders of tradition.

The trouble is I don’t believe that will happen. I believe the exact opposite, that is turning the crucified Christ into a sign of ownership which delimits the territory of a country and defending it as a national symbol completely distorts the Christian faith. When the risen Christ for the last time spoke to his disciples before ascending to heaven, he sent them into the world to spread a word: the proclamation of forgiveness, the call to conversion, the good news of a new pact and of reconciliation between heaven and earth in the scarred but living body of the Son of God who died for love, who rose to restore hope when time had already run out. Christ relied on a simple word that was to be proclaimed, not in a national symbol to be maintained. Christians should be unarmed bearers of this word and not expect any privileges. They should put their trust in this word and not try to appropriate it. With their bodies they should become witnesses of a greater love that renews and welcomes without asking for anything in return.

Had she done so she wouldn’t have hesitated to betray her Israelite guests. She could even have got something out of it, a reward. But Rahab discerns the signs of the times, she knows how to read history and knows that on the horizon clouds are looming which threaten Jericho’s survival. Maybe it was because her house was on the top of the city walls that Rahab had a priviliged look out post and could see what others couldn’t; she didn’t believe the news that was being handed out inside the walls of Jericho. They were just lies and said that thing’s couldn’t be better and that there was nothing to fear. Rahab, however, saw the dust of the battle which was raging against Sicon and Og, she could hear the sound of war, the cries of the wounded, the blood flowing like water. Furthermore, Rahab saw beyond the Red sea which had parted to let the Israelites through as they escaped from Egypt; she saw God’s plan, God’s arm raised to set the captives free and to bring down the world’s powerful and corrupt. Rahab clearly perceived that her salvation and that of her family depended on the new people which were advancing guided by God.

There are similarities between this story and the various Rahab or escorts whom we read in some (unfortunately not many) newspapers. One thing is clear: a certain disaffection for the “king of Jericho” even amongst those who would be happy with a bird in the hand. This disaffection or rather, complete lack of faith in the “king of Jericho” is not new for many Italians although it has made little headway. The reason being, it is said, in the lack of news or the biased news and half truths handed out inside the walls of the city. The kings courtiers are said to be too astute or too aggressive. Voices that could have been raised have remained silent so as not to lose their privileges. It’s even been said that what’s missing in Jericho is the Protestant ethic. The system is too weak and has been bent by the power of the strong. Yes, lots of things have been said, often contradicting each other in the hope of finding the right answer. Perhaps it is difficult to have the final word, as we can only say human words, penultimate words which it would be presumptuous to elevate to the level of ultimacy and say “It is God’s will”

However, as people who are guided by faith and not by weighing up the pros and cons which has nothing to do with faith, we are not resigned to prevarication, to laws which violate human rights and grant privileges to those who bear more responsibility. We’re not resigned to the fact that the people always have to wait for a leader able to create a consensus yet unable to find in him or herself strength for a real renewal. There is no guarantee that such a leader isn’t just dancing to his own tune. That is why we admire Rahab’s courage which led her to oppose the king and to discern God’s will where others only saw blurry images. In the Bible Rahab appears as a woman able to discern God’s action in history and to formulate a clear faith confession: “The Lord, your God, is Lord of heaven and earth” (Josh 2,11). We consider her a prophet who knows how to explain God’s action. She tells us that if we listen to God’s action, then we will even witness the collapse of the walls of Jericho. It would be wonderful if we were all like Rahab.

Martin Luther King, Baptist pastor and non violent leader of human rights for the black people of America believed that only he or she who is truly free can be held truly responsible for their actions. Freedom is not arbitrary individualism or  the monopoly of a few at the cost of the many. True freedom is always shared and as such is one of the foundations of democracy.

Over the last few years in Italy we have witnessed the gradual concentration of the mass media  in the hands of  a few ..This evolution seems unstoppable as many people are unawareness and remain indifferent  For this reason we join with all those who demand that the right to pluralistic information for all be respected. We do not intend to delegate to anybody our right to choose nor our responsibility as citizens for what is done in our name.

Finally, speaking of access to information, how many of us know that don Albino Bizzotto has reached his fourteenth day of fasting in a caravan near the Dal Molin base at Vicenza protesting about the decision to create a giant  US air base in the area? Not many. Well then, we want that that sort of information gets around. For this reason, together with our signature for freedom fo the press we also want to express our solidarity with those  who, like Albino Bizzotto, offer their own defenceless body  as a way to gain attention and a sign of the change that is still possible in the world in which we live.

 

Anna Maffei

President Italian Baptist Union

Woe to those who threaten the king! Woe to those who do not obey!

Herod was troubled and all Jerusalem with him. Why all Jerusalem? Wasn’t it enough for the despot to feel threatened? Jerusalem, Jerusalem who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you.. the child king  would prophesy once he had grown up, crying over the city.

No, it takes more than a despot and his army to persecute and massacre. It takes complicity and silence. It takes people who just look the other way.

A despot without the support of the people would be nothing, would have no future. A despot needs a people ready to obey, always ready to say “yes”. People like praising the winners, they feel safe when they’re on the strongest side. In order to survive themselves, they’re prepared to let others die. With indifference.

However, siding with the despot means selling one’s soul.

This year we’ve all heard about refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, a sea of indifference.

We’ve continued to hear about millions of children killed by hunger, thirst or ordinary illnesses. Our world, our Jerusalem has done nothing or very little to stop it. This year arrogance and power have been behind a politics of evil and inhuman praxis.

Many of us have turned the other way.

We, however, want to side with the child king. We want to get involved with the family which is fleeing death, share in the project to free the world from today’s despot and sow the seeds of justice and of peace. We want to dream, pray and walk towards the new Jerusalem.

Christmas means siding  with the child king.

This, then, is my wish: that all who worship the child king do not forget the children that today are fleeing, those who might not make it, those who are abandoned..

Let us dedicate our Christmas prayer to them!

This year, as many of you already know, a delegation of our Union has visited Zimbabwe and personally conveyed the affection of our churches to the brothers and sisters of the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe, four years after the start of our covenant of mission and service.

The trip undertaken by Dr. Mescia (a  member of the executive committee) and myself together with a troupe from Protestantesimo, made us even more aware of how important it is for us today to side with the child king, helping to offer children (and adults) a way to face the future fearlessly.

Christmas time is a time for giving.

Let us give generously to support the families in our churches who are in difficulty.

Let us give to support our Union.

Let us give to support the European Baptist Mission with the Free Will Offering

Let us give for Zimbabwe.

Be generous and be joyful. God loves a cheerful giver. It is a true fact that every time we give more than we can afford our heart is filled with deep joy. It is the joy of integrity, of matching what we say with what we do. It is the joy of obeying the kingdom’s economy, one which is opposite to the economic system which governs and ruins our world.

Best wishes, then, to you all, to your families, and to your churches.

From January 2006 , however, in the light of terrible loss and suffering hope was born as many churches belonging to the UCEBI longed to be the answer to the prayers of the suffering people, as someone from Zimbabwe expressed it.

When we returned to Italy, back then, we wondered what we could do with our resources which, compared to the enormous need, were very limited. At the most we had five loaves and two small fishes for five thousand people.

We trusted them to the Lord who used them, as always, in an amazing way.

Our journey through the Harare churches of Emmanuel and Glen View where two wells for drinking water have been dug, into the Tafara suburbs where a nutritional centre for children has been started and a distance adoption campaign is in full swing, was undertaken in the midst of smiling faces, hand shakes and hugs.

Everything was filmed by Luca Bemportato, under the efficient and loving guidance of Lucia Cuocci the director of “Protestantism”, two new travelling companions who have worked on the programme about this journey.

The visit to the Sanyati hospital and the country surgeries of Goredema, Mtange and Nanyunga and the meetings with the staff of various outposts made us realize how serious the problems still are but also allowed us to meet people who have been uplifted and have once more found something to thank God for.

The visit to the Gweru Seminary (the theological college with about a hundred students) and the meeting with the Executive Committee of the Zimbabwe Baptist Convention were stages on a journey of hope and newfound gratitude to God for the Italian Baptists which He had somehow put on their pathway. But we too were grateful as, although we monitor regularly and seriously the aid we send, what we found in people and in places, far outweighed our expectations.

It was clear to us that God has multiplied our efforts to an unexpected extent.

This is what we want to convey to all the sisters and brothers in our churches. May God alone be glorified.

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