On a trip to Italy a number of years ago, I was struck by the magnificence of the churches, cathedrals, and basilicas. At the same time, I was even more astonished by the emptiness of these incredible edifices of European civilization. Most of the people populating these churches were older women; hardly any young people were present. Yet, Italy has a much greater church attendance than the Netherlands, France, Germany or the United Kingdom (UK).
In many of the European countries however, the shrinking attendance and affiliation has forced churches to close down, or be sold to the ever growing Muslim communities in Europe. It also reflects the decline of the Christian faith in Europe – both Catholic and Protestant. This phenomenon bodes ill for Europe, whose Christian faith sustained and enriched it for centuries. Christianity today, more than ever before, can be a unifying factor in a continent that has lost faith in the future. This loss of faith is manifested in the decline of fertility rates, marriages, and children. Conversely, the influx of millions of young Muslims with high fertility rates has transformed the educational system in Europe, where in some grammar and high-schools, Muslim children (mostly of North African parentage) count for over 50% of the pupils. It has also impacted on the culture and politics of Europe.
In today’s Europe the subliminal statement emanating from the political and cultural elites is “we would rather be Green (Muslim) than dead.” It is a symbol of submission, lack of will, and resignation. Europe has essentially lost its will to fight for its faith and culture. Decades of elevating multi-culturalism by the elites into a “religion” of sorts, has removed European pride in their national heritage. How can one explain European mega-mosques in Rome, Helsinki and the one being constructed in Cologne, Germany? No Christian churches (not to mention synagogues) or bibles are allowed in Saudi Arabia, nor are new churches permitted to be built in Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, or Iran.
A Pew Research Center and Wall Street Journal survey (2010) shows that the number of people in the Western European states that are unaffiliated is staggering. In the Netherlands it is 42.1%, in France 28%, in Germany 24.7%, UK 21.3%, and Italy 12.4%. These figures do not, of course, indicate that in Italy, 87.6% are regular churchgoers. It only means a nominal affiliation with a church. This is occurring in Italy, at the heart of the Catholic Church where the Vatican is located.
The Anglican churches in the UK are not faring any better. Anglican churches in Britain are being sold and transformed into mosques. A similar phenomenon is taking place in Germany and the Netherlands with Lutheran and Dutch Reform churches. Vatican Insider reported (11/9/2012) “About twenty Anglican churches In Great Britain ‘shut up shop’ each year. This persistent phenomenon has led the Church of England to publish a list of religious buildings it is prepared to sell.” Marco Tosatti in the Vatican Insider writes, “The trend of converting churches into mosques is not just limited to the (Middle) East; according to Fr. Lazzara it is a common phenomenon across central and northern Europe.” In the Netherlands, as many as 250 buildings, where Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists had prayed for over a century, were sold. Amsterdam’s Fatih Camii mosque had once been a Catholic Church. The Church of St. Vincetius was auctioned off along with its liturgical furnishings and used in a ‘profane’ way.”
According to the Wall Street Journal (January 3-4, 2015), “Roughly 200 Danish churches have been deemed nonviable or underused. The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has shut about 515 churches in the past decade. In the Netherlands, Roman Catholic Church leaders estimate that two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be out of commission in a decade, and 700 of Holland’s Protestant churches are expected to close within four years.”
The mass circulation German daily Bild reported that “More and more churches are being transformed into mosques.” Vatican Insider (11/9/2012) informed that the spokesperson for the Archbishop of Berlin, Stefan Foerner, does not exclude the possibility of a Catholic church being sold to the Muslims in the future. In Denmark, the Bishop of the Lutheran Diocese of Copenhagen said it is possible he may have to close ten churches which have been abandoned by their congregations: St. Andrew’s church, in the heart of the Danish capital, which was originally designed to hold a thousand people, today is attended by just a few dozen faithful.
While churches are closing their doors, new mosques are flourishing. According to the Soaren Kern article in the Gatestone Institute (January 16, 2012) “The total number of mosques in France has already doubled to more than 2,000 during just the past ten years.” The rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, has called for the number of mosques in the country to be doubled again -- to 4,000 -- to meet growing demand. The same article reveals that although 64% of France’s 65 million inhabitants identify themselves as Roman Catholics, only 4.5% are actually practicing Catholics. By comparison, of the 6 million Muslims in France, 75% identify themselves as believers, and 41% consider themselves practicing Muslims…this according to the French Institute of Public Opinion.
Signs of an apparent pushback are beginning to appear in the Continent. Europeans are rebelling against the elites in their respective states. Anti-immigration and nationalist parties have made significant gains in the recent European Union parliamentary elections. Throughout the European Union countries, parties such as the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, UK Independence Party in Britain, Liga Nord in Italy, the National Front in France, and the Danish People’s Party have gained momentum. They are pointing out the dangers radical Islam is posing to the cultural and political fabric of Europe.
Geert Wilders, founder and leader of Netherlands Freedom Party, has campaigned to end Muslim immigration to the Netherlands and to repatriate Muslims currently living in Holland. He has been articulate and bold in his statements that have outraged the “politically correct” elites. He declared (2007) in the Dutch Parliament that, “Islam is a Trojan Horse in Europe. If we do not stop Islamification now, Eurabia and Netherabia will just be a matter of time.”
Today, Wilders is no longer a lone voice on the European scene warning against the Islamization of Europe (not against Muslims as such however). In Dresden, Germany this last fall, the group calling itself Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) organized tens of thousands of demonstrators to protest against the “Islamization of Europe.” They have adopted the slogan used against the East German Communist authorities in 1989, “Wir sind das Volk,” (“We are the People”). Pegida has sought to distance itself from Germany’s far-right. Still, the leaders singled out Muslim immigrants in their speeches.
Upon further contemplation, I am astonished at the Europeans lack of pride in their culture, and how readily they are willing to give up their foundational monuments. Historical reflection on the last century’s two world wars that killed 6 million innocent Jews, millions of Europeans soldiers and civilians, and devastated the continent, can perhaps rationalize the European apathy. Nevertheless, it cannot explain the European abandonment of their Judeo-Christian heritage. And as the churches go, so does Europe itself.
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