Saturday, May 19, 2007

YMCA - Part II

I just came back from Kiev (Ukraine), where I attended for the second time the meeting of the General Assembly of the European Alliance of YMCA. Last year, I truly enjoyed attending it and especially the speech of Johan Vilhelm Eltvik, its Secretary General. This year was even better, because I already knew a good bunch of interesting people, met some more and Johan’s speech was anything but deceiving. The motto for this year’s General Assembly was “In my Father’s house there are many rooms” and, therefore, Johan’s speech was focused on ecumenical dialogue and, in a broader way, on tolerance and positive valuing of diversity. Johan is a Lutheran theologian, but one of a special kind! He has understood that Christian theology isn’t about arguing in favour of one single truth, but rather about the wonder of Incarnation, the simple fact that God always come to ordinary people wherever they are, everywhere and in every different culture. In his own words: “The Son of God was a Jew from Palestine, born in the city of Bethlehem. He dressed like a Palestinian and helped saving a problem by making water into wine. If he had been born a Norwegian on the west coast, he would have dressed like a fisherman and not lived under the hot Palestinian sun, but in the heavy rain from the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike the Scots who use that Atlantic rain to make whisky, on the west coast of Norway, Jesus would have made water into coffee, which would hardly stand out as a miracle, since all of us make coffee from water every day”.

Apart from praising unity in diversity, Johan referred also to the fact that on Thursday it was the Norwegian Independence Day and could not avoid talking about the relationships between Norway and Sweden. For that he came back to the quotations of children that you might remember from my entry about his last year’s speech. The same group of children who said that Jesus came back from death three days later, full of mud and dirt, but in excellent mood.

“In 1905 the countries were divided in two erogenous zones, so that we should become better friends”

“It is so cool that Norway and Sweden were divided. In this way it is no longer one big boring country, but two small boring countries”

“At the end there was a war between Sweden and Norway. Luckily Sweden won, so that we could get rid of Norway”

“It is God who gave us Sweden, and it is God who did not want Norway”

Conclusion from Johan: “Earlier today I mentioned that if Jesus was Scottish, he would have made whisky from water, and on the west coast of Norway he would have made coffee from water. And furthermore, and now, Swedish friends, I decide to be humble, for a change, when I say that if, and I underline as strongly as I can, IF Jesus was Swedish he would have told the parable of the good Norwegian, something totally unexpected”!


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