The Baptist pastor who has debated with Ursula von der Leyen about the future of Europe

Christians & European Elections (3). The Moldovan Valeriu Ghiletchi leads a movement of Christian politicians in Europe. He calls on citizens to defend the rights enjoyed on the continent.

Joel Forster

07 MAY 2024 · 13:24 CET

Valeriu Ghiletchi, Baptist pastor and leader of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), after the Maastricht Debate, 29 April 2024. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="">Twitter ECPM</a>.,
Valeriu Ghiletchi, Baptist pastor and leader of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), after the Maastricht Debate, 29 April 2024. / Photo: Twitter ECPM.

A Baptist pastor at the head of a collection of small Christian parties wants to influence the decisions the European Union takes over the next five years.

Valeriu Ghiletchi (from Moldova) had his own lectern at the “Maastricht Debate”, where the powerful Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission and favourite to remain at the helm of the bloc, debated her ideas with all the groups of the European Parliament.

According to the recent Eurobarometer survey one month before the European elections, there are four issues that concern citizens: the risk of poverty, public health systems, access to quality jobs, and defence and security in the event of war (an issue that Christians consulted by Evangelical Focus in several countries consider crucial).

With 73% saying that that EU decisions have an impact on their daily lives, the 6-9 June vote is expected to have a higher turnout than previous elections.


Ghiletchi: “Care for your fundamental freedoms”

In the debate on 29 April, Valeriu Ghiletichi presented his understanding of Europe’s future from a Christian worldview. “I encourage you to care for your fundamental freedoms”, the Baptist pastor told the audience.

The candidate, who has lived half his life in Soviet-influenced Moldova, is particularly sensitive to the reality of corruption, so he asked current President Von Der Leyen: “Do you commit here to be totally transparent with the EU citizens, if you are appointed to another term leading the EU Commission?”

Ghiletchi chairs the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), a heterogeneous group that unites 5 Members of the European Parliament (2 from the Netherlands, and one each from Germany, Romania and Hungary). His political platform works with parties in 16 countries and unites different projects that agree on priorities such as: protecting life, defending fundamental freedoms, a fair economy, support for families, fighting slavery, and “recognising the Christian roots of EU member states [because] there is value in this heritage”.

The ECPM’s spitzenkandidat (the term for the person chosen by each political group to lead the EU) is a pastor of the Isus Salvatorul (Jesus Saviour) church in Moldova and a former president of the European Baptist Federation.

Addressing climate change, he sought to give an approach that represents different trends among Christians. “We believe that nature was created by God and we as human beings are called to protect it, and to preserve it. A balanced approach to preserving nature and the flourishing and wellbeing of people”, he said.


Fighting for freedom of expression

Although unknown to most, Ghiletchi is not new to the political scene. As a member of the Council of Europe, a parliament that includes countries beyond the EU, he managed to get a majority to adopt a resolution on “tackling intolerance in Europe with a special focus on Christians”. His argument was that while many would not like to admit it, a growing environment of intolerance is censoring those with Christian convictions in key public spaces such as workplaces and schools.

“In these modern times we need more freedom of religion, not less”, he argued at the Council of Europe in January 2015. Europe should work to ensure “peaceful coexistence” for all, “whether someone believes or not”.

The Baptist pastor who has debated with Ursula von der Leyen about the future of Europe

  Photo: Markus Spiske, Unsplash, CC0

Engaging in European politics?

As reported in the first report of this series, many Christians see the European Union as a distant entity, while others consider that the dominant ideologies in Brussels clash with Christian values and the ability of people to decide for themselves.

However, it is not only the ECPM that is positive about trying to bring a committed Christian voice into the European debate. Other new political projects promoted by evangelicals are also seeking space.

The European Evangelical Alliance (EEA), which has been quietly representing an evangelical worldview for 30 years with its office near the European Parliament in Brussels, is another body hoping to share a positive vision of gospel and political engagement.

With a reflection pack in the run-up to the European elections, the EEA has encouraged prayer and participation in the future of the EU. “Politics is what everyone who chooses to get involved can do and say to help shape the society they live in”, the EEA said. “If we opt out, others will carry on doing the shaping almost certainly in ways we don't like. It may seem that citizens have little possible influence over the affairs of the city, but let's hold on to what we can do”.

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