1 May is a day for Europe, a new chapter of history is opened up seeing the accession of 10 new member states to the European Union (EU). The 10 nations officially became members dawned in central and Eastern Europe. They are Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta.
The event was marked by fireworks and street celebrations. Church bells rang and fireworks lit up the sky over Eastern Europe at the stroke of midnight. Heads of state were gathered in Ireland for a formal Day of Welcomes. Ireland Prime Minister Bertie Ahern was to start the day with Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders at a "Prayers for Europe" ceremony in Dublin Castle.
The expansion of EU is encouraging to most of the Christians because these new entrants have a stronger Christian faith background than the original EU members in its Western counterparts. Religious sociologists expect that these millions of Christians will bring their faith with them, hoping the prosperity membership can help to lower the risk of secularisation in Christendom of Europe.
Colin Ride, Secretary for Europe at The Methodist Church of the Great Britain spoke for Methodists a warmly welcome to the new countries into the EU.
Mr Ride, responsible for the development of new mission initiatives within Europe, and for relationships with Methodist and ecumenical partners, is optimistic about the benefits of EU enlargement. He commented, "The EU should be, above all, a community of values working for peace and security. More than a policy making and economic body, the EU is a platform for people of European countries to work together. It is the best approach we have in the development of peace, unity, mutual respect and understanding."
For the Methodist Church, however, Europe is larger than the EU as their mission field will not be confined in EU. All Methodist Churches across Europe are minority churches, particularly in those post- communist societies have struggled to establish the Christian values. The Methodist family across Europe will be well- united to learn about mission.
Mr Rides said, the United Methodist Church in Russia, or in the Balkans, are committed to outreach programmes particularly amongst the very vulnerable such as the Roma people.
Ride concluded a message to the expansion of EU, "Let us not allow our different cultures, faiths or languages to keep us apart. Instead let us honour diversity and work for those shared values and beliefs that bind us together"