In troubled times, Europe asks: What does being 'European' really mean?

From islanders on the front lines of the refugee crisis, to those living in Europe’s biggest metropolises, to those tucked into rural communities far removed from the politics of their capitals, many feel that the European Union is at a crossroads.

Sibylle Hamann, a journalist in Vienna, Austria

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
Sbylle Hamann, journalist, Austria.

Her country could be the first in the European Union to elect a far-right leader as president when Austrians head to the polls Oct. 2 for an election re-run, after the first vote was declared null due to voting irregularities. Neither the center-right nor center-left will be competing: neither made it to round two.

"I’m born in Vienna, the father of my kids is born in Vienna, and our kids are born in Vienna. So we are totally Viennese. [My identity] is very strongly Viennese. And I would also agree that it is European, but not Austrian. Because I have very [little] in common with people who live in the mountains somewhere. … [In Europe] I just see disintegration all over the place. I only see national interests working....

"We have lived through 20 years of pro-European euphoria, at least I have, and I always thought that we were taking one step after the other towards more integration. And all the sudden it’s that you see when people aren’t ready to take these steps, it’s not going to happen. And you do see people in power in different places and maybe even so in Austria who will just undo this completely. For the first time I really see that this is possible."

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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