Speech by Bishop Teemu Laajasalo at the opening of the Eurodiaconia Annual General Meeting 25.4.2023.
This year your meeting will be hosted by the Helsinki Deaconess Foundation. The Deaconess Foundation began in 1867 as an infirmary and a training centre for future deaconesses. Over the decades, it has grown into a multifaceted expert on social problems, a defender of human dignity and a Contributor for the public good. Today, its activities are still guided by a Christian love of neighbour.
It is inspiring that the Helsinki Deaconess Foundation is older than independent Finland. Just think, rulers come and go, social orders change their shape, but the vision of the Gospel finds its successor, its defender, its realiser. Through its work, the Helsinki Deaconess Foundation bears witness to the order of the Kingdom of God. For the Deaconess Foundation, the smallest continue to be the greatest. The sick, the sad and the obscene. The tortured, the beggars and the poor.
This year, the theme of your meeting is hope. Hope is both a mission and a gift. The mission means that we must try to maintain an atmosphere of hope despite all the sorrows, griefs and problems in the world. The concept of hope as a gift from God means that, even if there is no human hope in sight, man has the promise of hope, and the idea of hope helps him.
Essential to hope is a sense of control over one’s life and a sense that there are goals towards which one can strive regardless of one’s current situation. Even if the near future looks distressing, one must have the courage to look beyond it.
Hope is not a probability calculation. Hope is not just a feeling of optimism. Hope is a mission given to us. Early in his Table talks, “Tisch reden”, Martin Luther summed it up: “Alles, was in der Welt erreicht wurde, wurde aus Hoffnung getan.” ’Everything that has been achieved in the world has been done out of hope.’ Our task is to resist gloom and hopelessness, to encourage our fellow human beings and to reassure them that once again, all will be well.
We adults, who have a longer perspective on life than children and young people, must focus on keeping hope alive. What we are struggling with now is not permanent. We will get through these difficulties as previous generations have got through their own crises. There is joy and light in the future.
Eurodiakonia builds hope. It does not just talk about it or tell about it. It builds new beginnings and new horizons for people over difficulties. At the same time, diakonia is based on the idea that hope is never just up to us. Hope is Christ himself. In Him, all of us who works in the field of diaconia can trust ourselves, grateful in the midst of success and comforted after failure. God bless you all and the work of each of you!