|Republic of Austria|
Area 83,855 sq.km. Landlocked. The Alps, in the south and west; flat plains along the Danube River in the east.
Capital Vienna 2,072,000 over 25% of the population. Urbanites 65%.
Indigenous 93%. German-speaking 7,635,000; Gypsy 9,200.
Immigrants and Refugees 7%. Former Yugoslavian (Albanian, Slovene, Croat, Bosnian, Serb) 240,000, Turk 100,000; Other EU 100,000; Roma (Gypsy) 40,000; Kurd 25,000; Arab 4,000; Iranian 3,000; Chinese 2,000.
Literacy 100%. Official language German.
Predominantly industrial. Many trade and commercial links with the developing economies of Central Europe. Over 10% of the workforce is foreign. HDI 0.904; 16th/174. Income/person $26,890 (89% of USA). Public debt 54% of GNP.
The heart of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918. A multi-party democratic republic. A neutral buffer state between West and East from 1945 to 1990. A member of the EU. The FPÖ, a nationalist right-wing party, grew and became part of a coalition government leading to increased pressure on the large immigrant population and severe restrictions on further immigration.
The relationship between the state and the Catholic/Reformed Churches is defined in the constitution. Freedom of religion was restricted by new legislation in 1998 when conditions for formal recognition of newer and smaller religious groups were made more difficult. This has impacted all evangelical groups.
1 Austria is a cultured nation famed for its music, art and beautiful scenery. Yet Austrians need a personal faith in Christ, and only a small minority have clearly heard how they may find one. Over 75% of the population is Christian in name, but with no meaningful link with any church, yet an estimated 80% have had dealings with the occult. The high suicide, abortion and alcoholism statistics indicate the spiritual need. Pray for this nation to be set free by the power of Jesus.
2 Austria is Catholic by culture, not commitment. The annual membership loss accelerated in the 1990s to 35-40,000. The number of priests has declined and the priesthood has been stained by prominent sex scandals. Twelve years of religious education during childhood 'inoculates' the population against vital personal faith in Christ and results in rejection of both the Catholic Church and any others. In 1539 over 90% of Austrians were following the Reformation; today 3% of the younger generation go to church. There is a small renewal movement in the Catholic Church. Pray that prejudice and antipathy may be broken down.
3 New legislation restricting the rights and privileges of smaller religions and churches further marginalize the many small and struggling evangelical fellowships. Especially in rural areas, those who seek the Lord are ostracized or pressured so that few dare seek for personal salvation. Pray for legal and social barriers to the gospel to be demolished.
4 The Lutheran and Reformed Churches are declining by nearly 1% annually (3,000 adherents lost every year). Formalism and tradition have little attraction for the younger generation. There are a number of Bible-believing pastors, but nominalism is even more prevalent than in the Catholic Church. Pray for ABCÖ, a group of evangelical pastors and lay leaders which seeks to deepen spiritual life and combat theological liberalism within the Lutheran Church. Pray too for a move of the Spirit of God in these churches that will make them a force for the evangelization of the land.
5 Newer evangelical/Pentecostal churches are few and small in number, but growing. During the 1980s, congregations almost doubled in number, rising from 57 to 97, and attendances tripled, but in the 1990s this growth slowed. Born-again believers in these churches and in the mainline denominations combined may still number less than 20,000. Pray for the multiplication of congregations where the Lord Jesus Christ is proclaimed and honoured. Pray also for the efforts of both the Evangelical Alliance (ÖEA) and the Fellowship of Evangelical Congregations in Austria (ARGEGÖ) to bring more cooperative action to the fragmented evangelical cause.
6 Pastors for the congregations are needed. Too few Austrians enter full-time Christian service, and even fewer go as missionaries to other lands. Too many rely on foreigners. BAÖ (Bible Training on Location), a de-centralized programme of non-formal courses based in Vienna, has 450 students receiving training. Pray for the expansion of BAÖ in Austria and beyond. Pray also for EBÖ, a second TEE-type programme launched in 2001. Pray for God to raise up men and women with a passion for the Kingdom, for holiness, and for people to be won.
c) Cultists: The aggressive activities of New Age movements, Eastern cults, Jehovah's Witnesses (more numerous than evangelicals) and Mormons have gained a considerable following among younger people. Pray both for the nullification of these efforts and for the release of those ensnared.
8 Refugees have flooded into Austria since WWII from Communism up to 1990 and, later, from the Yugoslav wars and economic hardships in Central Europe. Many have integrated into Austrian society. Pray that Austrian believers may reach out to these strangers in their midst.
9 Expatriate missionaries have declined in numbers through attrition and visa restrictions. Major agencies are IT (43 workers), OM (42), Christian Brethren (39), CBI (31), TEAM (28), YWAM (27), GEM (20), ECM (19), CEF (16), AoG (12). The majority of churches planted have been through the ministry of expatriates in winning and discipling Austrians. Progress is slow, but the spiritual need remains great. Pray for perseverance, expectation of a coming harvest and fruitfulness for these missionaries.
10 Witness among the 222,000 students is one of the most fruitful in the land today. Over half of these are in Vienna, where there are also 15,000 international students. Strong groups in the seven universities are growing in depth and outreach. Pray that these young Christians may have an impact on the land and its churches. Pray also for the ministries of ÖSM(IFES), CCC and Navigators on the campuses of Austria. Both CEF (with 18 workers) and SU have an appreciated, but limited, ministry to school-age children.
a) Literature ministries. Scripture distribution by The Bible Society and the literature ministries of Austrian Bible Mission and CLC all need prayer. The Bible is used as a textbook in schools and supplied free to every child.
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