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Sunday Law Proposed in European Nation

Sunday Law Proposed in European Nation

Perhaps little noticed among other major world headlines, a movement is beginning to sweep across the European continent. It’s a legal push to restrict, if not totally outlaw, opening businesses on the first day of the week, Sunday.

Last fall, the Republic of Croatia became the latest European nation to propose a “work-free Sunday” law. Media reports indicate that only “newsstands, bakeries, petrol station convenience shops, and shops at bus and railways stations” would be allowed to operate seven days a week.

There are approximately 2,500 Jews living in Croatia these days, and another 2,500 Seventh-day Adventists—both groups observe the Bible Sabbath, Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. Those are tiny portions of the population in a nation of 4.1 million people. Close to 91 percent of Croats are either Roman Catholic (86 percent) or members of Eastern Orthodox churches (4.5 percent), and 1.5 percent of the population is Muslim.

Family Time Is Key

It’s that “family time” argument that is the focus of the discussions of the proposed legislation. “According to Eurostat data for 2019, Croatians have some of the longest working hours in the European Union. The average employee is shown to spend 39.9 hours a week at work, with only Bulgarians and Romanians pulling longer hours—40.4 and 40.5 hours per week respectively,” states the Emerging Europe news website.

The website adds, “Over 80 per cent of Croatians reported being too tired from work to complete household chores, almost 70 per cent describe not having sufficient time to fulfill family duties, and over half struggle to concentrate at work because of family responsibilities at least several times a month. The new work-free Sunday law aims to address these issues and is in line with the Directive of Work-Life Balance adopted by the European Parliament last year and is expected to be incorporated into the national legislation of EU countries by 2022.”

If people feel so overwhelmed by their working lives that family duties fall by the wayside, then, according to the EU, the government has an obligation to step in and mitigate these circumstances. What was once the province of employees to negotiate with their employers is now to become a state-mandated rule. (It can be properly argued that governmental involvement, such as concerning safety in the workplace and child labor, are beneficial to society overall. It’s when such rules trample on other basic freedoms, such as religious liberty, that problems arise.)

And Labor & Pension System Minister Josip Aladrovic made this fascinating statement to Croatia Week: “Our general view is that Sunday should be a non-working day but aside from that worldview… parameter, we must also take account of economic parameters and be aware of the situation we are in and try to make a compromise.” 

Sunday as a day where work should not be done is this government’s “worldview,” its fundamental perspective on how people should behave. This seems to go much deeper than mere policy. If it weren’t for certain “economic parameters” held by the trade unions, it is implied that this Sunday law would have even more stringent guidelines.

No Respect for Minority Rights

None of the media reports we’ve seen offer even a nod toward the rights of religious minorities. This is particularly tragic considering Croatia’s involvement in fascism during the Second World War, when the Ustaše movement was responsible for the deaths of between 30,000 and 50,000 Jews as well as hundreds of thousands of others. Let us hope that lessons learned from this brutal past will heed a greater tolerance for religious liberty in the near future.

How will this nation protect the least among its number? Will there be exemptions for the shop owner who wishes to open on Sunday but close on Saturday to observe the Bible Sabbath? After all, if the issue is really about family values, then what does it matter which day a business takes off as long as it gets in that designated time to perform family duties?

But if it’s not only about family values—if it is about religion—then it’s a whole different ball game.

The Family of God

The Mark of the Best Study Guide

Then this Croatian law becomes not only a preview but a harbinger of prophecy, when the entire world is going to clamor for a unified day of worship and join hands to repress those who don’t comply. As Revelation forewarns, “All the world marveled and followed the beast[, and] … as many as would not worship the image of the beast [will] … be killed” (13:3, 15).

It is important to understand what the Bible reveals to us about the trials that lie ahead concerning the true Sabbath and its counterfeit, and you can learn all about them in our free, online Study Guide: “The Mark of the Beast.”

But it is also important to realize that while we do have an enemy, so much more so do we have our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who “[came] that [we] may have life, and that [we] may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10), for “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (1:4).

In fact, that is what the Bible’s day of rest, the Sabbath, is all about: remembering that God gave us life—“for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11)—and experiencing that abundant life with Him. For a complete picture of the beauty of the Sabbath day, check out our free, online article, “When God Said Remember.

Wouldn’t being part of this family—God’s family—be worth living for?

This article contributed by Mark A. Kellner
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