Austria is a country famous for its culture, music and arts. It has breathtakingly beautiful scenery with magnificent lakes, large forests, high mountains and a huge diversity of animal life. Austria also has a long and painful history as a country set in the heart of Europe. In the 16th century the Habsburg dynasty not only ruled the Austrian provinces but also Spain, and large parts of the New World. At the time the Emperor coined the phrase that he ruled an Empire where the sun never set. Today Austria is a small country in the centre of Europe.
Austria also had a turbulent history during the time of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. It was first Roman Catholic, and then the ‘new’ gospel of the Reformation won the hearts of approximately 80% of the population. But only 30 years later the Counter-Reformation led by the Roman-Catholic Church and the Habsburg ruler resulted in suppression, persecution, expulsion and murder of thousands of Protestant believers … and the Austrian Empire became one of the strongest Roman Catholic countries in the world, with more than 90% Roman Catholic believers.
The drama in the 16th century had a strong impact on society, not only in religious beliefs but also in cultural behavior, values and personal beliefs. Believing in God or not became a private, hidden aspect of life. Being part of the religious system was the keeping of tradition, and obedience to the ruler.
Today the influence of the Roman Catholic Church is decreasing – only 62% of the population is still nominally Catholic. However, on the increase is not the protestant-evangelical denomination but rather Islam, the second largest confession in Austria with more than 6% of the population. Since World War II, the fastest growing group is those who claim ‘no confession’, now representing more than 20% of the population.
OM Austria is as passionate today as at the beginning in desiring to be an instrument of hope in the hearts of communities, to see lives changed and society positively influenced.
Therefore we are: