Population: 8.4 million (2012)
Major religion: Roman Catholicism
Official language: German
IFES movement: Österreichische Studentenmission (ÖSM)
Austria is a typical wealthy European country. Few people are interested in Christianity. Although 75% of the population consider themselves Roman Catholic only a small proportion practises their faith.
- around 50 universities; almost every city has an IFES group
- 4 full-time and part-time staff workers
- small graduates ministry, with two retreats a year
- largest group in Vienna has about 40 students; smallest group has 3 students
ÖSM is characterised by the strong commitment of students, both to each other and to welcoming and befriending other students. They launched the Mark project in 2011/2012, designing, printing and distributing 10,000 gospels of Mark and inviting their friends for activities around the gospel. An exciting development was churches adopting the Mark Drama and also performing with ÖSM students. This has led to the establishing of Christianity Explored courses. They are currently working on another project based on Luke’s Gospel, which will be launched in autumn 2014. The hope is to establish new small groups.
ÖSM Austria will be affected by a proposed change to the study system at the universities. Shorter time of study will mean a higher turnover in student groups with less time for students to build strong communities and grow into leadership roles.
View from the inside
Andreas Eyl is the former General Secretary of ÖSM Austria. He has appreciated IFES European conferences for the opportunity they have offered Austrian students and staff to be encouraged and inspired by other European students. These events have also reminded them that their challenging secular context is shared and have given them the chance to discuss new ways of sharing an eternally relevant gospel with their friends.
Among many verses from the Bible that have inspired his ministry and vision is 2 Corinthians 5: ‘For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.’
- for students to have a deep understanding of the gospel of grace, and motivation to find ways to communicate this gospel;
- for students to use well the time they have, in spite of the changes in the educational system.