Monthly Archives: April 2018

Civil Society and Democracy in Central Europe

By Rüdiger Noll, Executive Secretary of Oikosnet Europe
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The project on strengthening civil society and deliberative democracy in Central Europe enters into its final planning stage. It is a joint project of Oikosnet Europe, the Association of Protestant Academies in Germany and the Protestant Academy in Rostock and invites academies and church-related stakeholders from Central Europe to participate.

A first stakeholder meeting took place in April 2018 in Berlin with participants from the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Sweden. The meeting reviewed the latest project description and agreed with the aims, the general direction and the set-up of the project. The potential of the project to make a difference was recognised in increasingly difficult times for democracy and peoples´ participation in Europe. Most important, however, was a reality check: which concrete steps can be taken, when civil society is discredited in some countries and the relation between church-related organisations and civil society partners is not evident (from both sides). Therefore, the discussion on target groups and driving forces in the project was crucial. The results of the stakeholder meeting will be captured in a revised project description, which will be available from noll@evangelische-akademien.de. A first funding request for the project needs to be in place by June.”

Board meeting in Strasbourg

The board of Oikosnet Europe met March 19 in the beautiful city of Strasbourg (see the picture that I took as we were walking through the city for lunch). We were hosted by Union des Eglises protestantes d’Alsace et de Lorraine (UEPAL). One of the most important items on the agenda was of course to discuss various dimensions of the Annual Conference that will take place in the Orthodox Academy of Crete.

The board that was elected in Flehingen, with Walter Lüssi as the new president, is now working on several issues related to how Oikosnet Europe can be significant and fruitful for all its members. How can we inspire more collaboration projects with the community? What themes should be advanced at this point in time? We, as members, are of course of great importance for the development of the association. If you have creative ideas, please prepare to present them at the Annual Conference in Crete!

Alf Linderman, Director of the Sigtuna Foundation

Religious communities should realize their peace potential

Dear Colleagues, dear Members of Oikosnet Europe

In different contexts, our members, academies and educational institutions convince with their expertise. They take position in important social discourses and present their own argumentation. At the same time, they provide a platform for encounters and controversial discussions. That the latter can be important and exciting, we recently learned at an event in Zurich.

Religious communities should realize their peace potential and actively engage in peace as important actors. For this attitude, the podium guests recently voted in a debate on religious peace-keeping in Zurich. Plusbildung, the Swiss association of church educational organizations, had invited for the event.

“Religion can make conflict more difficult – religion is a successful peacemaker.” This ambiguity was presented by Silke Lechner, the deputy head of the working group on Peace Responsibility of Religions at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, in her keynote address with pointed theses. Wars usually have several causes, and little is said about the peace potential of churches, she said. Her team is therefore focusing on the peace policy potential of religious communities worldwide and strives to build a network of suitable religious representatives who actively promote peace. Because these are strongly networked, trustworthy key persons. And especially the participation of internationally networked religious actors is increasingly in demand from the political side, according to the former study director of the German Protestant Kirchentag.

For the first time in Switzerland representatives from politics and religious communities met and discussed on this topic. Among them were Jean-Nicolas Bitter, Senior Advisor to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and Rev. Thomas Wipf, President of the European Interreligious Council of Religious Leaders ECRL. On the one hand, the churches and religious communities have been encouraged to see themselves as “key players” in society, keeping an eye on the international perspective and networking. On the other hand, they were self-critical, since they still have to do their homework, that is, to break away from the ideological-embossing influence of religion and to discover the peace potential of the religions themselves.

I wish our members good luck with their efforts, be it as a “forum” or as a “factor”. And I am looking forward to meeting many delegates at our Annual Conference in September!

Walter Lüssi, President of Oikosnet Europe

Walter Lüssi