Category Archives: News from Oikosnet

Welcome to the  official site of Oikosnet Europe!
Each year more than 200.000 people from all walks of life participate in about 2.000 conferences and other gatherings in our about 60 member centres in 14 European countries The OIKOSNET Europe member centres seek in their work to understand and actualise the significance of the gospel for the renewal and unity of the churches as a whole. They work at empowering the laity and they collaborate in dealing with actual social problems by dialogue. They endeavour to assist in giving guidance for necessary changes in living conditions with a commitment to social justice and integrity of creation. They contribute to making it possible for individuals and groups to share in a mature way in the organisation of society and in a peaceful order among the nations.   

Welcome to the Annual Conference 2018

The Orthodox Academy of Crete 5 – 9 September 2018
Book your flights, pack your summer clothes and bring along your enthusiasm and your ideas to the next Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe. Save the date September 5 until September 9 . The rest will be taken care of by the Orthodox Academy of Crete.

“Anyone who moves on this island feels a mysterious power, warm, good, branched into his veins and his soul grows,” Nikos Kazantzakis, the great Cretan writer, writes in his book “Report to Greco”. Crete: the cradle of civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was inhabited by the Minoans 9.000 years ago, and the visitor can still see the whole history of the island in a scattered mosaic of living ancient ruins!

Within this frame of history, the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC) began its work, celebrating next year fifty (50) years of work since the day of its inauguration (1968-2018). Inspired by the Platonic tradition of symphilosophein, the OAC aspires to be a place for dialogue and spiritual exchange in the diaconia of God and human beings. A continuous dialogue between faith, science and culture.

The scheduled Annual Conference 2018 at the OAC constitutes a chance to meet and look with respect at the past and with confidence towards the future. The status quo in Greece and Europe is not the best one in History. The manifold faces of the crisis, on an economic as well as cultural level, do not allow us to proceed with new ideas for the future. We must find answers to essential questions with regard to what the crisis has taught us during the last years, how we are going to make the vision of Europe a realistic one and how we are going to take the hurdles and “reach what we cannot” (Nikos Kazantzakis).

Book your flights, pack your summer clothes and bring along your enthusiasm and your ideas. Save the date. The rest will be taken care of by us.  Welcome to Crete, welcome to the OAC!


Dr Kostas Zormpas

General Director of the OAC


Together, above all together…

Dear Colleagues, dear Members of Oikosnet Europe
European contexts pose many challenges. Longer-term transformation processes are superimposed by rapid changes in many areas of social life. The list of key words that try to rewrite this situation is long: secularization, traditional demise and “the end of grand narratives”, digitization and its impact on the workplace, the cult of health, institutional disenchantment, demographic change, gender and diversity, religious and inter-Christian pluralism, terrorism and counter-terrorism efforts, climate change, the tendency to “useful truths”, the changing media landscape, the endangerment of the heritage of the Enlightenment, the growing right-wing populism and increasing nationalism, migratory pressures and the phenomenon of stateless people etc.

Humans and the environment, living together and the cohesion of societies are affected. And we know that people behave differently in the face of their “Fear of Falling”. In a public survey conducted in late 2016 and early 2017 Chatham House researchers identified in collaboration with Kantar Public six ‘tribes’ across Europe that transcend national boundaries and whose members share similar opinions and life experiences:

Everyone is not doing everyting
With all these topics and their social, religious, political and spiritual implications, the members of Oikosnet Europe are working in their own specific ways. Not everyone is doing everything. The expertise is naturally limited to certain fields of research that are related to the history, tradition and strategic orientation of each organization. But what unites us in the Association of Oikosnet Europe is to preserve and promote a common Europe, the tireless remembrance of the dignity of each individual, the careful handling of other lives, care in using the limited resources in God’s creation. In this endeavor, we provide our services to the churches and a broader public and seek cooperation with other civil society actors.

Modern societies and the churches themselves within the European contexts are dependent on places of encounter, on expertise and public debates. To this Oikosnet Europe is committed. I cordially invite you to renew this commitment and share it with others within our association. Together, above all together, we are able to play a significant role and contribute to current discourses.

With best wishes,

Walter Lüssi, president of Oikosnet Europe

Walter Lüssi


Walter Lüssi new president of Oikosnet Europe

Walter LüssiWalter Lüssi, General Secretary of the Reformed Church Canton of Zürich and President of Plusbildung, ökumenische Bildunglandschaft Schweiz, has been elected as the new President of Oikosnet Europe. Walter Lüssi is the successor of Jaap van der Sar who has had the position of President for Oikosnet Europe the last six years, and stepped down according to the statues. Walter Lüssi was elected at the Annual Conference in Flehingen, Germany in the beginning of September.

– Modern societies and the churches themselves are dependent on places of encounter, on expertise and public debates. To this Oikosnet Europe is committed, says Walter Lüssi in a comment to his new role as President.

Oikosnet Europe is a network of some 40 Christian academies and laity centres in Europe. Today, the member organisations represent Churches of the reformation, Catholic and Orthodox traditions from 18 countries in Europe. During the last years the main focus for common projects of Oikosnet Europe has been religion and democracy, social development, ecumenical formation, sustainability, migration and gender issues.

The history of the organisation dates back to 1955 when Olov Hartman, the director of the Sigtuna Foundation, Sweden, and Eberhard Müller, the director of Bad Boll, Germany, came up with the idea to establish a European association of Christian academies and laity centres, EAALCE (The Ecumenical Association of Academies and Laity Centres in Europe). The name was later changed in to Oikosnet Europe.

Walter Lüssi has a long term experience within Oikosnet Europe. Partly as former director of the academy of Boldern, one of Oikosnet Europes member organisations and partly as the former Treasurer of the Board of Oikosnet Europe 2010 – 2014.

In addition to Walter Lüssi, the Annual General Meeting in Flehingen also elected Sören Lenz (Liebfrauenberg, France) as Deputy Chairman and Dr. Julia Gerlach (Academy Meissen) as new members of the Board. Nicola Murray (Corrymeela, Northern Ireland) and Dr. Konstantinos Zormpas (Orthodox Academy of Crete) remained as members of the board according to the election in 2016.

pressrelease Walter Lüssi English

Pressrelease Walter Lüssi German



Welcome to the Annual Conference in Flehingen, Germany

Annual Conference 2017

„The Digital Revolution and its Children“

The Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe is scheduled to take place upon invitation of the Evangelical Academy of Baden in Flehingen/Germany (near Karlsruhe) from 6 to 10 September 2017. For registrations and further details, please, consult the Oikosnet Europe website:

“I am looking forward to an exciting Annual Conference,” Executive Secretary Rüdiger Noll said. “After so many years of internal reflection, we are now ready again to reach out to the environment around us. So many long-standing members and new partners have become active again in the framework of Oikosnet Europe and use it as a platform for mutual learning, sharing and common initiatives.”

“The Digital revolution and its Children” is the theme of the Study Day at this year´s Annual Conference – an issue about which many Oikosnet members are concerned throughout the continent. The Evangelical Academy of Baden is one of the members, which has a long-standing reputation in addressing issues of digitalization from an ethical as well as from a very practical perspective. The programme will include, inter alia, an excursion to the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe ( as well as a practical workshop on internet security.

Main items on the business agenda of the Annual Conference are the election of a new Board (including a new President and Vice-President) as well as the dissolution of Oikosnet Europe according to German law. The programme will give ample time for discussing the activities of Oikosnet in the past and in the future and for developing common activities among members.

Deadline for registration is the first of  August.

In order to stimulate discussion within and among Oikosnet members, the Annual Report of the Board, the President´s Report and the more detailed agenda are issued already now to registered participants and to Oikosnet members.




Digitalisation and Modern Media

What links the 16th century reformation with our age of modern media and digitalisation?

SnowdenFor many reasons the present exhibition in Wittenberg/Germany on “Luther and the Avantgarde” is worth a visit. Artists with a world reputation have been invited to present works on their perception of Luther and the reformation in the cells of a former prison. A contradiction in terms: the reformation is celebrated as promoting freedom and the artists’ perception is presented in a former prison.

It is amazing to see how many of the artists’ works deal with modern media. But this does not come as a total surprise as it is often stated that Luther used the modern media of his time, the printing press, in order to spread his ideas. Without these possibilities, it is said, the reformation would have been far from being as successful as it was. The artists’ group “Robotlab” installed a robot in Wittenberg, which writes within nine month all chapters of the bible. The artists say, Luther`s writing also were an act of freeing himself from his cell. Achim Molné is presented with a digital produced picture of Edward Snowden in the garden of the prison, thus merging the digital world with the real environment of Wittenberg. He says: “The Whistle-Blowers Luther and Snowden both aimed at exposing systematic injustices.” And both used the modern media of their times.

Of course, there are also the critical aspects. The Chinese artist Zhang Peili enriches the exhibition with a set of radios exposed in a circle. Their sounds are mixing to a sound wall in the cell of the prison. And a microphone is moving from radio to radio giving dominance to one sound for a while. Can we still distinguish the different voices in a time when there seems to be an overkill of voices and information? And who is the master of the microphone giving dominance to one or the other of the many voices? Another Chinese artist, Xu Bing, invites visitors in a messy office environment to translate biblical stories into globally understood symbols using the computer. Does this method transform the message into something trivial?

I would not call myself a computer literate. I use the computer and new social media like many others: I enjoy the possibilities being in touch with many long-standing and new friends all over the world. I try to protect my computer to the best of my knowledge and I try to be reflective on what I share publicly. I am interested as to how modern media, for instance, can contribute to establishing a European public, how new media can help civil society to share a different world view compared to some of the public news.

But I am also aware that there is much more to it. What´s about big data? Who controls the net? Did we already become slaves of other peoples’ algorithms? What´s about the internet of things? And most important: what are the ethical implications. What is the role and the underlying perception of human beings? Questions over questions. Certainly the digitalization and the use of modern media changes our world. It is a revolution, at least as life changing as the reformation and the invention of the printing press at Luther´s times.

It is with these questions and perceptions that I will arrive at the forthcoming Oikonset Annual Conference, which will take place in Flehingen/Germany, 6-10 September 2017 under the theme “The Digital Revolution and its Children”.  I am looking forward to learn more about the opportunities and challenges and to discuss with friends from all over Europa about their perspective.  It is for sure that the use of modern media and digitalisation are issues with huge ethical implications to be discussed by Oikosnet members in a European and global context.

Editorial by Rüdiger Noll, Executive Secretary of Oikosnet Europe



New date for the Arab Europe Dialogue Citizens’ Dialogue on Religion and Society


Monday 25 to Thursday 28 of June  2018 Sigtuna, Sweden

The planned Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue Conference in Sigtuna in August this year has been postponed until June 2018. There are several reasons for this,  regrets from people that were invited to speak at the conference stating that the timing was unfortunate since it collided with other activities – typically various vacation and other family oriented events.
We have also received many regrets from people at European partner institutions stating that they cannot attend the meeting, most of them referring to similar reasons.

We really hope that the new dates in June 2018 will be more suitable and welcome you all to Sigtuna Foundation at the most beautiful time of the year.

More about the conference

burqiniIn recent years, we have seen the rise of many cultural tensions and conflicts, and even violent terror and war, in many parts of the world. This has not least been the case in Europe and in the Arab region. Religion, that in the more secularized parts of Europe in the late 20th century merely was considered as a private matter, has been at the core in many of these contemporary conflicts. Thus, issues around religion and democratic peaceful development are today burning issues, not least in Europe and the Arab region.

The Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue
The Arab-European Citizens’ Dialogue represents one concrete way to work with the issues mentioned above. From 2010, there has been a series of consultations in both Europe and in the Arab region. The last Consultation, the 5th from the initiation of this dialogue project, was held at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in March 2016. In that Consultation, we set out to explore where active citizenship can make a difference – in the Arab region as well as in Europe. We are now ready to take the next step. The next Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue is concentrating on Religion and Society, and the specific focus will be on Gender – Media – Democracy.

Below, you find some initial information and some practical matters.  Feel free to contact any of the following persons if you have further questions:

For the Arab side: Samira Luka
For the European side: Alf Linderman

Conference organizers
The Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue Conference on Religion and Society in Sigtuna 2018 is organized jointly by the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), Oikosnet Europe, Church of Sweden and the Sigtuna Foundation.

Conference venue
The conference will take place at the Sigtuna Foundation (Sigtunastiftelsen) in the small and picturesque city of Sigtuna located between Stockholm and Uppsala in Sweden. Sigtuna is only 17 kilometres from the Stockholm Arlanda Airport and thus very accessible.

Financial support for Conference fee and travelling costs.
The cost for participation, after subsidies by the Sigtuna Foundation, is SEK 4350 (app. EUR 450). As a member of Oikosnet Europe you have the opportunity to take part in the Conference free of charge. The number for participants with financial support is limited.

Please contact if you are interested in taking part of the Conference.

If you are in need of financial support for your travelling costs, please contact the office of Oikosnet Europe

Learn the art of Iconography in Crete

Iconographhy2Since 1995, the Iconography Workshop of the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC) cultivates the Byzantine art through the painting of icons and also by informing groups visiting the OAC on iconography. The Workshop provide iconography seminars to groups and to individuals from Greece and abroad. These seminars aim at offering a general orientation and acquaintance with Byzantine art. The main emphasis lies on the portable icon painting. The participants will learn and practice the techniques that are being applied during the different phases of its creation.

Parallel to the practical section of their training, the participants get information on the theoretical framework of Byzantine iconography.  The OAC scientific advisors deliver lectures on the theology of icons and the history of iconography. During the courses, the participants will visit places directly connected to the hagiographic tradition of the Orthodox Church, as it was experienced in the island of Crete. They have the opportunity to admire and study masterpieces of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art; many of them are to be found in their ‘natural place‘, in the churches and the monasteries. The participants stay at the OAC and taste the traditional Cretan cuisine. At the end of the courses, the participants receive a certificate from the OAC confirming their participation.

Dates of the iconography seminars
October 13th – 20th
March 14th – 21

For further information and registration please get in contact with Konstantina Stefanaki,Iconographer of the OAC Orthodox Academy of Crete 73006  Kolympari – Chania, Crete,
Tel.: +30-28240-22245, Fax: +30-28240-22060

E-mail: ,

Welcome to DPC training for women

September 27th – October 2nd, Presbyterian Women’s Centre – The mission House, Accra, Ghana

The Board of Stichting Oikosnet International (OI) invites for a Five Day Training in the DPC-methodology. DPC stands for Dialogue for Peaceful Change. This method is developed under the umbrella of Oikosnet International.

Basic Information:
Participants: Max 24 women from Oikosnet members, all over the world
Dates: 27 September – 2 October 2017
Arrival: Tuesday 26 September Departure: Monday 2 October
Place:  Presbyterian Women’s Centre – The mission House, Accra, Ghana
Fee: Euro 200
Language: English
Deadline:  27 July 2017

This training is financially supported by the – now informal – Board of Oikosnet International. This umbrella-organisation finished its work by the beginning of this year. The remaining funds are now dedicated to this training. The proposal came from Oikosnet Africa and is meant for women who want to play a role in developing peace and justice in their societies. Women from Oikosnet members, coming from all Oikosnet regions are invited for this training. Financial support for travel is available for non-European participants, especially for their travel costs.

In the attached file more specific information is available.

Applications have to be sent to the coordinator of Oikosnet Africa, Mrs. Afia Darkwa-Amanor ( Please see the application form.

Coming from Europe, you are also invited to send you application to both Rüdiger Noll and Jaap van der Sar (both were members of the Board of OI). Please use their following addresses: and Here you can also receive further information. For Europe we have roughly 4 places available. Travel costs have to be paid by the participants. Some support from Oikosnet Europe is available for some participants. If required, please contact Rüdiger Noll and/or Jaap van der Saar.

Fake, facts and our work

Fake-news is a fact of life, definitely after 2016. The most new is the word ‘fake’ which is attached to parts of our daily conversations, since it represents something we are already used to. Gossiping has a smell of fake. As has the saying ‘I have been economically with the truth’. Deliberately presenting things in a way which will cause a changed mind-set for those who listen – it is part of the strategy to convince people about the wish that they should believe the source and therefore agree with the attached judgement.

In daily life it happens more often that the given representation of facts is perceived differently by different listeners. The representation is not correct – we sometimes say. And by consequence the outcome of the reasoning on these facts is considered false as well. To avoid this as much as possible we have an exchange of arguments, look for the reliability of the source of the presented facts, discuss different viewpoints. That is almost the normal attitude in most of the work of the members of Oikosnet Europe. We live from the uncertainty about facts and the interpretation of these facts. And we discuss them at our meetings and conferences.

When doing so, we mostly follow a pattern – which I learned to see after our former General Secretary Wolfgang Lenz showed me his model, named ‘The Four Resources for the Management of Meaning’. The first one in “information” – mostly presented as facts. More and more almost indisputable presented in the form of a 1 or 0. However, information in itself can be incorrect. Therefore we apply checks – in science known as the Popper principle of falsifiability – to discuss whether we should consider facts as correct facts on which we can build good conclusions. Information, facts only have a meaning when placed in a framework of knowledge. As an example: the statement “It is 3 0C outside” represents a fact, the knowledge added is that this is very cold for human beings and by consequence they are advised to put on a coat. “Knowledge” is the second resource.

The third one is, in my representation of Wolfgang’s scheme, “values”. Through values we prioritise our behaviour, for instance when we are outdoors with a temperature of 3 0C, but we stay there without putting on a coat since we meet with a friend who has had an accident. We stay outside and offer as much help as possible. Then we prioritise some of our values. Being cold, probably getting sick for some days, is not as important as helping the friend. Where does this priority comes from when dealing with our different values?

This questions leads to the fourth resource: faith, world view, belief-system. People generally use different words for this resource. The important thing: it deals with the background of our personal priorities in the values. Our view on life. Our accepted characteristics and convictions.

For me the big questions don’t deal with these four elements as such. Facts are part of our lives, as priorities and values are. The big questions deal with the availability to raise questions about them. And to be open for a reaction on these questions. If that is refused, the ultimate position is that no discussion at all is possible. Science doesn’t matter anymore. Logic isn’t helpful. A real exchange on views, on perceived realities are not required anymore. We just follow the first speaker. Or the dictator.

Today, while writing this contribution, we have general elections for the parliament in the Netherlands. Democracy at its best. A feast, some people say. The feast can only be recognised in this way when we continue the work to communicate about the different views, when we build arguments. When we do our work as members of Oikosnet Europe.

Jaap van der Sar, President Oikosnet Europe


For a Europe in Conviviality

A Europe of and for the people – Just and Participatory

Statement of the Board of Oikosnet Europe on the Future of Europe

In Rome, on 25 March 2017, the Heads of State and Government of the EU Member States will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the founding document of what is now the European Union. As announced at the EU Bratislava Summit in September 2016, this will also be the occasion to look forward and to “set out orientations for our common future together”[i].

The present debate about Europe, however, is dominated by Europe being in a crisis. As the present and former Presidents of the European Commission  have indicated in their respective State of the Union addresses, the crisis of the European Union, and thereby of the European project, is an „existential crisis“[ii]. “This crisis is financial, economic and social. But it is also a crisis of confidence. A crisis of confidence in our leaders, in Europe itself, and in our capacity to find solutions.”[iii] The difference between the present crisis and the previous crises of the European Union is in it being an accumulation of several, mutually reinforcing crises.  The Financial Crisis, the Euro Crisis, the inability to develop a common response to the stream of refugees, the inability to develop a Common European Foreign and Security Policy and to respond jointly to new conflict situations and Brexit as an expression of the approach of some Member States, being less based on a joint vision and more a simple cost-benefit analysis.

Other underlying features of the crisis are the inequalities between EU Member States and a lack of solidarity. Increasing right-wing populism, re-awakening nationalism, the unilateral emphasis on economic growth and competition on the part of the European Union as well as its inability to come closer to the people, contribute to accelerating the crisis.

Given this situation, the European Commission emphasizes on “delivering“ in areas of its competence and on policies, on which the European dimension provides an added value compared to approaches of individual members states. In this regard, the Board of Oikosnet Europe[iv], meeting just prior to the celebrations in Rome, welcomes the five scenarios of the European Commission on the „Future of Europe“[v]. These scenarios offer some clarity on the future direction and force EU Member States to re-state their commitment to an agreed and community dimension of the European project.

Oikosnet Europe also believes that the scenarios offered by the European Commission are too technical and fall short of addressing the underlying root causes of the European crisis, such as the social crisis in many European countries and the gap between the European Institutions and the people of Europe.

Many people and civil society organisations in Europe under the name of “Pulse of Europe”, despite their fears, remain committed to the European project as signified, for example,  by the „March for Europe“ on 25 March 2017 in Rome and in many other European cities, for unity, delivery, solidarity, protection, democracy and hope.

Oikosnet Europe expects that in addition to the emphasis on „delivery“, the celebrations on the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty will also lead to the EU Member States re-committing themselves to a European idea that is more than just an accumulation of national self-interests. We believe that the celebrations of the Rome Treaty need to be the starting point for developing a new narrative[vi] for the European project, which allows people to identify and engage in. From its beginnings, the European Union was more than just a common economic space. It was a peace and reconciliation project after two devastating wars. This narrative is still valid and has to be kept in mind, although it might have lost some of its power of engagement as the war is not a reality anymore within the Union.  A new narrative is sought.  At a time when the gap between rich and poor is widening, not least due to austerity measures enforced on the European level, and there are less opportunities for people to engage with the project, key elements of such a narrative must include social justice within and between Member States as well as the participation of the people of Europe.

„Europe in Conviviality“[vii] might be a metaphor around which to develop such a new narrative. Living in conviviality in Europe and drawing on commonly held values and a common vision for the whole of the continent in a global perspective seems to us to be a viable vision for the future, which offers criteria for common policies in Europe. „Conviviality“ puts the people at the center of political action. It implies taking account of my neighbor and his/her needs as a basis of community policies. It fosters equal opportunities, engagement on an equal footing as well as social justice, thereby respecting freedom and diversity. Conviviality opens an opportunity to look beyond the EU territory and to take a fresh approach on the EU’s neighborhood as well as on its Common and Security Policy. Europe is bigger than just the European Union and the European Institutions have a responsibility which go far beyond Member States of the EU.

Oikosnet Europe is a network that is made up of members across the continent, drawing on the achievements of the European project.  They stand ready to engage in the open, transparent and regular dialogue between civil society organisations and the European Institutions as well as  to further develop an engaging narrative for Europe and to discuss European policies involving stakeholders from all walks of life, thus fostering conviviality and the European project.

March 2017

Statement Oikosnet Europe for print

[i] The Bratislava Declaration and Roadmap (16 September 2016)
[ii] Jean Claude Juncker, State of the Union Address 2016.
[iii] Jose Manuel Barroso, State of the Union Address 2011.
[iv] Oikosnet Europe is a network of 40 Christian academies and laity centers in Europe. Today the member organisations represent Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox confessions from 17 countries in Europe.
Every year more than 200 000 people from all walks of life participate in conferences, meetings and festivities around a wide spectrum of topics. During the last years the main focus for common projects of Oikosnet Europe have been religion and democracy, social development, ecumenical formation, sustainability, migration and gender issues.
[v] Cf. White Paper on the Future of Europe. The EU of the 27 in the year 2025. Considerations and Scenarios. European Commission, 1 March 2017.
[vi] We have learnt about the importance of common narratives, for instance, through our member center in Corrymeela/Northern Ireland, which has a long-standing commitment and engagement in mediating between the different communities in the Northern Irish troubles and their aftermath. At our Annual Conference 2015 leaders of the Corrymeela Community explained: „We can identify victims and perpetrators on either side, we know about the society which we envision, we have developed methods for community building, but also long as we have no common narrative conflicting parties will always fall back into their old and segregationist positions.“
[vii] Cf. Seeking Conviviality, ed. The Lutheran World Federation, and: Towards a Convivial Economy, ed. The Lutheran World Federation, Geneva 2016.