Category Archives: Uncategorised

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

Sigt_fasadlogo_RC

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 samira.luka@ceoss.org.eg
For the European side: Alf Linderman alf.linderman@sigtunastiftelsen.se

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 karin.sallander@sigtunastiftelsen.se 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 office@oikosnet.eu

Religion and Society – a contemporary challenge

Pre-invitation to The Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue on Religion and Society
Gender – Media – Democracy, 9 to 12 August 2017 Sigtuna, Sweden

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 samira.luka@ceoss.org.eg
For the European side: Alf Linderman alf.linderman@sigtunastiftelsen.se

Conference organizers
The Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue Conference on Religion and Society in Sigtuna 2017 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 karin.sallander@sigtunastiftelsen.se 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 office@oikosnet.eu

Presentationsbild
 

Report from the Board meeting in Budapest

Budapest 8 – 10 December 2016

“Budapest” is the combination of the city’s names Buda and Pest, which were (together with Óbuda) united into one single city in 1873. One of the first documented occurrences of the combined name “Buda-Pest” was in 1831 in the book “Világ” (“World” / “Light”), written by Count István Széchenyi. The origins of the names Buda and Pest are obscure. But important is, according to the history, that one part is traditional and the other modern: Tradition and Modernism. Those are also the two situations of modern Europe. The members of the Oikosnet-Board had the chance to get to know the situation in this country and town a bit better during their meeting of December 8-10, 2016. Here are some of the elements of our meeting.

BudapestWe met with Rev. Dr Vilmos Fischl, the General Secretary of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Hungary. He informed us about the situation of churches, especially regarding the challenges around refugees. We put questions, like: Which is the role of the Churches in Hungary towards the migration problem? Does the anti-migration rhetoric of the conservative government of Hungary with the recent referendum create new tensions in Europe? How can people develop from their faith new approaches concerning Europe? How can social cohesion be expressed again in Europe? It became clear that, whatever the situation in the European Union will be, our concern will remain the weakness to define a concrete policy of the European Institutions for the issue of migration. But even if this is missing, do the citizens finally have any influence in the decision-making policy of European Institutions?

We had a similar interesting meeting – with the help of Odor Balazs, ecumenical officer of the Reformed church of Hungary and of Diána Erdélyi, secretarial assistant of Odor- with representatives of six Conference Centers from different denominations in Hungary. They organize professional trainings, conferences and camps. Every Center has different themes and special interests in the framework of the Church. Information and lifelong learning, pastoral care and society are few of these themes. On the other hand a general challenge of the Centers is recognized elsewhere too: to fill the accommodation. Some also expressed the challenge to deal with the self-definition of the national identity of faithful-citizens. All expressed the wish to find a way to integrate all those Centers in Oikosnet Europé.

Evaluation of the Annual meeting in Prague
The evaluation of the Annual Meeting of Oikosnet Europe in Prague also occupied the members of the Board and it underlined that Oikosnet Europe should invite its members to cooperate in common actions of its members and encourage people to come to the annual meetings, thus providing the opportunity of exchange and cooperation.
In addition to this the Board decided to support (with the amount of 5.000,00 Euros) the start of a common Project on Civil Society in Central Europe. Quite some members of Oikosnet are involved in this project and they contribute to the content, adding their different views. Reports will be presented at the next Annual Conference.

Transition period for Oikosnet Europe
We are in a transition period, almost finished now from an organization according to German law into an organization according to Swedish law. The transition is not complete yet – as is also clear since some members formally still have to join the new organization. We also discussed ways to encourage potential new members and other practical issues about the organization of our work.

The next Annual Conference in Beugen
The next Annual Conference will take place in Beugen, in the South of Germany (6-10 September 2017). The digital revolution and its children will be the main thematic issue. We organize this with the help of the staff of the Baden-Academy. The theme is actual, since New Technologies and especially internet will have a huge influence on the economic and social development. It would be a mistake and essentially impossible to turn our back to the new developments. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the dangers which are hidden and we have to face them. The theme is extremely important and we look forward for this meeting.

By Dr Kostas Zormpas, Member of the Board, General Director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete.

 

 

We live in insecure times

_pvh8849Editorial by Rüdiger Noll,
Executive Secretary of Oikosnet Europe

Whenever one follows the news these day, there seems to be an underlying message: we live in insecure times! What seemed to be common sense, common values and maxims and what seemed to be international standards, which were most often negotiated after two devastating World Wars, seem to be questioned or just not implemented. Human Rights are played against security, solidarity between states and within states is low, protectionism and competition are growing.

Just recently, I was invited by the Lutheran World Federation to a meeting in Sweden, where the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, Antje Jackelén, spoke in her opening sermon of the four dangerous “P” of our times: Protectionism, Polarisation, Populism and Post-factual. Whoever, whichever nation returns to old mechanisms of protectionism and establishes new walls around itself, should not be surprised, if others do the same – with the fatal consequences for international relations, known from the 20th century. “Us first” is a message of polarisation. The gap between rich and poor countries as well as the gap between the rich and the poor within countries is widening, as the most recent Oxfam report has shown. Populists try to harvest on such developments, the play with and increase the fears of people, they shoot against “elites”, whereby they are most elitist and exclusive themselves. And the truth? If the truth does not count anymore, if one can openly lie and if the internet is high-jacked by some to deliberately spread false information, what does truth mean today?

The spreading insecurity is not only an issue in politics, it quickly triggers down to ordinary people, who ask themselves questions like: Can one still get children in such insecure times or do I need first to invest in my own career? Does it make sense to make savings for the future, if the interests are so low and the savings are likely not to be enough for a decent life in retirement anyhow? Does it make still sense to vote in public elections? There are no real alternatives and my vote does not seem to count anyhow. Shall I still engage myself for the common good, for justice, peace and the integrity of creation in my community, in my church, in an NGO?

Academies do not have the immediate solutions to these problems and challenges, neither to the problems in our immediate neighborhood, nor to the challenges in world politics. But they are the place, where controversial issues can be addressed controversially with a variety of stakeholders. That is to say, Christian Academies are the place, where populist and exclusive attitudes are counteracted, where people meet on an equal footing, where truth counts. Orientation comes from finding one´s own position in the discourse of a broad spectrum of opinions and options. “There is not alternative!” thereby is not an option, neither for the Christian faith nor for the work of Christian Academies. But the four “P” will provide a challenge for the academies and their programmes in the near and middle-term future as our common interest is to keep our societies together around common narratives, common values and in the search for inclusive solutions.

 

dsc_4324-kopie-003

Cooperation continued

As we are fully aware of, the contributions of Rüdiger Noll are very important for Oikosnet Europe. Less known is the fact that his work is enabled by the EAD (Evangelische Akademien Deutschland – Protestant Academies Germany). Since beginning 2014 Rüdiger can dedicate 30% of his time to support activities and work of Oikosnet Europe.

During the meeting of the EAD in Güstrow, Germany, from 14 – 16 November, a short evaluation of the last three years took place. The general line of the exchange of thoughts: we are on a good track with each other. Many things have been done – and more to come. The decision: we will continue the cooperation for the years to come. I was present at this meeting and I expressed my thanks for the work so far as well as for the continuation of the cooperation. Jaap van der Sar, president Oikosnet Europe

Picture. EAD in Güstrow, Germany, from 14 – 16 November.  To the right, Rüduger Noll, executive Secretary of Oikosnet Europe.

 

Oikosnet Europe – two identities in a transitional period

conference-prag

Participants of the Oikosnet Europe Annual Conference  in Prague celebrating the reestablishment of the organisation.

In Prague we had a successful and productive Business Meeting of our Association. Besides the required formalities (reports, budgets, deciding where we meet next year) we also discussed the new identity according to Swedish law of Oikosnet Europe. For good reasons we had an organisational identity according to German law from the beginning in 1955. Last years, in our transition period, we decided to change towards a constituency according to Swedish law. Partly this is done due to the fact that our secretariat is now placed at the Sigtunastiftelsen in Sigtuna, Sweden. In addition to this we felt the need to modernise the formalities in place, especially having in mind how our association has developed over time.

The aims and working plan remained the same for the moment – so there was full support for the establishment of our new Association Oikosnet Europe according to Swedish law. All present (in person) members of the ‘German’ association also registered as founding members of the new ‘Swedish’ association. The inaugural meeting was held under the leadership of the director of Sigtunastiftelsen. The new board has the same persons in place as the ‘old’ one. Yet in a formal sense the members of the ‘old’ association have received the request to subscribe also to the new one. We have already received subscriptions – some more to follow.

What we also noticed: 6 newcomers at the annual conference participated. And they really experienced the power of direct encounters with people who think in a different way. And they are still connected.

Jaap van der Sar

Jaap-van-der-Sar

 

Patriarchs prepare for The Great and Holy Council in Crete

Academy of CreteThe Orthodox Academy of Crete will have a busy time this spring preparing for the historical meeting in June when The Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church will take place. The last time a Pan -Orthodox council of this scale was convened was in Constantinopel well over a thousand years ago in 879 – 880, where they had a representation of over 380 bishops from the Eastern Christian Churches.

Moved from Istanbul to Crete
The heads of the church decided at a meeting in Geneva in January to relocate this synod from Istanbul, which is the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarche of Constantinople,  to Crete due to the geopolitical circumstances. Those who are expected to attend to Crete the 16th of June – 27th are the heads of representatives of 14 autocephalous churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Georgia, Cyprus, Bulgarie, Serbia, Russia, Greece, Poland, Romania, Albania, Czech and Slovakia.

A great honour and a great responsibility
zorbas
Konstantinos Zormpas, director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete sees the event as great responsibility, and at the same time a great honor for the Academy. All Primates of the Orthodox Churches will meet, together with their Delegations, including Metropolitans and advisors. Journalists from all over the world are also expected to be there and inform about the developments of the deliberations.
What effects do  this Synod expect to have related to Oikosnet?

–  To start with our Academy, the upcoming Synod is already affecting our work and the discussions we have with participants at our activities. The more so, it will have effects on our work in the future, especially regarding the conferences and seminars related to theological or religious questions. All issues that are going to be discussed during the Synod are important to the orthodox world and locals as well as people attending courses will be interested to hear about the outcome. The same, participants at seminars about Orthodoxy, mostly non-orthodox themselves and coming from different countries, will want our Academy to include the latest developments in the lectures, especially regarding those issues that affect them, too, says Konstantinos Zorbas, director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete.

The items officially approved for referral to and adoption by the Holy and Great Council are:

  1. The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World,
  2. The Orthodox Diaspora,
  3. Autonomy and its Manner of Proclamation,
  4. The Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments,
  5. The Significance of Fasting and its Application Today,
  6. Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.

East European Consultation – Liebfrauenberg 23rd – 25th February 2016

East European Consultation (3) (005)The first East European Consultation took place at the Liebfrauenberg and gathered twelve directors, study leaders and lecturers from member centres of OE and others. According to our aim the exchange about common challenges, expectations towards OE and common projects and initiatives was given priority. The friendly ambiance allowed us to establish new contacts and to deepen already existing relations with long-time members of OE. It is one of the strength of OE that beside the intellectual discussions and common projects personal contact is one of the most important factors to foster exchange and mutual understanding.

Keynotes were given by Biljana Zašova, Senior Project Co-ordinator of the ALDA (Association of Local Democracy Agencies) at the Council of Europe and Stéphane de Tapia, expert in migration issues for the Council of Europe and director of Turkish studies at the university of Strasbourg. The latter conference and the following discussion showed that we need a controversial debate in Europe on this issue and not constantly repeated affirmations of positions.

It was clearly outlined in the consultation that for example the migration issue needs further discussions under a larger angle as there exists in East European countries like for example the Ukraine an inner migration due to the Russian Ukrainian Conflict. One very important point that was mentioned several times was the issue of human dignity, which is a major concern for our partners in Eastern Europe (social tourism, empirical research, bioethics, disabled persons etc.)

Religion in public space
Another topic was the place of religion in society which occurs to be differently seen from a Eastern point of view. Christianity has a vivid revival for example in Ukraine “based on living memory of martyrs of the 2Oth century” as it was expressed by one our Ukrainian partners. With other words: Christianity is declining in Western Europe, and growing in the Eastern part. Thus the question of education and ecumenism plays an important role when you get to the dialogue between Eastern and Western Europe.

Practical issues and grass root work
Almost all participants agreed that the common ground of our centres, it doesn’t matter what kind of institutions, is the interconnectedness of academic and grass root work, the local and regional embeddedness of questions of church, religion and society. From bottom to top could be the leitmotiv of future ACs of OE. Discussions as they took place at the Liebfrauenberg Consultation can help” to clarify the complex situations of each participant’s institution.”

The Liebfrauenberg was as well an ideal place to discover the bicultural dimension of Alsace and Strasbourg and to see how reconciliation after centuries of wars and conflicts between France and Germany is possible.  A participant from Eastern Europe described the French-German reconciliation a model for the East- and Central European countries which are still in the reflection on how to handle history.

In Strasbourg the group was welcomed by the president of the Union of protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine Christian Albecker who explained the particular status of Church in Alsace and Lorraine. A guided tour through the old town of Strasbourg and a wine degustation completed the program of the three days. We hope to see the participants again at our AC in Prague where we can continue the discussions we started at the Liebfrauenberg.

East European Consultation (2) (005)

The participants in front of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg. From left to right :

Alexej BODROV, Saint Andrews Biblical Institut Moscow, Oleh KINDIY, Ukrainian Catholic University, Jiři Silny, Ecumenical Academy Prague, Janos Molnar, Berekfürdor; Olga Breskaya, European Humanities University, Vilnius; Christos Filiotis, Greek-Orthodox Chaplaincy, Strasbourg; Enikö Regéczy-Nagy, Ráday Kollégium, Sviatoslav Rogalsky, Christian Educational Center, Minsk;  Giannis Mountogiannakis, Orthodox Academy of Crete; Marilena Bezierk, Ev. Akadmie, Wittenberg; Roman Zviyskyy Ukrainian Catholic University; Sören Lenz, Liebfrauenberg; Roman Juriga, Pravoslavna Akademie Vilemov; not on the picture, behind the camera : Rüdiger Noll, EAD, Berlin

 

Congratulations Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum

Marielisa von Thadden and Kristin Gunleiksrud RaaumOn behalf of Oikosnet Europe we give our warmest congratulations to Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum from the Norwegian Church Academy who recently was elected as Chair of the Church of Norway. Many of us have met Kristin at the annual conferences of Oikosnet Europe and she was also elected as member of the board in 2015.

In December Kristin visited the Evangelische Akademie Bad Boll at the annual conference for Lesbian Women in Church and Society. Her speech was very well received by around 100 participants coming from all over Germany. We wish Kristin the very best in her new challenge as Chair of the Church of Norway and we are grateful that we have her permission to publish her speach from the conference.

Photo: Marielisa von Thadden,  Evangelische Akademie Bad Boll and Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum  the Norwegian Church Academy.

Key note speach by Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum at the annual conference for Lesbian Women in Church and Society

“I am delighted to be here, and to be invited to tell you about an amazing process I have been part of the last year and a half. We are now changing the church of Norway, within a little bit more than a year it will be possible for same sex couples to be married in the church. But this is not really about an organization. It is not really about the church. It is really about human dignity and equality, and the members of the church being given an opportunity to speak their mind.
First a few facts:
In Norway, we used to have a State church until 2012. 75 % of the population are members, but the numbers are slowly decreasing. Our Constitution now uses the term «Peoples church» about the Church of Norway. We now discuss how we can prevent a similar increase in child christening and church wedding, as is the picture in many other north European countries.
In 1992 there was an act of Domestic partnership. The majority of church leaders were against this.
January 1st 2009 there was a new legislation of marriage in Norway. The Marriage Act states that two people of the same or different sex can get married. But not in the church. There is a section in the Marriage Act that prevents a priest from performing a marriage between two of same sex.
As in most churches, LGBTs have been the topic of debate also in the Church of Norway. Could they be employed as priest? Could they “be allowed” to marry? I have to say that I really do not recognize that we as a church should be discussing this for years and years. I understand that we have to, but I long for the day when this is no longer a topic: it is and should be self-evident that we are equal, also when it comes to the ability to love.
There are some who claim that homosexuality is a sin. And they are letting their voices be heard. In newspapers and social media they are active. They are of course few in numbers, but they organize well, and have been able to win disproportionally many seats in the church parliament, the synod.
We on the more liberal part of the church, traditionally lack the ability to organize or unify. We find it much more interesting to discuss or even fight one another. So, when it comes to seizing power in the church, we have been an east match!
In the Church of Norway we have been constantly discussing so called “gay issues” since 1995. And I mean constantly. It has been THE issue in 20 years, dividing the church, and creating a demarcation line in many other questions. But more importantly: in these 20 years those of us with LGBT-identity have been exposed to discrimination, being refused jobs in the church, and having their lives and love discussed in the open over and over again. The great paradox of it all – and this is impossible to understand – is that the church, THE CHURCH, has contributed to making people lie about who they are, hide who they are. The church, in this world to proclaim the truth about God and love. The church has made people bow their head in shame and hide their life. If the word sin ever was a
relevant one, it is in this sense: it is a sin to contribute to people hiding their face before God. It is a sin to make people feel ashamed of whom they love. And one day the church will apologize for it.
Well, in 2010 the Bishops Council appointed a group with the task to – once again – study the theological basis of love and marriage. It took three years, and ended in a divided bishops council. 8 were pro same sex marriage, and four were against. Then it was up to the synod to decide.
We were a small group. Four women. All member of the synod. One lesbian. Three straight allies. Three of them priests. And me, the deputy leader of the Church of Norway. We did our math. We knew where all 116 delegates stood in the issue. We wrote articles. We spend hundreds of hours on the phone. Investigating, mapping, persuading, arguing, fighting.
When the synod in 2014 approached, we knew that it would be a close race. And it certainly was. The debate was tough. I will try to forget some of the expressions used of LGBT’s. The night before the votes were to be given, we discovered – four o’clock in the morning – that we would not make it. We were a few votes short. But the upside of it was that the conservative side did not have a majority either. So it was not over.
We drove home. Four of us in my car. Crying. Swearing. Sleeping. My husband welcomed us with dinner and wine. We went on swearing and crying. The next morning I woke up to hundreds of messages in social media: «This is it! I’m leaving the church of Norway.»
I spend most of the day answering, and by the night it was obvious: We had to do something about it. Two months later a new organization was founded: Open People’s church. We were only a handful. But we knew that we had a year. September 14th 2015 was oar goal: a church referendum. The new synod, consisting of 11 diocesan council (116 members in all) should be elected. Only 10-13 % of the church members voted. We organized every diocese, and, for the first time in history
established lists, similar to party lists. We achieved lists in 9 out 11 dioceses.
We were in it together. Queer and straight. LGBT and heterosexuals. Not always easy. I find it sometimes hard, being straight and credible at the same time. It was sometimes hard, knowing that everything I said could be mistrusted because I happened to be straight. But through this frustration, I think I learned a lesson. I learned a little of what it is like to be mistrusted because you are who you are, ore more precise: because of whom you love. What it is like having to fight for a job or the right to love in dignity. I had never before have had to fight for respect because of who I was. I have met prejudice and harsh remarks because of my high heels and blond hair and passion for champagne. But that is nothing in comparisn, and I know it. I now had to try to understand when my heteronormativity made me blind or nearsighted. It was a valuable lesson.
We campaigned on. We had no money. Everything had to be done on a voluntarily basis. It was really an impossible project. To establish a nationwide organization within a year, and then have a campaign all over the country to win the referendum. We had groups on Facebook. Open groups, secret groups. There is I a lot of bad things to be said on Facebook, But without it we would never have won. We had secret strategy discussions, providing those new in our organization with support and arguments for local debates. We grew. Some of us worked in publicity, they made a visual program. Part of it you can see behind me. One contacted famous artists who supported us. They made a record: working for an open church. And a wonderful concert. Many of the best artists in Norway together on stage. It was magic. Then we went begging for money from a few of the richest people in Norway. One of them said yes. And gave us 200 000 euros. This is a very private man, who
seldom gives interviews. But now he gave three interviews on the news, telling the whole of Norway that he supported us because he was a Christian (no one knew in advance) and he felt obliged from the gospel of Jesus. Two month later he came out of the closet as bisexual, and what was really interesting is that this strengthened his credibility. Being LGBT made him popular. The fact that he supported us made him popular.
We toured the country with the campaign.
What I want to accentuate from the campaign is this: Travelling around and meeting people, it became clearer and clearer how important this was to many ordinary church member, LGBT or straight. There was a lot of people in many ways saying: FINALLY! The fact that you decided to run an Open Peoples Church list, made me breathe more freely.
This was markedly and most clear in the part of the country that traditionally was dominated by the conservative forces in the church, in the south and the west of Norway. In these regions people said: “Now I can state my mind more freely. I do not need to hide who I am anymore!” This was of course a strong message from LGBTs, but also from straight people. It was as we all grasped that a church that does not recognize some people, does not recognize anyone. A church that condemns love and marriage for some, does not does not really recognize love. A lot of people expressed what I would call lack of oxygen in their relation to the church.
What was on stake was partly the credibility of the church, but most importantly: It had to do with the image of God and the dignity of man. The shared dignity. If the church cannot be the place that this is self-evident, where can it? one said to me.
Because we have changed as people, as a society, as Christians. We want a church that enhances and promotes that we should support our children in finding their identity, living openly and honestly, rather than sorting them in rigid and limiting Categories. We do not want a church that make life difficult for people.
I think our campaign proved that there among the people is a stubborn faith that has survived the shallow preaching of human love.
And how did it all go? We won. Almost 65 percent of the votes. We won in ALL the dioceses. Even the most conservative. We now have the majority in the synod. And by January 2017 it will be possible for same sex couples to marry in the church. We have started developing a new liturgy. I am so proud to have been given the privilege to be a part of this. To change the church. To change the conditions for life and love. And faith.
There is opposition of course. The battle is not over, of course it is not. We are still fighting and arguing. But the majority has changed. The church has changed. Because the church members said: we cannot have a church who divides people, who discriminates people. We want a church that promotes the gospel, and therefore human dignity. We won because the members of the church of Norway gave a strong message of equality and dignity for all.”
.

Europe – From Crisis to Turmoil

Europe – From Crisis to Turmoil

When the Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe met in Villigst in September 2014 and had “Europe” as its main theme, the focus was on giving “new impulses for the European integration process” as Prof. Jörn Rüsen put it during the meeting. Already at that time Europe was perceived as being in a crisis.

Much has happened in the meantime, much has happened in recent weeks and months. The number of refugees seeking asylum in the Schengen territory has reached unprecedented high figures – and each single refugee has his or her individual story and reasons to leave his or her homeland. Public authorities in many European countries feel totally overwhelmed in offering a welcoming environment and in offering social and health services. Many civil society initiatives, including church-related initiatives, step in and thereby setting countersigns to those who are engaging in hostile acts against foreigners.

With the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November terrorism in Europe has reached a new dimension. In as much as comparisons never do justice to the victims, some newspapers have titled: “Europe is facing its 9/11”. Consequently, the debate “security” versus “freedom rights” is reaching a new climax. First and foremost, however, preventing and combatting intolerance and fundamentalism as well as promoting mutual respect and conviviality in increasingly pluralist societies are demanded. Again an area where the engagement of civil society and the role citizens’ education is indispensable.

Both of these recent developments encouraged the Oikosnet Board to issue a public statement  – the first since a very long time. The statement recognizes the commitment and active engagement of many Oikosnet members on these issues and encourages them to remain actively engaged.

Statement Oikosnet 

The refugee crisis and the terrorist attacks should not be mixed up – as sometimes done by populist speakers and movements. As investigations on the terrorist atrocities in Europe have shown thus far, the attackers were either European citizens or entered the continent on other paths. Refugees are not responsible for terroristic attacks in Europe. They are the victims of terroristic attacks and failing governmental policies in their home countries. They need protection. The right to asylum is not to be put in question.

And Europe? Both of the recent developments show very clearly that a common European response is needed. No single European country is able to handle the amount of refugees nor the threat through terroristic acts on its own. The European Union is an important player in this regard, but a common response must also include countries like Russia and Turkey and it must be informed by the neighbours in the Middle East.

For many Christians as well as in the logic of military conflicts, common European airstrikes in Iraq and Syria will not be the solution. UN programmes and countries in and around conflict zones, where still most of the refugees live in camps and often under inhuman conditions, must be resourced and equipped in order to be able to help people effectively. Channels which feed terrorists with finances, resources and weapons must be cut. A more effective EU Neighbourhood Policy with its eastern European and Mediterranean neighbours, at present under revision, is needed, including a strengthened civil society dialogue. In this, Oikosnet members, being committed to the Christian faith as well as to human rights and human dignity, have played and will play their role.

The 2015 Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe addressing the issue of “Fear” and “Remembrance” exemplified by the example of (Northern) Ireland and the work of the Corrymeela Community as well as by the training which Oikosnet offers under the name of “Dialogue for Peaceful Change” how important it is to have intermediate an unbiased institutions. These can help for people to share their “stories” with each other in a local, national or international context. “Only if narratives get changed, there is a real possibility for making a difference,” was one of the sentences participants took home from Corrymeela.

Rüdiger Noll, Executive Secretary of Oikosnet Europe

ruediger_noll1