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Oikosnet Europe welcomes a new member

MonoszloOikosnet Europe welcomed a new member at the Annual Conference in Chania, Crete. The new member is The Reformed Conference Centre of Monoszlo, a property of the Reformed (HB) Congregation of Monoszlo, a parish of the Reformed Church of Hungary.

The centre is commited to the education of the new generations in the spirit of mutual tolerance and understanding among all Abrahamic confessions and beyond, through sincere and open minded discussion. With an interdenominational approach it works on deepening social responsibility towards the values of the created world, with a special focus on environmental questions. In its activity it strives for overcoming obstacles laid down by political divisions.

Oikosnet Europe has today 35 member organizations from different parts of Europe. Please get in contact with the secretariat if you are interested to know more about how to become a member. office@oikosnet.eu

Member organisations of Oikosnet Europe

Help us rethink Europe together

By Walter Lüssi, president of Oikosnet Europe

Dear Colleagues, dear Members of Oikosnet Europe

Our Annual Conference took place in the Orthodoxe Academy of Crete which was founded fifty years ago. It was the right place to deal with our theme of the study day: “Europe with different eyes: The case of Greece for example”. Here Oikosnet Europe started to engage with Europe and its current problems in a new way. When I’m writing about this I’m very aware that we shall have to learn a lot in the next years. The social and political developments challenge us to make clear statements. But far beyond this: Given the fact that populism has become a new normal in Europe, we have to link our right to exist as a learning community with the question of whether we are able to find common positions based on our expertise and if we can make our voice heard.

Fifty years ago the Orthodox Academy of Crete played a pioneering role and stood from the very beginning for peace and reconciliation among churches and among people of different denominations and cultures. As a gift for the anniversary I was able to present the director of the Academy a special painting. It is a picture which says with colours and forms and with a few words only: Rethink! Rethink Europe. Help us to rethink Europe together – unlimited, making dreams true for us and for strangers. And let us create, as much as we can according to our faith, let us create not new walls, not a “Fortress Europe”, but a real community for all.

Crete was an important step towards a greater commitment which will not be one-dimensional but a joint European effort to develop a common democratic vision of our continent and to contribute to a Europe which needs again to become more human. Warmest thanks to all who has helped to make this step possible. We express our thanks to our host, the director and his staff of the Academy, to the invited experts, to the staff of Oikosnet Europe and to all participants.

Next year the Annual Conference will be held from September 11 till September 15 in the Agape Centro Ecumenico, Italy. We will have to deal again with “Europe with different eyes”, with the European civil societies and with the European dimension of other important issues like the increasing digitization of all areas of life or the field of artificial intelligence. Welcome to the two new Members of the Board of Okiosnet Europe, Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum, Norway, as Vice President, and Karolína Silná, Czech Republic, as Treasurer. The renewed Board will involve the members active in the subject area and continue developing and strengthening the network of Oikosnet Europe.

kostas & walter

 

 

The Annual Conference in Crete

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The Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe was this year hosted by the Orthodox Academy of Crete, an academy that also celebrated it´s 50 year anniversary. As always, it was a wonderful mix of new acquaintances and reunion with old friends.

During the business meeting, two new members were elected to the board. Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum from the Church Academies in Norway, replaced Sören Lenz from Liebfrauenberg, France as new vice President, and Karolina Silna from the Ekumenická Akademie Praha in The Czech Republic, replaced Nicola Murray from Corrymeela UK.

Two auditors, were also elected, Sara Marta Rostagno from Agape, Italy and Birgit Weinbrenner from the Evangelische Akademie Villigst. Metropolitan Ioannes Sakellariou from Greece was elected as new memeber of the Nominations Comittee and he will share this responsibility with Aleksei Bodrov, from St Andrews Theological Institute, Russia.

A variety of perspectives during the study day
Learning more about the culture and society are for many one the most appreciated parts of the Annual Conferences of Oikosnet Europe. The theme this year was Europe with different eyes – The case of Greece for example, a theme that was exemplified by lectures and presentations with different aspects on the situation in Crete and Greece. Dr Kostas Filis, Director of Research at the Institute of International Relations of Panteion University ( Athens), gave a presentation on the topic “Challenges and opportunities for the EU and the role of Greece”, followed up by a presentation by Dr Kostas Melas, Professor of Economics at Panteion University in Athens, on the concept of “creative destruction”.

A concrete example on how deep crisis could be transformed in to opportunity was presented by Despoina Mathioudaki and Tini Damianaki, two entrepreneurs who succesfully had managed to rediscover old recepies of the traditional Crete cuisine and turn them into good business. Another project that came out of the economical crisis, was presented by Thanos Paraschos, Vasillios Kottas, Sarantis Kyritsis and Heinz Kabutz, students of science at University of Crete, As a learning process in high technology they are trying to send the first Crete astronaut to space. (Not a real one, one might have to add…)
Last but not least, Heinz Kabutz, PhD in computer science, shared his story about starting up a conference business on an island like Crete in the time of crisis. His idea of having conferences without agenda was something that appealed to some of the auditors. So who knows, maybe it will tried out and explored in some upcoming event of Oikosnet Europe.

27 participants, representing 16 member organisations, took part of the conference this year, a most enjoyable stay thanks to the beautiful location and the generous hospitality of director Konstantinor Zormpas and Katerina Karkala Zormpa, head of the Conference Organisations of the OAC. We look forward to meet upp again at the Annual Conference 2019 that will be hosted by the Academy of Agape. More information will be sent out in the newsletters to come.

Minutes from the Business Meeting

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Church-Related Academies support Civil Society and Deliberative Democracy

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By Rüdiger Noll,
Executive secretary of Oikosnet Europe

On the day that this Editorial is written, the 27 Heads of State and Government of the European Union meet in Brussels for an Informal Leaders’ Meeting. On the agenda are institutional reforms in view of the forthcoming elections of the European Parliament in 2019. The contribution of the European Commission to this meeting is entitled: “A Europe that delivers: Institutional options for making the European Union´s work more efficient.” The text starts very promising by stating: “The European Union is both a Union of States and a Union of citizens.” One would have expected, therefore, the text not only to address as to how the EU Member States and the European Institutions are involved in the European agenda, but also how the citizens can make their voice heard and thereby shape European politics. But the next sentence of the European Commission´s paper already destroys this illusion: “Citizens are represented directly through the European Parliament and indirectly through their own governments, working together in the Council and in the European Council.” As transparent as the European Parliament might work and as accessible Members of the European Parliament might be, the representation of citizens is first and foremost seen as an indirect one, through a representative more or less democratically legitimized institutions.
And, therefore, the 27 “Leaders” will talk mainly about how to raise the interest of citizens in the European elections. The discussed measures, e.g. European lead candidates and partially European-wide lists of political parties, are important and a step forward, but they are not enough.

We need spaces for appropriate debate
As the Belgian author and writer together with many other intellectuals across Europe stated:” We need to urgently develop spaces in which citizens despite of their different convictions can come together online and offline, where they have appropriate information in order to debate appropriately, in which direction our society should develop.” And one might add, it needs ways by which these citizen´s deliberations can actually shape policies.

Civil society needs to be facilitated – not highjacked
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, in his recent speech at the Sorbonne on the future of Europe, suggested “national conventions” as a way forward. He proposed a stronger network of European Universities. In an article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Jeremy Adler opted for a European network of academies. It is evident: European issues need a European public and a European discourse. It needs formats for citizens’ discourses which go way beyond usual pseudo-dialogues. And it needs intermediate organisations, which facilitate, but do not attempt to highjack the civil society discourse.

Joint project in stregthening civil society – pilot projects in the months to come
It is in this sense, that Oikosnet Europe together with the Association of German Protestant Academies (EAD) and the Protestant Academy of Rostock are engaging in a joint project on strengthening civil society and deliberative democracy, especially designed for Central Europe. The implementation period will be 2019/20, but stakeholders are coming together already now in order to decide on the parameters of the projects. Three pilot projects are foreseen for the months to come on the relationship between national and European narratives (and Christian elements therein), on the role of political education and on the role of citizens in European energy politics.
But there are many more points of entry for a European network of church-related academies, like Oikosnet Europe. Just to mention two examples, which are already under discussion:

  • Oikosnet Europe just welcomed PlusBildung Schweiz as member of the Oikosnet family. May be the Swiss church-related educational institutions can help us to sharpen our understanding of peoples’ participation in democratic processes.
  • The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, suggested in his latest “State of the Union” speech at the European Parliament to hold a next Summit meeting in 2019, just after the “Brexit” and prior to the European elections. The Summit is supposed to take place in Sibiu/Hermannstadt, Romania, where the churches held the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in 2007. A democratic Europe will be a key topic. How about organizing with the help of the Protestant Academy in Sibiu a congress just prior to the Summit with an emphasis on peoples’ participation in democracy?

All these ideas and issues are supposed to come together at the next Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe, which will take place at the Orthodox Academy in Crete, 6 to 9 September this year. Crete, Greece, Athens – a birthplace of European democracy. Walter Lüssi, the new President of Oikosnet Europe, is very keen on a more thematic orientation of Annual Conferences. May be democracy, peoples’ participation in the European project is one of the themes that should be highlighted at future Oikosnet Annual Assemblies. But input from Oikosnet members and friends as well as from other civil society actors is already sought before!

Let´s keep in touch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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

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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.

 

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

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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

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