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Visions for the future, Sigtuna May 18th – May 21st

Paneldebatt Sigtunastiftelsen1 Cultural identity, democracy and peace was the main theme of the confence in Sigtuna , arranged by the Sigtuna Foundation in cooperation with Oikosnet Europe, Riseci, The Swedish Christian Council and the Swedish Muslim Council. The program started out with a dialogue between Anas Altikriti, Founder and president of the Cordoba Foundation in the UK, Ute Steyer, Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Stockholm, Josep-Maria Carbonell, Dean at the Blanquerna School of Communications and International Relations at Ramon Llull University in Barcelona,  Mia Lövheim, Professor in the Sociology of religion at Uppsala University and Mona Sahlin, National Coordinator against violent extremism and previous leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. Coming from different religous backgrounds and different cultural contexts the speeches given really shed some light on the challenge of having an open dialogue – not only with the ones with whom you share your values.

Religion democracy and respectIn the following part of the conference, several members of Oikosnet Europe shared their experiences by giving speeches and presentations. Björn Wallén from the Academy of Lärkkulla gave a presentation about community based learning, Sören Lenz from Liebfrauenberg gave a speech on Laicité – the french way of living together, Angela Berger from Evangelische Akademie in Berlin gave a presentation on Pegida, the the new right wing populism in Germany, Erin Wilson, Director, Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain at Rijksuniversiteit in Groningen, gave her perspectives on religion in the public sphere, followed up by a speech on the relationship between state and religion in Germany by Sabine Federman from the Academy of Villigst.  On the second day of the conference Aleksei Bodorov from St Andrew´s Biblical Theological Institue in Moscow shared his perspective on religion, cultural identity and democracy in Russia, followed up by Roman Juriga from Pravoslavná akademie Vilémov presenting  the project “Night of Open Churces” and finally Gernot Meier from Evangelische Akademie Baden shared his experices of a religious dialogue project named In the mirror of the other.

All contributions were very valuable in their own right, giving inspiration, concrete examples and good ideas for the future. In the concluding discussion it was very clear that the members of Oikosnet Europe do have a lot in common when it comes to the challenge on how to create a fruitful  dialogue on religion and democracy, based on the freedom of and speech as well as respect for one anothers differencies. That could be a real “Vision for the Future”.

Presentations  from the conferences will be published at the website of Oikosnet Europe later on.

Sofia af Geijerstam, The Sigtuna Foundation


Is your organisation ready for the transnational cooperation? Is it ready for Europe?

Europe-wide Survey: Challenges in the transnational cooperation for organisations in the sector of formal and informal education


The transnational cooperation of organisations and institutions within the sector of formal and non-formal education (educational institution and youth organisations) is getting more and more important in a converging Europe. Is your organisation ready for the transnational cooperation? Is it ready for Europe?
Regarding this crucial question Oikosnet Europe sends you a survey. We would appreciate if you could spend 20 minutes of your time to click on the link and if you could answer to the questions anonymously. Thanks a lot for forwarding this survey to your partners as well. Among English there will be five more languages to choose from.
Through the completion of the survey you will be able to learn which challenges your organisation is facing in the context of transnational cooperation. Your answers will help to develop an Online-Self-Assessment-Tool. This tool will assist organisations to check their ability and to optimise to work cross-border in a European context. From mid of 2016 the tool will be available free of charge on the website of the EU-Fundraising Association .
For further information about the project see:
As a gesture of appreciation for your contribution the lead partner emcra (Berlin) offers you to participate at one of their Online Seminars in one particular area of European fundraising. You can choose one seminar in German or English language.
Enjoy the survey!

Rüdiger Noll


Make a world of difference at Corrymeela

CorrymeelaCan you imagine working for a society whose priorities are justice, mutual respect, the participation of all, concern for the vulnerable and the stranger, stewardship of resources, and care for Creation?

Can you imagine living in one community with people from Northern Ireland, Kenya, the States, the Republic of Ireland, Colombia, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Pakistan, and El Salvador?

Can you imagine offering hospitality to thousands of people by cleaning, cooking, leading activities and listening to stories?

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer at our 50-year-old peace and reconciliation centre in Northern Ireland, please visit our website or contact Aileen and Emily  for further details.

Reunion for Corrymeela volunteers

Making a World of Difference –  the Gathering

The gathering

We would like to get in touch with everyone who has contributed their time and energy to sustain Corrymeela over the last fifty years. If you have been a Corrymeela volunteer of any kind (long term, short term, kitchen, summer, work camp, housekeeping, reception, etc), please fill out this form and let us know where you are, what you’re up to and whether you’d like information about our celebration and gathering of former Corrymeela volunteers, 3rd -7th April 2015.

The event will be full of endless cups of tea and coffee, walks down memory lane and around the site, reflections on where life has taken you and Corrymeela, and an Easter service led by Pádraig ÓTuama, new Community Leader. We’d like as many people as possible to attend who represent a wide range of years and tasks. In light of this, it will be a ‘pay as you please’ event, meaning that donations will be warmly welcomed but not mandatory.

If you aren’t able to come, don’t worry! There will be opportunities to participate from afar. 2015 is the year we will build the Corrymeela diaspora into a vibrant community.  – A Resource and a Partner for Oikosnet Members

GlobalethicsIf you are planning a conference or a project on an ethical issue and you want to get input and insights from various parts of the world, if you are looking for partners and experts from different regions of the world, or if you even want to join research projects or thematic networks, then the Globethics Network could be the right resource and network to connect with. is a global network of persons and institutions interested in various fields of applied ethics. It offers access to a large number of resources on ethics, especially through its leading global digital ethics library and facilitates collaborative web-based research, conferences, online publishing and information sharing.

The center piece of, founded in 2008 by Christoph Stückelberger in Switzerland, is its research library which includes by now 1.497,964 full articles, books and journals reflecting on ethical issues. The library can be searched under various categories and key words. In addition, Globethics offers access to research consortia and networks on a number of issues.

And it also works the other way round: registered participants could also post their articles and reflections and facilitate the establishment of a network. Registration is free of charge!

Under its motto “Dialogue, Reflection and Action for a Responsible Leadership” the very international Board and staff of Globalethics want to promote especially equal access to ethical discourses for interested people and researchers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. But Europeans, for instance, do profit by the same token.

The Globethics headquarters based in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva facilitates a huge network on ethical issues from all over the world. At present, it centers its own activities around issues such as business and economic issues, interreligious ethics, responsible leadership. Registered participants profit to a high degree from its services and networks.

Wait a minute ……!

Jaap-van-der-SarViolence as a means – is that allowed? This is not just a question which  can easily be raised to for example Christians, westerners, Muslims, atheists, jihadists only.  Most of the time the evil sides of humanity seems to characterise more ‘others’ than ourselves, our friends. Yet the good arguments for this approach are easy to find: the attack on Charlie Hebdo was not done by us but by fanatic followers of what we consider the false Islam. The same applies to Boko Haram, to IS, to fundamentalists, to people who are different from us.

‘Charlie Hebdo’ as the expression of evil thoughts and deeds doesn’t characterise us. And we condemn it forcefully, as I have seen in many statements from many organisations which are on the correct side of the spectrum. And I heard it in many interviews. Let me be clear: it is awful what has happened in Paris, what has happened in the North-East of Nigeria, what is happening in Syria. We have to fight this as clear and dedicated as possible.

And yet – I also have some feelings of unease, of ‘jumping to a conclusion’. The first information about the attacks in Paris were to a high degree factual. After that, in the second wave, theories and assumptions started to arise – especially about the motives of the attackers. Quite some of them were true – generalisations were not. The third line of article’s, of comments dealt more and more with backgrounds. Much has to be said about that, for instance regarding the role of religion, the role of socio-economic situation, of education. And also about the limitations of values. What is the scope of the freedom of expression? Like any value, also  this value can compete with other values, like respect for the integrity of a person. How to make judgements in such situations?  The philosopher Avashai Margalit defined two concepts in his book ‘The Decent Society”(1996). He defines a ‘decent society’ as ‘one whose institutions do not humiliate people’. In addition to that he defines a ‘civilised society’ as ‘one whose members do not humiliate one another’. These two concepts are real challenges, especially when we want them to be realised. Not just ‘for them’ nor just ‘by them’. Also in the conflict, as was expressed in Paris, we can distinguish a huge group of indirect involved people. Like ourselves. And by determining this, we are at stake too, in our role within this conflict.

Therefore it takes more than a minute. It takes more than a minute for me as a person. It takes more than a minute for us as members of Oikosnet Europe to actively deal with the questions, arising from the first week of January 2015. It is our task, sometimes included in our profession, to support the open exchange of thoughts and underlying values. This can bring us to both a decent and a civilised society. Challenges enough.

Jaap van der Sar
President Oikosnet Europe

Welcome to Corrymeela

The Cross and the View‘Corrymeela is an ecumenical community of people committed to reconciliation and peace-building through the healing of social, religious and political divisions.’ (Corrymeela strategy 2013-2015)
Corrymeela is an inclusive Christian Community founded in 1965 by Reverend Ray Davey, assisted by a group of students from Queen’s University Belfast. The seeds for the Community grew from Ray’s experience as a prisoner of war during World War II. This, coupled with his witnessing of the Allied bombing of Dresden and its consequent loss of life, made an indelible impression on him.
Twenty years after the war Ray established a residential centre in Ballycastle where people of all faiths and backgrounds could come together and learn to live in community.
Now, Corrymeela hosts over 10,000 people a year in programmes of dialogue, learning, faith and encounter.
2015 is Corrymeela’s 50th year and we are honoured to host the 60th OIKOSNET Conference here in Northern Ireland. We would be delighted to welcome you.
Please put the 9th – 13th of September 2015 in your diary.
We look forward to the learning, the challenges and the fellowship. See you next year. 

German Academies adopt a new Europe Concept

By Rüdiger Noll, Executive Secretaryruediger_noll1

At its most recent Assembly at Neudietendorf, the German Academies, under the roof of their umbrella organization EAD, adopted a new concept for making Europe a priority issue for the years to come.

The concept starts by recognizing that Europe is and must be a key reference point for reflection and action in the discourse of today´s issues. On the other hand, though, Europe for many people is far away and offers seemingly very few opportunities for getting engaged. Academies, therefore, are faced with the dilemma that the reflection on genuine European issues is not always met with a lot of interest. Nevertheless, bringing Europe closer to its citizens and finding ways for peoples´ participation in the political and decision-making process remains to be a crucial task also for church-related academies.

With the new concept, the Protestant Academies in Germany now commit themselves to increase the European dimension in their ongoing discourses and to also increase the participation from other European countries in their consultations. This is an important step towards taking into account the perspectives of Europeans with different backgrounds and from different traditions and contexts. Oikosnet Europe and its members have been identified as key partners in this effort. More than before, the German Protestant Academies want to live up to their commitment to Europe and to an open, transparent and regular dialogue across religious, cultural, political and economic borders.

In addition to this commitment, the EAD Assembly identified two “paradigmatic issues”, through which an alternative understanding of what Europe should be about will be made visible. In order to promote a just, sustainable and participatory Europe, consultations in the years to come will focus on what solidarity means in Europe and beyond as well as on the erosion of democratic structures and the role of civil society.

In April 2015, Directors and Study Leaders from German Academies will visit Brussels in order to explore these issues further.

For further information contact:

A Year of Hands-On Work of the Refreshed Oikosnet

By Rüdiger Noll, Executive Secretary


An Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe, such as the one just held in Villigst (Germany), is always a moment of stock-taking as a basis for looking forward. The Annual Report presented to the Annual Conference gives account of the work of the Board in the years 2013 and 2014. It helped the Annual Conference to look into the future.

Some Board members were newly elected in 2013. The Board consisted of Jaap van der Sar (The Netherlands) as President, Katalin Zoltani (Romania) as Vice-President, Walter Lüssi (Switzerland) as Treasurer and Marielisa von Thadden (Germany) and Sören Lenz (France) as members. Also present at Board Meetings were the Executive Secretary Rüdiger Noll and Alf Linderman responsible for Communication.

As the Secretariat has now moved to Sigtuna Stiftelsen, in the future Alf will not only participate as the one responsible for communication, but also as Head of the Oikosnet Secretariat.

Unfortunately Walter Lüssi had to retire from the Board as he assumed new responsibilities in his church. As his successor, the Annual Conference in Villigst elected Kostas Zorbas (Greece) as the new Treasurer in the Board. With him the orthodox church family is again represented in the leadership of Oikosnet Europe.

An important topic on the agenda of each session of the Board were membership issues. The Board took care of getting in touch with each of the about 50 member in order to re-vitalise the network. One immediate effect was that many of the central and eastern European members attended the Annual Conference in Villigst. The Annual Conference itself then took ample time to share developments in each of the centers and member organisations. It also challenged the Board to attract new members.

At each of its meetings, the Board also reviewed common projects of Oikosnet undertaken by members. Common projects at present are the Dialogue for Peaceful Change, the History Project looking on the history of the association and the lay movement in Europe and the Media, Religion and Democracy Project, in which many members engaged and which came to an interim end in 2014. As the Walter Lüssi, who was the anchor person for the History Project, assumed new responsibilities a new facilitator for this project is sought. In addition, the Annual Conference initially discussed new projects; one succeeding the Media, Religion and Democracy Project (cf. the separate note in this newsletter) , one on Demography and one on stimulating the exchange of staff and best practices among the Oikosnet members.

Offering appropriate tools for communication among members as well as for communicating to a broader public is a priority for a network that has promoting exchange as one of its main goal. 2014 saw a new beginning of the Oikosnet Newsletter, which is now published on a regular basis. The re-establishment of the Newsletter is soon to be followed by a new website and an Oikosnet presence in the social media. Important to notice that communication within Oikosnet Europe is not a one-way process. Contributions from members for the Newsletters are more than welcome!

The next German Kirchentag, which is the biggest regular ecumenical gathering besides an Assembly of the World Council of Churches with about 120´000 participants and about 4´000 ecumenical guests, will take place in Stuttgart from the 3rd to the 7th of June 2015. Oikosnet Europe, together with some German academies, will have an information booth on the “Market of Possibilities”. Just prior to the Kirchentag there will be a consultation in the close-by Protestant Academy of Bad Boll discussing chances for a European Kirchentag in some near future. Oikonet Europe has been invited to participate.

And last but not least, in many ways Oikosnet Europe in the framework of Oikosnet International has been in touch with its sister organisations in other regions of the world. Oikosnet International held its Assembly in Accra, Ghana, which was in terms of participation and fringe events heavily affected by the Ebola crisis. Though the participation was low, it led to strengthened relations between the African and European associations. This also found its expression in the presence of the African General Secretary attending the Annual Conference in Villigst.

These are just glimpses of issues covered by the last Annual Report of Oikosnet Europe. Besides being distributed at the Annual Conference, it was also sent to all members and is available for others upon request.