Nicola Murray – new treasurer of Oikosnet Europe

Nicola MurrayAt the  boardmeeting in September, Nicola Murray, Head of Finance and Business Development for The Corrymeela Community, was elected as the new treasurer of Oikosnet Europe. Nicola is a qualified Chartered Management Accountant, a member of the Management Team, and responsible for all things that have a financial or commercial impact on Corrymeela.

– I am delighted to be involved with Oikosnet Europe whose mission and vision is in line with the reconciliation, peace-building and healing of social, religious and political divisions of Corrymeela.  I am thrilled to have been appointed Treasurer with Oikosnet Europe and hope my skills will be of use to support the Board into the future.

Nicola Murray replaces the Kostas Zorbas as treasurer. Kostas Zorbas was reelected as member of the board.

Some impressions about the business-meeting of Oikosnet Europe

Business meetings sometimes have a smell of formality, of required tasks to fulfil. For some parts of any business meeting, also ours, this is true: minutes, quorum, elections. However, for most of our business meeting in Corrymeela this wasn’t the case at all. We had a committed groups of members present. And we had a discussion about the Annual Report with immediate consequence for the work ahead. This was partly caused by a new format of the report: in giving the report proposals were made how to proceed with the subjects at stake. It worked well and it created a productive atmosphere where critical remarks were made as guiding principles for our way forward.

Important was also to honour the past of our Association: Three outstanding members of Oikosnet had to leave their place in our organisation. First it dealt with Kati Zoltani, who has served us as a board member for 6 year, also representing Home of Hope in Brasov, Romania. During 4 years she was our active vice-president, looking for improvements in the way we set up meetings and conferences, both regarding the processes as well as the relations between people. Secondly it dealt with Walter Lüssi, until last year the treasurer, also representing Boldern in Switzerland. He was appointed in a new job, stepped down last year but wasn’t able to greet all of us since he had a car-accident at that time. We thanked him for his dedication and careful support during difficult processes. And he announced that probably some new Swiss members are knocking at our door. Last of all, the retirement of Paul Krieg from Casa Cares in Italy was noticed. He has served Oikosnet Europe in very different capacities for almost 3 decades, like Board member (by that time called Executive Committee), organiser of a Course for Lay Leaders trainers (CLLT) in Cyprus, June 2002, member of the Nominations Committee and member of the Committee of internal auditors. We mentioned their names, we remembered their work and we are grateful for their efforts and contributions over the long years.

To continue on this personal level: we elected Nicola Murray (Corrymeela) as our new treasurer, Nils Ivar Agoy (Norwegian Church Academies) and Günter Renz (Ev. Akademie Bad Boll, Germany) as our new auditors and we were glad to appoint Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum (Norwegian Church Academies) and Friedrich Kramer (Ev. Akademie Wittenberg, Germany) in the Nominations Committee where they cooperate with Alexei Bodrov from St. Andrew’s, Moscow.

The business ahead for us deals with the improved way to cooperate in common projects – see the annual report – with the new working structure with our secretariat in Sigtuna and with the active participation of as many members as possible. Formal aspects are discussed; the tendency is to agree with the proposal to start a new legal entity of Oikosnet Europe in Sweden and at the same time dissolving the structure in Germany. Decisions have to be made at our next Annual Conference. Since these are major steps, we already now announce the dates for our next Annual Conference, taking place in Prague: Wednesday 7 September till Sunday 11 September 2016. Please fix these dates in your calendar now!

The business meeting finished by sharing the experiences of last year, the plans for the next year and the invitations for cooperation in the coming years through all members which were present in Corrymeela. Impossible to reduce to some lines in a report. Important for the way ahead. With warm thanks to all the staff and volunteers of Corrymeela. One critical remark about their expectation management can be made: the weather was far better all week than announced and expected. We were thankful for that!

Jaap van der SarJaap-van-der-Sar

“Europe Remembers:” Fear and remembering in the 21 st century

IMG_2898 “Europe Remembers:” Fear and remembering in the 21 st century was the theme of the Oikosnet Annual Conference this year. It was situated at the beautiful community of Corrymeela in Northern Ireland, an Oikosnet member celebrating its 50th year anniversary. Their remarkable work on dialogue to bring peace and reconciliation was a most learning and inspirational example for the participants of the conference.

The Keynote speakers in the conference program shared many different perspectives on conflict and fear from the historical context of Northern Ireland, perspectives that in many ways were just as relevant for other conflicts, in society as well as in our own private lives.

Pádraig O´Tuama, appointed leader at the Corrymeela Community, started out the first day with an opening speech on courage in the gospel stories. On the second day Colin Craig, Executive Director at Corrymeela helped us exploring the drives behind the concept of fear, followed up by a lecture by Susan Mc Ewan, analysing storytelling in the context of gender and power. Duncan Morrow, director of Community Engagement at the University of Ulster gave a lecture on the theme “Fear and Politics – an analysis on of the 20th century through a political science and theological lens.” After a long and interesting day Colin Breen senior lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Ulster ended the day with a lecture on “Fear and History”, preparing us all for the next days historical and cultural excursion.


Culture and Conflict on the Causeway Coast
The cultural excursions are often one of the most appreciated parts of the Oikosnet Annual Conference and the organizing committee of Corrymeela really lived up the expectations even this year. Sean Pettis, coordinator of the Heritage programme in Corrymeela, Dr Colin Breen, senior lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Ulster and professor Audrey Horning from Queens University Belfast took us on a historical journey along the Causeway Coast, exploring ancient settlements that predate colonial settlements in Ireland. The general impression from the excursion was the fact that the past is not always as clear as one perhaps would think. The re-examining of the narratives of colonialism, victimhood, language and identity that our guides gave such interesting examples of, gave a very valuable key in trying to understand the society in Northern Ireland that we see today.

“ To remember can sometimes be to justify, to deny, to take responsibility or to fear” as someone so wisely expressed it.

Sofia af Geijerstam



Lovisa Degreef Beselin – new administrative assistent of Oikosnet Europe

Lovisa 005Lovisa Degreef Beselin is the new administrative assistent of Oikosnet Europe. Some of you have already been in touch with Lovisa in her eager work to update the list of members in our network. She is situated at the secretariat of Oikosnet Europe in Sigtuna since a few weeks ago and her support to the organization is most welcome.

She lived in Germany for six years working as a ”Bereiter” with horses and she is almost native speaking German and  communicate in writing in German. The past four years she has been Country manager for Back on Track GmbH, a Swedish company producing ceramic textiles.

Lovisas  father partly grew up in Bad Boll and took part in many ”akademien”, therefore she feels close to the  hart of Oikosnet. she  looks forward to a mutual collaboration with you all.

“Europe East-West – The chance of diversity”

Eastern and Central Europe Consultation

C-and-E-Europe_webSince 1955 Oikosnet Europe, an ecumenical association, gathers Institutions, lay centres and church academies from different European countries and of different denominations (orthodox, catholic, protestant), which seek in their work to understand and reinterpret the significance of the Gospel for the renewal and unity of the churches and for the fullness of each human person and society as a whole.

Aware of the tremendous change changing in Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the iron curtain in 1990 and the new challenges East and Central European communities are confronted with today, Oikosnet is convinced that the work of church based lay-organisations such as academies, training centres and church houses can be an important contribution for developing a civil society.

Oikosnet Europe wants to tighten the relationship between Eastern-, Central and Western Europe communities by fostering dialogue and exchange and by encouraging mutual understanding. Concretely we want, as an European network organisation, integrate more special concerns and themes of Eastern and Central Europe in our work.

Out of this perspective Oikosnet Europe and its member centre in France, Le Liebfrauenberg, invite to an Eastern-Central Europe Consultation under the theme:

“Europe East-West. The chance of diversity”

Priority for this conference will be given to the exchange between the different institutions and centres. We want to explore common concerns and expectations towards an European network and ways to learn from each other.

In this consulting especially concerns of church organisations in Eastern-, and Central Europe will be taken in consideration.

The proximity of the European Institutions in Strasbourg (Council of Europe, European court of human rights) will be an opportunity to learn more about European organisations and it will be the occasion to discuss development in CEE and Europe especially regarding the actual situation in Eastern- and Central Europe.

Keynote speakers will give the necessary input for the exchange.

A visit to Strasbourg is planned.

For more information about this project please contact Sören Lenz

Training Dialogue for Peaceful Change (DPC) at Corrymeela

IMG_20141124_091528DPC as a conflict management method is to a certain extend ‘a child of Oikosnet’. It started in June 2004 with a conference, which was attended by 18 participants from all Oikosnet branches in the world. After the initial activities a 5-day-training was developed. At Corrymeela this training was given for the 72nd time. About 1.100 have received the training, many of them apply their learning’s in their daily life, as a volunteer or in their professional life. Trainers during this training were Colin Craig and Ingeberte Uitslag, both active from the very beginning of DPC. For the first half of the training, 22 participants were present. The second half was only available for 16 persons; 6 persons, either staff-members or volunteers of Corrymeela, have to wait for another opportunity to finalise the training by putting all learning’s in practice while playing out some real-life scenario’s, which were gathered all over the globe. It is expected that a reflection about the training will follow in a next issue of this Newsletter.

Anyhow, there are some observations which I want to share already now, also since I was able to be in the room during some parts in the second half of the training. The first is that the quality of the participants was extremely high. Mostly you see a number of people with excellent qualities. This time the quality was overwhelming good, no matter which age the participants had – giving hope for the future. The second: the training was offered to all members of Oikosnet Europe, also with financial support. Nevertheless the high number of different nationalities was mostly caused by the participation of several volunteers at Corrymeela. Participants with a background from other Oikosnet members were a minority. The third observation: the learning came with a lot of laughter and fun. This is always one objective, but never guaranteed. Here it was realised again, thanks to the participants and the trainers!

Jaap van der Sar


Gender & Justice Network 7th to 9th September 2015 in Corrymeela

Theme: Care – who cares for whom and why?

gender&justiceIn the network we try to find a theme that is connected with gender and justice alike , inform about our experiences with the theme in our work and country and have a look at the situation in the hosting country. So this year the Gender & Justice Network had an interesting overview on the care-system in Northern Ireland during these two days. Three lectures from three different points of view deepened the theme. Susan McEwen, Head of Programmes, Corrymeela, gave the first input on Monday evening introducing to the Corrymeela work: What does it mean «to live well together »? She underlined how important story telling is to build bridges and connections. The second lecture was given by Maria Gavay, member of the Corrymeela community. She got her care-experiences from the Arche-communities where she lived for some time together with disabled people. Lyn Campell came in for the last lecture on Wednesday morning to tell us about the Carers Association of Northern Ireland providing support to carers and to get carers life easier.

The Gender & Justice network had the opportunity to visit a big Care Association named « Triagel » in Ballymena. The association started 30 years ago initiated by a group of nine women to identify housing need for women suffering domestic violence.

Today the association expanded very much building homes for elderly and disabled people, providing support in creating possibilities for difficult situations, etc.

Another interesting learning part of the Gender & Justice Network was as always the moment of sharing our knowledge about the care-situations and challenges in the different countries presented by the participants.

Coordination: Nicole Richter, Institute for Church & Society, Schwerte together with Annette Feldmann, Corrymeela and volunteer Nnedinma, Corrymeela

Participants : Nicole Richter (Germany), Annette Feldmann (Corrymeela/Germany), Nnedinma (Corrymeela/ Kenia), Dr. Kirsten Beuth (Austria), Marielisa von Thadden (Germany), Martina Heinrichs (Netherlands), Jacques Van der Smissen (Netherlands), Dr. Irmgard Ehlers, Dr. Melinda Madew (Philippines), Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum (Norway), Elisabeth Reichen-Amsler (Switzerland)

Outlook:  5th -7th September 2016

Coordination: Nicole Richter. The Gender & Justice Network decided to work on the theme: Refugees crisis and gender. Where could be the most strategic place for the theme of this preconference?

There is no final decision about the place yet: It depends if the partner is sensitive on Gender & Justice issues and if we will find there experts and have the opportunity to visit places of interest. About the date and the place we will inform as soon as possible.

 Elisabeth Reichen-Amsler & Marielisa von Thadden

Klimaatloop – A Pilgrimage for Climate Justice

PCWs-and-the-Peoples-Pilgrimage- (1)At the end of this year the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, will take place in Paris. In the last few months all over the world people decided it is time to act and started walking towards Paris. Among them are many Christians and people from other faiths. On the website you can find all interfaith events. The People’s Pilgrimage is a truly ecumenical event. Oikosnet-member Oikos initiated a Dutch pilgrimage for climate justice: Klimaatloop – Kerken op weg naar een rechtvaardig klimaatbeleid. In 10 stages participants walk from the North (Winsum) to the South (Vaalserberg). During a national event in Utrecht on 24 October Dutch church leaders from different denominations will walk (4 short stages between 5 churches) and talk (debates, church services, lectures). Christians and non-christians are all welcome to join in. Oikos in the Netherlands is proud to be the initiator of the Klimaatloop, because it is the first time that churches from all denominations act together and speak as one regarding to climate change: The time is now to act!