The Arab Europe Citizens’ Dialogue – Save the date!

Photo: Stella Pictures

In August, the steering committee of the Arab Europe Citizens’ dialogue met in Cairo to work on the future plans of this dialogue project. Needless to say, this project is highly relevant to most of us in our immediate local context. It also deals with urgent issues in both the European and the Arab context. The Burkini debate in France is just one recent reminder of this. The next dialogue conference will take place at:

*** the Sigtuna Foundation, 9-12 August 2017 ***

I know that this time can coincide with vacation plans for many of our Oikosnet members. But, what can be better than to combine participation in this conference with a vacation in Sweden. Why not spend some time in the beautiful Stockholm archipelago!

I think this conference in Sigtuna will be a vital step in the continuation of this dialogue. My intention is to make it possible for many Oikosnet members to be part of the Sigtuna conference. You will hear more about this later on. Make a note about this conference in your calendar today!

Alf Linderman, Executive Director of the Sigtuna Foundation


Oikosnet in Magdeburg and Wittenberg

Europe and the Reformation, Magdeburg/Germany 6 to 9 November


„Europe” is the theme of the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany, which will take place from 6 to 9 November in Magdeburg/Germany. Together with the European Bible Dialogues, the Evangelical Academy in Berlin, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe and the umbrella organization of the German Protestant Academies (EAD), Oikosnet Europe will be part of designing an equipping an information booth at the Synod. The emphasis is not so much on distributing material. “It is more important to initiate good discussions with members of the Synod about our various organisations, which have a common goal: fostering a just, participatory and sustainable Europe,” Rüdiger Sachau, Director of the Evangelical Academy in Berlin told the Oikosnet Annual Conference in Prague. And a booth just in front of the Plenary Hall of the Synod will help to do precisely that. For further information contact the Oikosnet Secretariat or the Executive Secretary

The reformation jubilee in Wittenberg 2017
Equally, the German Academies and the members of Oikosnet Europe will present themselves in 2017, when Wittenberg will be welcoming guests from all over the world for the reformation jubilee. There will be many activities in Wittenberg mainly from May to October 2017. With the Kirchentag in may a “World Exhibition” will open and a huge panoramic view on the reformation will be presented by the artist Assis. There will be many other exhibitions, concerts, worships and events, including weeks under common mottos. Not at least, the sights of the Lutheran Reformation will present themselves fully renovated.

The Evangelical Academy of Sachsen-Anhalt, based a few meters far away from the Castle area in Wittenberg and the castle church, Luther´s burial place, will become one Pavillion of the “World Exhibition”. And it will offer again a possibility for Oikosnet members to be present and to be visible. Following a three-years network project, the German Academies have already produced some relaxing chairs, which capture some of the results of the network project. They also animate to stand-up for the future and gather strength for the reformation(s) ahead. For further information contact the Director of the Evangelical Academy of Sachsen-Anhalt, Friedrich Kramer at


New open training Dialogue for Peaceful Change (DPC)

Corrymeela Northern Ireland
Corrymeela Northern Ireland

What is the story people are telling when they discuss conflicts? Seldom these stories are told by the people in conflict. That is what we learned at the Annual Conference in 2015, in Corrymeela, Northern Ireland. They are experienced in conflicts. And there it became clear that ways towards reconciliation require changes in stories, which are told about ‘the others’.


These elements are part and parcel of the DPC-trainings, which were developed under the umbrella of Oikosnet. Now a new opportunity arises to take part in such a training.

Dates: Mo 28 November – Fri 2 December (evening) 2016
Arrival: 27 November, before dinner
Departure: 3 December, after breakfast
Place: Corrymeela, Ballycastle, No. Ireland

Trainers: Colin Craig and Shona Bell (both Corrymeela) and Jaap van der Sar (Oikos)

Participation fee: Euro 1.150, VAT included.

General information about DPC

Invitation and application form to the conference 

Jaap van der Sar

Oikosnet Europe – two identities in a transitional period

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



How to respond? Some thoughts after the Annual conference 2016 

Transition accomplished or mission impossible – Economic developments and civil society. This was the subject of the study day during the 61st Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe, held in Prague. In itself such a subject is always too broad. The fact that we had very powerful introductions from different angles made it even broader. The role of civil society was the central issue – as it appears to me when looking back now.

We heard from the situation in some Eastern countries in Europe where meetings of activists are monitored by secret services – just by locating all the mobile phones in a very narrow defined area. Or even at a square where more than 50.000 protesters are gathered. Blocking the providers for mobile phone during the protest hours made communication impossible. And afterwards all owner of mobile phones – spotted at the square – were visited at home: Why were you there? And yet, even knowing this, people protested, appeared at the square.

Another example: in the Czech Republic the strength of civil society has been weakened throughout the decades after World War II. 1948 with the new communist regime, 1956 with the troubles in Hungary which affected also the Czech Republic, the Prague Spring 1968, Charta 77 in 1977 and also the short revival after 1989 resulted each time in a wave of emigration, especially from potential leaders, from quite a substantial part of intelligentsia. What about the strength and history of civil society in such a society?

We are not driven by examples – we are more dedicated by the results which can be obtained. During the meeting of the Gender & Justice Network we were informed about a successful activity by the regional government of Baden Württemberg, Germany. Through a committed minister president and through the support of churches it appeared to be possible to find, transport and welcome more than 1.000 battered women with their children from Yazidi groups in Iraq. They were welcomed, housed and supported in their different ways to start a new life. Civil society was active around them.

During the Annual Conference we had an input from Mr. Daniel Stech, civil servant at the Foreign Office of the Czech Republic.  He mentioned some helping ideas for civil society groups. Among them:

  • Civil society will always be a minority. Accept that as a fact.
  • Create places where you stimulate the imagination
  • Create places where you enable face to face meetings
  • Apply an open door policy. This enables enrichment from unexpected angles.
  • When looking for opportunities to meet with others, take away some of the obvious barriers in places – like cars.
  • Organise careful counter attacks against simplified narratives.

In my view this list is encouraging. It is a list which contains realistic options. And also, it is a list which to a high degree characterises the work the members of Oikosnet Europe at the moment.  And as a last remark: this was what happened at – again – this Annual Conference.

Besides that we were also productive in other ways. See other input in this newsletter.

All in all is was worth getting to this Annual Conference. Next year we meet in Beugen, Germany, from 6 to 10 September.


Jaap van der Sar president Oikosnet Europe

Oikosnet Europe successfully re-established


A new ecumenical network of academies and laity centres was founded in Prague on Saturday, 10th September 2016. Oikosnet Europe is based in Sigtuna, Sweden. Jaap van der Sar of Stichting Oikos in the Netherlands is president of Oikosnet Europe.  Marielisa von Thadden (Protestant Academy Bad Boll, Germany), was elected vice-president.  Rüdiger Noll (The Protestant Academies in Germany, EAD) is executive secretary of the international network. Nicola Murray, The Corrymeela Community, Northern Ireland, was elected treasurer. Oikosnet Europe ideell förening (non-profit association),  is the official Swedish name of the network, and on its founding day had 17 members from different European  countries, including France, Russia, Italy, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany and Norway. Other academies and centres are expected to join soon. Many have been members of the preceding organisations.

Oikosnet is an ecumenical organisation. Among its members are almost all of the 17 Protestant Academies in Germany. Furthermore, orthodox centres from Greece, Russia and Poland belong to the network. In the European network, Norway is represented by its umbrella organisation, as in Norway there are not only Lutheran, but also some Catholic academies involved – at present a total of more than 70. The number has been continuously growing over the past years by two to three centres per year. Whereas in Norway the organisational and financial framework of the academies is taken care of by the church, academies and centres in other countries depend heavily on donations, project funding, admission fees and immense personal commitment. The staff of the Italian centre “Agape”, for example, largely forgo salary, in the Czech Republic the director of Vilémov/Javornik is currently trying to acquire basic equipment for the centre.

As different as the centres and academies might be, they are all joined in their belief that as Christians we need to act out our responsibility for society and living together peacefully. Conversation, encounters and educational programmes are an important means to achieve this.

Picture: Participants of the Oikosnet annual conference in Prague toasting to the re-establishment of the association according to Swedish law.