Wartburgfest Thüringen 21 – 26 August 2017

The Evangelical Academy of Thüringen (Neudietendorf) is part of organizing an encounter and a conference for about 120 young people and young adults, mainly from Poland, Germany and France, at the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the so-called “Wartburgfest”. The Wartburg is not only symbol of the reformation, where Luther had to hide and translated the bible. It is also the symbol for one of the first big first student´s gathering 300 years later. Despite its national connotation, this Wartburgfest can also be seen, and should be celebrated, as a first step in the direction of a democratic society. The organisers of the anniversary event in 2017 want to discuss democracy from a European perspective. On the agenda are themes such as: refugee policies, and rising right-wing populism. Oikosnet members who are interested in participating or sending participants are invited to contact Michael Haspel at: haspel@ev-akademie-thueringen.de.

Members‘ Priority-Themes and Exchange Wishes

At the Annual Assembly in Prague, members of Oikosnet Europe were invited to indicate their priority themes and their wishes for staff exchanges.

 The list can be found at the following link

This is an initiative to foster cooperation in-between members. The hope is that this way thematic working or discussion groups will be established across Europe and mutually enrich perspectives and programmes. It is also hoped, that staff exchanges will contribute to further sharing each other’s richness, experience and expertise.

The Oikosnet Board is fully aware that further steps need to be taken in order to make this process of sharing more timely, interactive and inviting. Ideas are welcome before Board will resume for its next meeting in Mid-December.


Oikosnet mourns the death of Roman Juriga

Oikosnet Europe together with the worldwide environmental and ecumenical movement mourns the death of Roman Juriga who died suddenly and unexpectedly on 6. October 2016.

Most Oikosnet members met with Roman at the occasion of the most recent Annual Assembly in Prague in September. He looked tired, perhaps stressed, but full of new plans. The Annual Assembly celebrated that he just managed to acquire a new building for the academy in Jarvornik. A new start was in sight.

Oikosnet Europe recognizes his contributions to the ecological and ecumenical movement as well as to the dialogue between church and society. “Roman was, what I would call, a diesel-engine: it takes a while before it gets warm and strong, but then it is very powerful and long lasting. We loose a good colleague and dedicated member of our association,” Jaap van der Sar, President of Oikosnet Europe, said. “We were friends since many years and we planned several initiatives together,” Rüdiger Noll, Secretary of Oikosnet Europe added. “I still cannot believe that Roman is no longer with us. I admired his courage and trust in God’ guidance in often difficult times. Roman would not let loose even if the circumstances were not brilliant.”

Among many other functions, Roman was Director of the Orthodox Academy of Vilemov (Czechia) since 1995. He was the regional representative of the orthodox youth organization Syndesmos from 1995 to 1999 and for many years, he was the Media Secretary of the Diocese of Olomouc and Brno.

Many remember Roman for his environmental commitment. The Orthodox Academy in Vilemov was the only academy with an on wind-energy installation. No wonder that Roman belongs to the founding members of the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN). The Founding Assembly in 1998 took place in “his” academy. In 2005, Roman was awarded with the Czech National Eurosolar Price.

But, more important, many will keep Roman in memory as a committed Christian, full of ideas, thinking out of the box and with lots of energy for new initiatives. Roman was always open to share his insights and to relate to others across borders. Oikosnet Europe will be poorer without him.

Roman leaves behind his wife Eva and two children. Please keep his family and friends in your prayers.

If you want a small video dedicated to Roman´s life, please watch: Click here! 

Is your organization prepared for Europe?

A new online tools www.europeanisation.eu is available for organisations and institutes in the area of adult education to assess their readiness to think and act European. The tool was developed by a consortium of organisations, including the EU Fundraising Association. Some Christian Academies have contributed with their input to developing this tool. (cf. earlier Oikosnet Newsletters)


The tool offers a self-analysis in three areas:

  • Which issues are relevant to the organization in the process of becoming more European
  • Where does the organization stand in the process of Europeanisation
  • Recommendations for further development.

“I am sure many of our Oikosnet members will profit from such a self-analysis and subsequent recommendations as thinking and acting European is high on the agenda of many of many of them and the basis for their membership in Oikosnet Europe.” With these words Rüdiger Noll, Secretary of Oikosnet Europe and member of the EU Fundraising Association, recommended the self-evaluation.

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.


What is next?

A new president in the USA. What will happen there and how will the outcome of the election affect us? Definitely it is clear that the surprise of the result makes us think about developments in our own continent. How are we dealing with polls? Do we ‘just’ consider the votes and far less the reasons why people have made their choice? Do ‘we’ listen enough to sentiments and arguments of people who seem to loose far more than to gain from globalisation?

Polarisation is not new in our continent. It is already with us as I noticed when I recently listened to some colleagues in the Eastern part of Germany. They told about the careful and intense work they are doing when dealing with political views which remind too much to the period before World War II. What can academies and laity centres do? What are the options in a divided society to work on? I heard that our colleagues carefully support people from all walks of life in this region when they are looking for a society where people want to live well together. It is not so clear, obviously, what everyone is considering ‘living well’. How is this connected with the construct of an ‘identity’? What to do with the sometimes very rude way people behave towards each other? It appeared that each of the colleagues has to find a balance about the tensions they are able to deal with – and where they will withdraw. At which moments is it wise to step back, to not talk anymore, to vote against anything.

Recently in our country a book was published about the processes behind polarisation. In this book – so far only in Dutch – five roles are distinguished in polarisation processes. The first is the role of the pusher, the ones who give their stand very firm, also by hate-speech about the opponent. The second is the role of the joiner, the one who makes a choice between the two pushers and by consequence supports, mostly in a more modest way. The third role is the role of the silent ones: those who want to see both sides, who don’t speak out so far or those who consider the issue indifferent. The fourth role is the bridge-builder – mostly trying to reach out to both pushers. They generally fail, also since the pushers have no interest at all in bridging the gap. The last role is the role of the scapegoat – the person or group which cause the problems according to most others. Both the bridgebuilders and people from the silent group are candidates for this role.

This process can be seen all over Europe. And by consequence it can be one of the tasks of the members of Oikosnet Europe to make the mechanism clear – and to fight the mechanism. In general I think that as soon as a scapegoat is in view, this process is at stake. And hopefully we are found at these spots when working. At these hot spots the hard work has to be done – not just by us but definitely also with us.

Jaap van der Sar

President Oikosnet Europe