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
For the European side: Alf Linderman

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 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


The Annual Conference 2017

Schloss Flehingen, Oberderdingen, Germany  6th – 10th of September
September might still seem far away, but we all know that time flies much faster than we expect it to. This years annual conference  will be hosted by the Evangelische Akademie in Baden at Schloss Flehingen, Oberderdingen, Germany. The main thematic issue will be “The Digital revolution and it´s children.”
The conference starts Wednesday the 6th of September and ends on Sunday the 10th
More detailed information about the program with study days etc. will be provided to all members  with the letter of invitation that will be sent to you in the weeks to come.

The registration will be open from the first of April until August 22nd. 


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.