Welcome to the virtual General Assembly of Oikosnet Europe

Dear members and friends of Oikosnet Europe,

The Board of Oikosnet Europe is looking forward to welcoming you to the GA on 10 and 11 September. We are very much aware, that a virtual GA cannot replace an in-person GA, but paying tribute to the present circumstances, a virtual GA seemed to be the only reasonable possibility. It also opens possibilities: more OE members will be represented and many more staff people from Academies can take part.

The a virtual zoom conference is divided in two parts on 10 and 11 September 2020, from 14h00 to 17h00 on both days.
On 10 September the GA will take the form of a study day under the theme: “Climate Change and the European Green Deal – The Role of Oikosnet Europe”. Program

The second part on September 11 will be the Business session. It is only one person per Academy/member organization tha can vote at the few occasions, where votes are constitutionally necessary. All participants, however, must be registered for the GA. Link for registration

In this sense, we are looking forward to an inspiring General Assembly with a broad participation of Oikosnet members.

With every good wish,
Walter Lüssi, president of Oikosnet Europe an Rudiger Noll Executive Secretary

What is happening in Belarus?

Ruslan Yarotski , Head of the Leyan Theological Collegium, St. Leonty

Many people around the world question themselves: “What is happening in Belarus?” Our quiet and previously peaceful country has become the object of attention of journalists from all over the world. The reason is the results of the presidential elections held on 9 August 2020 in our country. It is difficult, if not impossible, to call them democratic. Many democratic candidates were imprisoned by trumped-up charges even before the official date of elections. President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled over the country for 26 years, has announced his complete victory, allegedly gaining 80,1% of the votes in his support. However, most people in our country did not believe it. It is obvious a very small group of people, if no one at all, voted for him, so how could he get over 80% of the votes? Obviously, people rushed to the streets peacefully protesting against the fraud elections in all major cities and villages of the country.

From August 9 till August 12 the internet service was largely shut down in Belarus to keep people ignorant and quiet. Nevertheless, Belarussians used an encrypted connection via VPN services to access internet privately and learned about the election results. Riot police was instructed to brutally suppress any protests. No one expected such cruelty! In few days, over 7000 people were detained, severely beaten, intimidated, some of them got shot  while peaceful demonstrations, some died of their injuries, others simply disappeared. In prisons, people were tortured and humiliated. In response to this unheard-of brutality and lawlessness, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in peaceful demonstrations. The authorities were forced to release most of the detainees, however, many of them are still in hospitals until today.

Relying on the weaponed forces and the police, Alexander Lukashenko has kept his power. Now propagandists from Russian mass-media have arrived to try implementing an information war against the truth in our country sponsored by our authorities. They do their best to shape and impose public opinion that there was no torturing or beating of the civilians in order to convince the world the protesters are a minority consisted of drug addicts, prostitutes and people who have been paid to protest.

All the events took place before our eyes in our native city of Grodno. People were beaten right at the parking lots near to our temples. The civilians were looking for refuge, hiding from the police in the church. The steering board of our Theological institute condemns cruel violence against civilians, torture in prisons, as well as any sort of manifestation of violence from any side. The bishop of  Grodno openly condemned the violence against civilians in his sermon, for which he has been severely criticized by the authorities, as well as priests who support the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. Most part of the leadership and priests of the Russian Orthodox Church try not to speak publicly about the events in Belarus.

Owing to social media propaganda, the authorities try to hide facts and make people forget what happened pretending nothing has happened. It seems many Christians believed this more than their own eyes and that’s very horrible and frustrating.

We are in desperate need of world-wide prayer support for healing, unity and peace for our nation from the Lord. We, as employees of the Theological Collegium, stand for peace to bring awareness of what’s just happened on the streets of our cities. Our position is clearly not politically related. We declare the position of the Holy Scriptures that encourages us not to call evil good and good evil. Isaiah 5:20-21

Ruslan Yarotski , Head of the Leyan Theological Collegium, St. Leonty

Head of the Leyan Theological Collegium, St. Leonty

The Oikosnet Zoom Conference on effects of the Corona

Walter Lüssi, president of Oikosnet Europe
As the Corona Pandemic affects us all in running our Academies and in reflecting on our role in our societies, the Board of Oikosnet Europe invited its members to a virtual Zoom Conference on the Effects of the Corona Pandemic and the role of Academies. This conference took place on June 18, 2020. After one session on general sharing the participants discussed in a session with three parallel thematic workshops:

Workshop 1: Practical issues and experiences with virtual formats:
The group stated that in the particular moment of the pandemic it was not quite a choice working with digital resources. As the possibility to meet in person was not given, we need to face digital possibilities as a replacement, but a replacement it remains. The alternative would be do nothing. Starting from this perspective the group analysed how we can use digital possibilities without loosing to much of the spirit our member academies stand for.

Workshop 2: The role of Christian Academies in our societies during and after Corona: Stating that the core foundation of the members of Oikosnet Europe will remain the physical gathering of people once again the group pointed out that Oikosnet offers the opportunity to organize projects and events and to find ways to support them financially. But Oikosnet is what its members are. Only a joint effort will help us to conduct an open, transparent and regular dialogue, as members of the civil society in political, ecclesiastical level etc.

Workshop 3 The new normal for Europe and the role for Oikosnet Europe:
The group held a discussion on topics such as Europe and Corona or Education, Culture, system relevance and the Public and discussed concrete issues. One of the main tasks identified was that Oikosnet Europe must first clarify its own definition of education and culture and needs to rethink its definition of academies – to be able to integrate the diversity of educational institutions throughout Europe.

Already the general sharing at the beginning of the Zoom Conference made clear, that the situation is different from country to country and that our members are affected differently by the current situation. The General Assembly will give us the opportunity to discuss this in more detail and reflect on the results and recommendations of the videoconference.

They call it Mediterranean…

by Dr Kostas Zormpas, General Director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete

One could write a lot about the Mediterranean! Culture, music, gastronomy, deities… Every summer we wet our feet in the sea and the water sings -softly- back to us, in order to overcome the traumatic stresses of the winter. The blue of the Mediterranean covers our bodies and the sun warms our thoughts and our dreams. On the contrary, at the same time, the same sea becomes a “grave” for the thousands of refugees who are lost together with their dreams. The body of the Mediterranean is plowed by its boats and a new tragedy is ready to come: modern ships are preparing to rape the Mediterranean, by taking from deep insider the sea, its precious commodity: the energy!

We have been living in a geopolitical instability in this region for a long time, which is slowly becoming more and more dangerous. Turkey’s expansionist tendencies are disrupting the social cohesion of the region. This tension creates serious problems for the peaceful coexistence, which concerns the whole Mediterranean, causing issues to the European and global status quo. This situation is directly involved with the fossil fuels, and it increases the risk of a major oil spill at the Mediterranean!

Unfortunately, oil spills and fossil fuel accidents do happen in a regular basis worldwide and the consequences to ecosystems and economies can be felt for decades. It was 10 years ago, on April 20, 2010, when an explosion occurred on a drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Smithsonian Institute, a record estimate of 3.19 million barrels of oil were spewed into the ocean, before the leak was capped 87 days after the blowout occurred. That is equivalent to the volume of over 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Imagine if this is a case in the Mediterranean’s future…

For many years now, His Beatitude the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I. has been taking important initiatives and action for the protection of the natural environment. The regions around the Mediterranean, vulnerable to climate change and human activities, desperately need sustainable and organized political thought. Prompt solutions and decisions are necessary, in a spirit of reconciliation and justice. This constitutes a basic element of the work of all Academies, for the protection of life and the integrity of Creation that is constantly endangered. Taking into consideration that the word oikos does not only represent a natural, but also a spiritual reality, it is our duty to protect our right to live in the OIKOS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN, learning at the same time to respect the wholeness as well as the holiness of the world.

Acknowledging the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Mediterranean and the need for Oikosnet Europe to raise its voice and to develop common action for the protection of the region, we propose that Oikosnet Europe adopt a Project for the Mediterranean, aiming at:

1. The development of an environmental consciousness, with communicational networking, organization of seminars, conferences, pedagogical programmes and printed educational material.

2. The application of environmental educational programmes and projects to raise awareness in the religious communities, in schools and NGOs in the respective countries around the Mediterranean.

3. The development of an inter-scientific approach regarding the introduction of environmental education in the official educational system as well as other educational activities.

4. The promotion of the dialogue and co-operation between the monotheistic Religions in the field of the environment.

5. The creation of a network between the different environmental initiatives and Foundations in the Mediterranean region.

We hope that will be an action!

Dr Kostas Zormpas, is the General Director of the Orthodox Academy of Crete

[1] «They call it Mediterranean and naked they play dark eyed children, bitter statues
it gave birth to the gods, Christ himself summer is not afraid of weather there, in the Mediterranean
…» (George Moustaki).