Academies during the Covid-19 Crisis

In German-speaking countries „systemrelevant“ is probably the most popular word in political circles during the Covid-19 crisis. It is best translated into English as “relevant for the system” or “indispensable for the system to function”.  Whatever is relevant to the system needs to be kept functioning even during the hardest lockdown. It needs to be sufficiently financed, resourced and supported. But what is with “the rest”? 

And what is meant by “system”? During the 2007-2009 financial and economic crisis, the term was also used. At that time it was clear: “system” meant the financial and prevailing economic system. Some banks were regarded as “too big to fail” and had to be heavily supported by public, tax-payer’s money in order not to get bankrupt. “System” stands for critical infrastructure.

In the Covid-19 pandemic, we discover anew that it is the people in the service-sector which are equally as relevant to the system; people that during the crisis often work beyond their limits and which are thus far not sufficiently honored and usually underpaid in our societies. They cannot  work in homeoffice, while most people are asked to reduce their contacts to a minimum. They keep the infrastructure alive, especially for those effected by the virus and the most vulnerable in our societies. I am thinking of nurses in hospitals or in homes for elderly people, those who provide food, stand at the cashier in the supermarket , teachers, doctors.

It is a difficult balance to strike between fighting the pandemic and keeping the critical infrastructure alive. It is difficult to decide between necessary measurements fighting the pandemic  and in securing the survival of the most vulnerable affected by shutdowns. Should schools and kindergarden be open? How do we secure the survival of restaurants and hairdressers, of people in the cultural and tourist sector?

In this context, it is also discussed whether churches or church-related institutions, as for instance, Christian academies are relevant for the system. For many it is evident that the diaconal work and counselling are indispensable. But what about the churches’ spiritual and educational work? For Wolfgang Huber, the former Chairperson of the Council of the Protestant Churches in Germany, this is not at all the right question. Churches and their institutions are not there to serve the system, their task is to give witness to the liberating message of gospel and thereby responding to the existential questions of humankind.

Therefore, religious freedom is a highly protected good, also in times of a pandemic. Article 9 of the European Human Rights Convention stipulates, the right to exercise one’s religion, alone or together with others, can only be limited by very special circumstances. One of these special circumstances, according to Art 9, is a threat to public health. Again a difficult balance to strike!

In most countries worship services, funerals and individual counselling were permitted, though under strong hygienic rules. And churches and their institutions did abide to the general rule to keep physical distance between people, but they continued to work for social proximity.

Academies offered spiritual events as well as orientation in new and creative forms, in times in which many people feel to be lonely, in stress or in despair. They cared for the people, gave witness and invented new electronic and participatory formats and methodologies in order to keep in touch with people who usually would meet face-to face in conferences. They initiated virtual debates on issues related to the pandemic as well on issues which needed more attention at a time where the pandemic seemed to be the one and only real topic. A key question still is: what will be the future beyond the pandemic. Which are the experience and learning effect during the crisis, to which “the system” needs to be adjusted or changed. In this sense, the Academies are “relevant to the system” and faithful to their calling.

But despite all these efforts, Academies together with the whole of society are looking forward to the time, where encounters and discourses are possible again as real events, where conference halls, dining halls and chapels are filled again with friendly and reflective people from all walks of life. As Martin Buber said: “All real living is meeting”, meeting face-to face, not just in the virtual cloud. Also this is indispensable for human beings.

Rüdiger Noll, Executive Secretary Oikosnet Europe

Oikosnet Europe virtual conference on Education

24 March 2021, 15h00 to 18h00. ( Zoomconference)
Oikosnet Europe invites its members and friends to a Zoomconference on Education. Education is an indispensable prerequisite for all European societies. Without a good education, young people lack skills for their future careers. But education equally promotes habits and responsible citizens. It offers orientation and an important basis for just, participatory and sustainable societies and a just, participatory and sustainable Europe. Therefore, education for skills as well as for responsible citizenship are at the center of programmes by the European Institutions, such as the European Union and the Council of Europe.

In addition, churches offer religious education as a resource for orientation.

What is the role of Christian Academies, which often work at the crossroad between church and society? What is their understanding of education? Debates during the Covid-19 Pandemic made it evident like in a nutshell, that the role of churches and church-related institutions such as Academies is seen different from country to country. Even among Christian academies there are different approaches to education.

Therefore, the Zoomconference on 24 March will offer an opportunity to share among Academies and partners on their respective concepts of education. It will ask as to how Christian Academies and their partners can join forces in order to offer orientation for responsible citizens. It will inform as to how EU and Council of Europe programmes can be useful as well as a challenge for Christian Academies.

The Zoomconference will be organized in plenaries and smaller workshops. It will be conducted in English. Its results will be considered by the Board and at future General Assemblies of Oikosnet Europe for further action.

Individual invitations and Registration Forms will be issued soon. If you are interested to participate, you may want to contact the Oikosnet office already now: office@oikosnet.eu

Oikosnet Europe General Assembly

The Sigtuna Foundation , Sweden 6 – 10 October

The General Assembly will this year take place at the Sigtuna Foundation in Sweden. Sigtuna is a very small and picturesque city just north of Stockholm and only 17 minutes by car from the Stockholm Arlanda International Airport. As you know, the Sigtuna Foundation is also the home of the office of our association. We really look forward to welcome all of you to our beautiful academy and to the Oikosnet Europe Office!

The theme of this year’s conference will be Digitalization. We will however primarily deal with digitalization as a humanistic and existential issue – not so much a technical one. Digital communication has altered the social context in which human beings develop their understanding of themselves. It has altered the context for the development of identity and the structures for human interaction. Digital “places” and “groups” become significant “spaces and arenas” where human life today is lived, and this has various implications on all social levels. What does all this mean for us as individuals, and what does it mean for our academies and the work that we engage in? Such broad questions will be the focus of the Study Day.

Arab Europe Citizen´s Dialogue – October 2021

The Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue on religion and society was initiated owing to a conference at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in 2010. Last year, we were planning to celebrate the centennial at the same beautiful place. This however was not possible due to corona-related restrictions, and we rescheduled for the spring of this year. Some time ago, we realized that the ongoing pandemic made also this impossible.

Now, we are planning for having the next dialogue symposium at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in October this year, in the week beginning with Oct. 25. Given the present emphasis on vaccinations, we sincerely hope that this will be possible. Make a note on this in your calendar, and we will then come back with more information later in the spring.

Re-discovering diversity in Europe: Housing, Identities and Believes.”

Project idea: Agape Centro Ecumenico Summer 2021

The Agape Centro Ecumenico in Italy are happy to invite the Academies of Oikosnet Europe to their new Erasmus plus Project Proposal. Deadlines are not out yet, so take your time to read through and get in touch if you are interested or if you have any questions or proposals!

“Re-discovering diversity in Europe: Housing, Identities and Believes”
We live in complex communities and common places, houses where we have to find the best strategies for shared living and co-existence, where we want to feel free to express and experiment who we are and where we want and need to find the space to meet the spiritual dimension of life. The three elements of economy, gender and spirituality are strictly correlated and create a path of reflection, self- discovery, discussion and debate. This is a chance of growth and learning on how to live with awareness in a responsible and respectful way through various kind of activities.

We are currently finalising a KA1 project draft proposing a Training for Youth Workers to boost European encounters during this challenging time and to disseminate the outcomes within the participating organisations in order to start a virtuous process leading to more activities and joint projects in the next years. Project partners are European Networks that involve a wide range of participants from many different backgrounds and contexts.


Activity: Training for Youth Workers
Date: 30/07 – 14/08 2021
Venue: Agape Centro Ecumenico, Prali, Italy.

PARTNERS: WSCF Europe, Phiren Amenca, Oikosnet, Dare Network.

PARTICIPANTS: People of all ages are welcome, possibly Youth Workers or people  interested in reporting the contents and activities of the project to groups of young people within the sending organisation. The number of participants will be 25/30. Participants can come from any country in Europe.


  • Every partner involves 5/6 participants. It is useful to know, if possible, from which countries they are more likely to come from, in order to indicate these countries in the project form.
  • Select some participants that could/should be involved in taking an active part in the organization of the programme by:
    – organising training activities to provide tools and methods to report one or more of the topic of the project to young people
    – getting involved in the general practical organisation of the whole program (welcoming activities, daily evaluation, evenings, ice-breaking games) together with other 3 or 4 people from Agape Centro Ecumenico that will compose the Hosting Committee for the Training.
    – getting involved in the planning of the activities referring to one of the 3 specific topics (spiritual/theological, economies of care or gender), which would mean be part of a staff group with other 3 people from Agape Centro Ecumenico.
    Contact: Sara Marta Rostagno vicedirezione@agapecentroecumenico.org