Dear members of Oikosnet Europe, dear friends!

“But now that these days are evil, it is enough for the moment to remind you not to devote yourself entirely and not always to your activities, but to save a part of your person, your heart and your time for appreciation.”

Bernard of Clairvaux (c. 1090 – 1153), French Cistercian abbot and theologian

In these times, it is good to heed the words of St Bernard of Clairvaux. It is important to set aside “a part of your person, your heart and your time” for grateful and humble appreciation of what has been given to me, what has been given to us.

When I think back to the Annual General Meeting in Basel at the beginning of October, we made room for both. The conference was characterised by a wide range of activities and challenges, of which the discussion on the study day about artificial intelligence and its impact on our humanity was just one, which we are only at the beginning of. With its Action Plan, the Board has presented a whole package of measures that will keep us busy over the coming months and years. The goal, however, is not more activities and certainly not activism, but that we as a European network make our possible contribution to overcoming crises, hostility, social exclusion and the exploitation of our planet and its livelihoods.

On the other hand, there was also room for appreciation and diverse encounters. As President of Oikosnet Europe and at the same time of Plusbildung Switzerland, I greatly appreciated the interaction in the Mission House in Basel with its global horizon. In addition, the meeting with EAEE, the European Protestant and Anglican Network for Lifelong Learning, which also held its study tour in Basel as a guest of Plusbildung at the same time and with many programme overlaps.

Both activities and grateful appreciation will be discussed further in this newsletter. For the moment, here is just a reference to a letter I wrote to the members a few days ago with the call to delegate people to a working group: Call for delegates

At the beginning of this new church year and at the end of 2023, it is important for me to thank all those who are committed to the common cause – in the broadest sense: peace and reconciliation – in Oikosnet Europe and in their respective places. The words of St Bernard of Clairvaux are also meant for you. I hope that you, who have to devote yourselves to so many activities, will find the space and strength to set aside a part of yourselves, your hearts and your time for appreciation.

With the best wishes for a Merry Christmas,

Rev. Walter Lüssi, President of Oikosnet Europe

Farewell to the previous Executive Secretary and welcome to the new one

It was around 10 years ago, during Jaap van der Sar’s presidency, when I, then still Treasurer, travelled with him to Berlin to the EAD, the Association of Protestant Academies in Germany. We were able to sign an agreement which stipulated that the EAD would make Rüdiger Noll available to us as Executive Secretary for Oikosnet Europe with a workload of 30 per cent. This was a real stroke of luck, as Rüdiger Noll is extremely familiar with the European church landscape and also with the ecumenically grown church education landscape in Europe.

Oikosnet has benefited from his extensive network of contacts and his expertise over many years, from his project work, particularly in the context of civil society, and also from the fact that he maintained relationships with the members of Oikosnet Europe and was in contact with them in the name of and on behalf of the Board.

Rüdiger Noll will retire from his current position at the EEAS for reasons of age and will also leave the position of Executive Secretary. We bid him an official farewell at the GA in Basel. It has been announced that I, as President of Oikosnet, will meet with him in Zurich in the new year because we are still very interested in Rüdiger Noll’s expertise and would like to have him among us as a volunteer. Then there will also be an opportunity to personally express the heartfelt thanks that I am now expressing to Rüdiger.

In Basel, I was also able to inform that the Protestant Academy in Berlin has decided to make Heinz-Joachim Lohmann, Deputy Director and Director of Studies for Democratic Culture and the Church in Rural Areas, available as Executive Secretary of Oikosnet with a workload of 20 per cent. This was received with great gratitude by the General Assembly. Heinz-Joachim Lohmann will initially hold this office for the two years during which we want to implement the Action Plan and also clarify the different roles within Oikosnet. I am very much looking forward to this collaboration!

Walter Lüssi, President of Oikosnet Europe

The Annual meeting 2023 in Basel

Once a year, the members of Oikosnet meet for a conference with professional inspiration and decision-making. This year, members gathered the annual meeting from 5 to 7 October 2023. The meeting was held in Hotel Odeya, Basel’s old mission house. The European Protestant and Anglican Network for life-long Learning, EAEE, was also attending this year’s conference.

In addition to being President of Oikosnet Europe, Walter Lüssi is also the leader of the Executive board for Plusbildung, which is an ecumenical network for adult education in Switzerland. As Plusbildung was the organiser of the event, additional participants took part in parts of the academic programme.

Interpellatios and services

Members of Oikosnet, EAEE and Mission 21 contributed with spiritual reflections to the programme. Rev. Rita Famos, President of the Protestant Church in Switzerland, also gave her greetings to the participants. The programme started and ended with an ecumenical church service.

Education on the Net

A main topic was Education on the Net, both through plenary sessions and in various workshops. Dr Jasmine Suhner (University of Zurich and University of Lucerne) gave us a good analysis of the development of the digital society, from the utopias of the early networks to today’s fluidity phase. She also presented her preliminary results from a Swiss study on Plusbildung.

Dr phil. Gernot Meier’s lecture on the topic:

The session ended with a round table discussion with Veronika Matejkova, Alf Linderman and the two speakers – chaired by Walter Lüssi.

The Future of Oikosnet

A separate session in the meeting was about the Future of Oikosnet Europe. The session, which also included the members of EAEE, was chaired by Kjell Riise. The Board of Oikosnet has been working on an Action Plan for some time. This was presented and discussed. The discussion centred on what role Oikosnet should play in the future. We also discussed how we can facilitate greater participation by Eastern Europe than is currently the case.

Dissolution of EAEE: See link to New possible members for Oikosnet Europe – the dissolution of EAEE

Minutes of the GA – see link

A backdrop: War

How should we deal with the war in Ukraine? This topic was also highlighted. On the last day of the annual meeting, 7 October, the news of Hamas’ horrific attack in Israel was announced. In a concluding service, we prayed for a just peace between Palestine and Israel, and between Russia and Ukraine.

Networking in practice

New digital solutions have given us more opportunities to communicate over long distances. At the same time, the annual meeting also demonstrated the value of coming together physically. The breaks are important in this! New contacts were made, across denominations and national borders. We met in excellent surroundings, with first-class food and a good programme. Many thanks to Walter Lüssi, who together with his staff did everything to ensure that we experienced Switzerland at its very best!

Kjell Riise

Arab-European Citizens’ Dialogue on Religion and Society

As many of you know, we were planning to have the 9th Consultation for this dialogue at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in November 2023. Given the recent developments in the Middle East Region, we concluded that this would no be possible. Instead, we had a smaller meeting for discussion on the present situation and the future of this dialogue.

At this small meeting in Crete, we recognized that in the next Consultation, we need to address the two wars presently devastating Europe and the Middle East: The Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine and war between Hamas and the state of Israel. These two conflicts indeed represent difficult and complex situations, but we nevertheless need to attend to them. In addition to this, we also need to discuss the future of the Arab-European Citizens’ Dialogue.

We are aiming at a Consultation at the Orthodox Academy of Crete the following dates: Arrival Day Wednesday May 8, working days Thursday and Friday, and departure on Saturday May 11. Many of you have been to this Cretan Academy before and know that it is a both beautiful and inspiring place to meet. It is also the venue where this dialogue started in 2010. More information about the 2024 May meeting will be distributed early next year.

For further information please contact Alf Linderman