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 alf.linderman@sigtunastiftelsen.se

Two new members of the board

At the General Assembly of 2022 in Malaga two new board members were elected; Lucia Leonardi and Heinz Joachim Lohmann. Lucia is the director of Agape Centro Ecumenico in Italy and Heinz Joachim Lohmann is director of studies for democratic culture and church in rural regions at the Protestant Academy of Berlin.

Lucia and Heinz Joachim are replacing Jörg Hübner, director at the Academy of Bad boll and Karolina Silna, director at the academy in Prague.

Photo: Alexei Bodrov ( election committee) Lucia Leonardi, Heinz Joachim Lohmann and Gernot Meier, ( election committee).

Thank you all for a great General Assembly 2022!

It was a great joy to see so many members at the General Assembly of 2022 in Malaga October 5 – 9. After several years affected by the Corona virus we could finally meet one another face to face again.

Our host Gloria Uribe Cifuentes from the Lux Mundi Ecumenical Centre did a wonderful in making us all feel so much at home at the beautiful Casa Diocesana de Espiritualidad in Malaga.

The theme of the conference was The Green Deal from a European Perspective and local perspective. Antonis Kalogerakis from the Orthodox Academy in Crete gave a presentation on the European perspective followed up by a lecture by Dr Felix Lopez Figueroa sharing his inspiring work at the University of Malaga.

Presentation Dr Felix Lopez Figueroa

To those who would like to follow up the speach given by Antonis Kalogerakis he recommends a report from a recent conference given by CEC.
Every part of the creation matters

Due to the situation in Ukraine there was also a session about Peace and Reconciliation, where Colin Craig from Corrymeela and Ruth Harvey from Iona shared some thoughts from their many years of work in this field. It was also very valuable to have the possibility to listen to some voices over zoom giving witness on the situation they live with every day.

We had the pleasure to welcome a new member, the community of Iona. We are really happy to have you with us and look forward to see what this will bring for the future.

Where next years conference will take place has not yet been decided but we look forward to see you all where ever it might be.

Welcome to the Arab-Europe Citizens Dialogue on Religion and Society

Cairo 14 – 17 June 2023
As a member of Oikosnet Europe you are most welcome to participate in the upcoming Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue in Cairo, Egypt 14 – 17 June 2023. The Arab-European Citizens’ Dialogue was established in 2010 at the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC) as an expansion of a previous Egyptian-German dialogue. The main counterparts are the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) in Cairo, Egypt, and Oikosnet Europe. From 2010, there has been a series of consultations in Europe and in the Arab region and the focus this year will be the relation between religion and civil society. A more detailed program will be distributed closer to the conference.

Conference Organizers
The Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue Conference on Religion and Society is organized jointly by the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), Oikosnet Europe and the Sigtuna Foundation. On both the Arab side and the European side, there are some possibilities for financial support. This is handled separately by the two regions. Feel free to contact any of the following persons if you have general questions about the conference and/or about the conference organizers:

Arab region: Samira Luka samira.luka@ceoss.org.eg
European region: Alf Linderman alf.linderman@sigtunastiftelsen.se

Dialogue for Peaceful Change Training

Corrymeela, Ballycastle Monday 20th – Friday 24th March 2023

Our member organisation Corrymeela will be hosting a Dialogue for Peaceful Change Training in March 2023 at Ballycastle Centre on the north coast of Ireland. Colin Craig, previously the Executive Director of Corrymeela will facilitate the training and as a member of Oikosnet Europe you are most welcome to join.

Cost and Accomodation ( Ensuite bedrooms)
Single bedroom £ 680.00 pp
Shared bedroom £ 600.00 pp

Financial support from Oikosnet Europe
Oikosnet Europe will provide financial support for two participants to join the training. ( You are expected to cover your cost of travel.) Participants with financial support should give a written report about their impressions, and if possible present it at the next General Assembly of Oikosnet Europe. If you are interested to apply for financial support from Oikosnet Europe please contact our treasurer Alf Linderman. alf.linderman@sigtunastiftelsen

You can read more about Dialogue for Peaceful Change at the website www.corrymeela.org

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen

Hebrew 11.1

Dear members of Oikosnet Europe, dear friends!

A few weeks ago, as President of Plusbildung, I was invited to a conference in Paris. During a visit to the “Institut Protestant de Théologie” I discovered a cartoon by Bernard Stehr (“Theology of hope”). It accompanies me through this Advent. People long for liberation. Also in Europe. In a way undreamed of until recently. What gives them the strength to build on their skills and resources? What makes them trust in their resilience? What encourages them to exercise patience with great confidence?

The path to freedom can only be found together

In recent years, Escape Rooms or Escape Games have become well-known and popular. A team of players searches for clues and solves tricky tasks in order to be able to leave a room in which they are locked in. The challenge is to share knowledge and imagination, experience and intuition, expertise and daring to experiment by all, to combine approaches and agree on a common course of action. The more complex the puzzles and questions to be solved, the more the joint effort and the contribution of all resources is required. Finally, patience and confidence are needed, hope that together we will succeed in what is too much for me as an individual. The path to freedom can only be found together … and yet remains unavailable.

Education contributes to liberation

When I take up the idea of “Escape Rooms”, it seems to me that many aspects come up that I associate with what I understand as good educational work.

Education finds ways out. Education contributes to liberation. Education is a collaborative enterprise. Education encourages collective action, leads to concrete deeds. Education does not deny complexity. But church-based education also reckons with the unavailable, with that which cannot be calculated. It therefore remains patient and at the same time alert for the kairos, the right moment.

I wish that in this way we will remain committed together in Oikosnet Europe and beyond. We feel the responsibility. We feel the necessities of our time. We know the obligation of solidarity. Let us not give up the faith that together and with God’s help we can make a difference for a better Europe and for the many people who live in fear and need.

With the best wishes for a Merry Christmas,

Rev. Walter Lüssi, President of Oikosnet Europe

Nurturing Hope

A Corrymeela summer school 15 – 22 July

Rooted in the Northern Irish reconciliation experience of Corrymeela since 1965, four Corrymeela members have developed an extensive and practical reflective learning resource, “Nurturing Hope”.   In July you have the possibility to take part of their summer school.

Each day participants will work in groups exploring the different approaches and themes within the new Nurturing Hope Materials. Developed from 50 years plus reconciliation practice in Northern Ireland, Korea and North America Summer School participants will explore how:

Together, a ‘more reasoned public voice’ might be built through offering people opportunities to reflect on the reasons they have for acting in various ways and support them reassert their choices or make new ones together. Participants will enhance their facilitation skills in developing group and organisational programmes of encounter that Nurture Hope.

Rooted in the Northern Irish reconciliation experience of Corrymeela since 1965, four Corrymeela members have developed an extensive and practical reflective learning resource, “Nurturing Hope”.

Keynote Contributions:

In addition to the presence of the four authors of Nurturing Hope and some learning partners/ practitioners from the USA and Korea we have as speakers:

Professor Josefina Alvarez, of the Kroc Institute and a lead monitor on the Columbian Peace Process

Baroness May Blood, a cross bench peer in the House of Lords, the Chair of the Integrated Education Fund and a founder member of the NI Women’s Coalition.

Professor Monica McWilliams, a former Human Rights Commissioner, a signatory to the Good Friday Agreement 1998, and a founder member of the Women’s Coalition.

Ade Solanke, a leading British Nigerian Playwright and former Fulbright scholar at Columbia who is now preparing a play on Phylis Wheatley for Boston. Phillis Wheatley was the first African American and second woman (after Anne Bradstreet) to publish a book of poems.

JC Clapsaddle, is a retired United States Air Force Colonel. He served in various positions including a post at the US Embassy in Iraq as a liaison to the Iraqi Government. He was a National Defense Fellow to the US Senate advising on nuclear and defence policy.

More about Nurturing Hope

In memory of Jaap van der Sar

It is with great sadness that we had to say goodbye to our former President, Treasurer and Board Member Jaap van der Sar who passed away after long illness on March 11 at home in Wageningen/The Netherlands. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Tineke and his family and friends.

Jaap was not only an inspirator and driving force of our association, he was for many years the heart and center of it, leading, supporting, enabling our work, enveloping us in his friendship, challenging us when necessary, even preparing us very carefully personally and the association structurally for his passing away. Especially the “Dialogue for a Peaceful Change” was close to his heart. Together with others he developed the project and brought together thousands of participants and trainers from all over the world for trainings in non-violent conflict management.  

We lost  a great friend and a great enabler. RIP.

Jaap van der Sar ( 1952 – 2022 )