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

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
European region: Alf Linderman

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

Save the date for the General Assembly

Lux Mundi Ecumenical Centre will be hosting the General Assembly in Malaga, Spain October 5 – 9 2022.

Dear Members and Friends of Oikosnet Europe!
The Lux Mundi Ecumenical Centre is inviting Oikosnet Europe to hold the Oikosnet General Assembly 2022 in Malaga, Spain. Therefore, on behalf of the Board of Oikosnet Europe and on behalf of the The Lux Mundi Ecumenical Centre we ask you kindly to save the date in your calendar. The General Assembly (GA) is planned to begin with an Opening Worship at 17h30 on October 5, followed by dinner and a welcoming evening. The GA will end with breakfast and departures on Sunday October 9.

Lux Mundi is a non-profit Christian foundation based in Fuengirola and Torre del Mar, where Christians from different denominations meet to promote prayer and reflection – work and help to serve others to overcome the barriers that over the centuries have divided us, and to be visible witnesses to the unity of our faith.

The registration will open June 6 and the Agenda of the business session, and the detailed program for the Study day and excursion, will be distributed closer to the October conference. If you have any issues, projects etc. which you want to discuss at the GA, or if you have any special contribution to make, please let us know.

We look forward to see you all in Malaga in October!

More about the GA 2022

Finally together again!

The General Assembly of Oikosnet Europe in Sigtuna Sweden was no doubt affected by the travelling restrictions caused by Covid-19. But nevertheless we had a representation from 11 members on site and four members taking part in the business session digitally. Some additional members were represented by proxy.

It was such a joy to finally see one another again. Work together, learn together, share ideas and simply spend time together in person. 

Digitalization as a humanistic and existential issue 

The theme of the study day this year was Digitalization as a humanistic and existential issue. Speakers on this topic was Lisbeth Gustafsson, journalist and Dr. Honoris Causa in Theology, Amanda Lagerqvist, Professor Media and Communication and Mia Lövheim, Professor Sociology of Religion. Their academic perspectives gave a valuable insight to this field of research and their reflections also fueled a discussion on how digital life affect us, both as individuals and the work that we are engaged in at our academies.

Excursion day in the first town in Sweden

The excursion day is something one always look forward to at the General Assembly. As the venue this year was Sigtuna, Swedens first town, we had the opportunity to explore the Christian roots of Sweden on site. As Karin Sallander at the office of Oikosnet Europe in Sigtuna also has a background as archeologist we were given a guided tour of old town Sigtuna including runic stones, a visit to the local museum and the old Monastery church of St Marys. 

Keep building relations and hang in there…

On the last day of the conference, the General Assembly had Jonas Jonsson, bishop emeritus in the Church of Sweden and former assistant General Secretary at the World Council of Churches, as our special guest. Jonas Jonsson shared some memories from his lifelong experience of ecumenical work. Some words that probably stayed with many of us was “keep building relations and hang in there”. With that said we hope that we will be able to gather again at the General assembly of 2022!

Sofia af Geijerstam, Sigtunastiftelsen

Welcome aboard!

Dear members of Oikosnet Europe, dear friends!
After two years we dared to invite again to a General Assembly almost like in old times in Sigtuna, Sweden. The physical reunionwas good and important. Only the Business Session was held in hybrid form for the first time. The Vice-President Kristin Gunleiksrud and the Treasurer Karolína Silná were given a warm farewell from the Board and their commitment was thanked.

In their place, Katerina Karkala from Crete, already a member of the Board, was elected as Vice-President and Kjell Riise from Norway as a new Board member. Welcome aboard! Unfortunately, one seat on the Board remained vacant and thus no Treasurer could be elected. The Assembly gave the Executive Board the mandate to invite a delegate running for the Executive Board as a guest to the Board Meetings already before the next General Assembly. The responsibility of a Treasurer will be taken over by me as President on an interim basis for one year.

Okay, people, let’s move it along!
A significant part of the meeting was dedicated to discussing the three strategic priorities set by the Board: Education, Green Deal and Digitalisation. A strong will was expressed, perhaps unlike in previous years, to follow words with action. Three “theme guardians” were appointed for the three priorities: Rüdiger Noll, Executive Secretary of the Board, for Education, Jörg Hübner, Director Academy Bad Boll, for Green Deal, and Alf Linderman, Director Sigtunastiftelsen, for Digitalisation. A working group has been formed for each of the Green Deal and Education, which will meet online for the first time in the coming weeks. The aim is to develop action plans, involve further experts and design a process to which all members of Oikosnet Europe will be invited again for further participation. I also gratefully mention that for “Education” we already had as a guest at the GA in Sigtuna Bianca Kappelhoff, Educational Researcher of the Comenius Institute Münster: “Protestant responsibility in education in Europe”. Alf Linderman, in turn, will invite Oikosnet members to participate in a special topic on ethical aspects of digitalisation.In the coming period, a compilation of study leaders of our members and their activities will also be compiled that deal with one of the three focal points. In this way it should be possible to network thematically across countries and academies.

Now is the time!
Okay, people, let’s move it along! This slogan is not meant superficially and in the sense of mere activism. It is about commitment and also about the realisation that it is high time for some thorough debates and for concrete action in Europe. And as a pastor, I say: “Now is the kairos. Now is the time!” – Just the week after our General Assembly, the Presidial Assembly of the German Protestant Kirchentag decided on the slogan for the 2023 Kirchentag in Nuremberg: “Now is the time”! Exactly! Now is the time to act, but now is also the time to live and celebrate, and now is also the time to change. Be there!

With best wishes,
Rev. Walter Lüssi, President of Oikosnet Europe

3rd Ecumenical Kircchentag „schaut hin“

Frankfurt am Main May 13 -16

The motto „schaut hin“ (take a look) (Mark 6:38) is at the centre of the 3rd Ecumenical Kirchentag. In terms of content, it is the common thread running through the programme of the major digital event in Frankfurt am Main.

The 3rd Ecumenical Kirchentag will be digital and decentralised. The programme will thus be focussed, but as usual a colourful mix of topics, culture and spiritual content. The Ecumenical Kirchentag offers some events with English subtitles or in English for the international friends. See:

General Assembly 2021 of The European Christian Environmental Network

ECEN 31 May – 1 June

The European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) is an independent network of churches, church-related organization and individuals which works in close relationship with the Conference of European Churches (CEC). It aims at promoting sharing, cooperation, action and theological reflection across different countries and traditions in caring for creation.

ECEN will hold its 2021 Assembly under the theme: “Reconciled with Creation: A Call for urgent Action on Climate and Biodiversity” from 31 May to 1 June. On the agenda will be presentations, panels and discussions on issues such as European Green Deal, climate justice, theological reflections and reflections on the role of the churches. The Assembly, which due to the Corona Pandemic will take the form of a digital webinar, is also an excellent opportunity to network with other like-minded church and non-church organisations.

Invited to participate in the Assembl y are members of ECEN and friends. The full programme as well as the registration form can be found on the ECEN website:

Issues discussed at the ECEN Assembly correspond very much with one of the Oikosnet priorities: the European Green Deal. It would, therefore be most welcome, if many Oikosnet members would participate in the ECEN Assembly.


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