“Europe Remembers:” Fear and remembering in the 21 st century

IMG_2898 “Europe Remembers:” Fear and remembering in the 21 st century was the theme of the Oikosnet Annual Conference this year. It was situated at the beautiful community of Corrymeela in Northern Ireland, an Oikosnet member celebrating its 50th year anniversary. Their remarkable work on dialogue to bring peace and reconciliation was a most learning and inspirational example for the participants of the conference.

The Keynote speakers in the conference program shared many different perspectives on conflict and fear from the historical context of Northern Ireland, perspectives that in many ways were just as relevant for other conflicts, in society as well as in our own private lives.

Pádraig O´Tuama, appointed leader at the Corrymeela Community, started out the first day with an opening speech on courage in the gospel stories. On the second day Colin Craig, Executive Director at Corrymeela helped us exploring the drives behind the concept of fear, followed up by a lecture by Susan Mc Ewan, analysing storytelling in the context of gender and power. Duncan Morrow, director of Community Engagement at the University of Ulster gave a lecture on the theme “Fear and Politics – an analysis on of the 20th century through a political science and theological lens.” After a long and interesting day Colin Breen senior lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Ulster ended the day with a lecture on “Fear and History”, preparing us all for the next days historical and cultural excursion.


Culture and Conflict on the Causeway Coast
The cultural excursions are often one of the most appreciated parts of the Oikosnet Annual Conference and the organizing committee of Corrymeela really lived up the expectations even this year. Sean Pettis, coordinator of the Heritage programme in Corrymeela, Dr Colin Breen, senior lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Ulster and professor Audrey Horning from Queens University Belfast took us on a historical journey along the Causeway Coast, exploring ancient settlements that predate colonial settlements in Ireland. The general impression from the excursion was the fact that the past is not always as clear as one perhaps would think. The re-examining of the narratives of colonialism, victimhood, language and identity that our guides gave such interesting examples of, gave a very valuable key in trying to understand the society in Northern Ireland that we see today.

“ To remember can sometimes be to justify, to deny, to take responsibility or to fear” as someone so wisely expressed it.

Sofia af Geijerstam



Lovisa Degreef Beselin – new administrative assistent of Oikosnet Europe

Lovisa 005Lovisa Degreef Beselin is the new administrative assistent of Oikosnet Europe. Some of you have already been in touch with Lovisa in her eager work to update the list of members in our network. She is situated at the secretariat of Oikosnet Europe in Sigtuna since a few weeks ago and her support to the organization is most welcome.

She lived in Germany for six years working as a ”Bereiter” with horses and she is almost native speaking German and  communicate in writing in German. The past four years she has been Country manager for Back on Track GmbH, a Swedish company producing ceramic textiles.

Lovisas  father partly grew up in Bad Boll and took part in many ”akademien”, therefore she feels close to the  hart of Oikosnet. she  looks forward to a mutual collaboration with you all.

“Europe East-West – The chance of diversity”

Eastern and Central Europe Consultation

C-and-E-Europe_webSince 1955 Oikosnet Europe, an ecumenical association, gathers Institutions, lay centres and church academies from different European countries and of different denominations (orthodox, catholic, protestant), which seek in their work to understand and reinterpret the significance of the Gospel for the renewal and unity of the churches and for the fullness of each human person and society as a whole.

Aware of the tremendous change changing in Eastern and Central Europe after the fall of the iron curtain in 1990 and the new challenges East and Central European communities are confronted with today, Oikosnet is convinced that the work of church based lay-organisations such as academies, training centres and church houses can be an important contribution for developing a civil society.

Oikosnet Europe wants to tighten the relationship between Eastern-, Central and Western Europe communities by fostering dialogue and exchange and by encouraging mutual understanding. Concretely we want, as an European network organisation, integrate more special concerns and themes of Eastern and Central Europe in our work.

Out of this perspective Oikosnet Europe and its member centre in France, Le Liebfrauenberg, invite to an Eastern-Central Europe Consultation under the theme:

“Europe East-West. The chance of diversity”

Priority for this conference will be given to the exchange between the different institutions and centres. We want to explore common concerns and expectations towards an European network and ways to learn from each other.

In this consulting especially concerns of church organisations in Eastern-, and Central Europe will be taken in consideration.

The proximity of the European Institutions in Strasbourg (Council of Europe, European court of human rights) will be an opportunity to learn more about European organisations and it will be the occasion to discuss development in CEE and Europe especially regarding the actual situation in Eastern- and Central Europe.

Keynote speakers will give the necessary input for the exchange.

A visit to Strasbourg is planned.

For more information about this project please contact Sören Lenz  slenz@liebfrauenberg.com


Training Dialogue for Peaceful Change (DPC) at Corrymeela

IMG_20141124_091528DPC as a conflict management method is to a certain extend ‘a child of Oikosnet’. It started in June 2004 with a conference, which was attended by 18 participants from all Oikosnet branches in the world. After the initial activities a 5-day-training was developed. At Corrymeela this training was given for the 72nd time. About 1.100 have received the training, many of them apply their learning’s in their daily life, as a volunteer or in their professional life. Trainers during this training were Colin Craig and Ingeberte Uitslag, both active from the very beginning of DPC. For the first half of the training, 22 participants were present. The second half was only available for 16 persons; 6 persons, either staff-members or volunteers of Corrymeela, have to wait for another opportunity to finalise the training by putting all learning’s in practice while playing out some real-life scenario’s, which were gathered all over the globe. It is expected that a reflection about the training will follow in a next issue of this Newsletter.

Anyhow, there are some observations which I want to share already now, also since I was able to be in the room during some parts in the second half of the training. The first is that the quality of the participants was extremely high. Mostly you see a number of people with excellent qualities. This time the quality was overwhelming good, no matter which age the participants had – giving hope for the future. The second: the training was offered to all members of Oikosnet Europe, also with financial support. Nevertheless the high number of different nationalities was mostly caused by the participation of several volunteers at Corrymeela. Participants with a background from other Oikosnet members were a minority. The third observation: the learning came with a lot of laughter and fun. This is always one objective, but never guaranteed. Here it was realised again, thanks to the participants and the trainers!

Jaap van der Sar


Gender & Justice Network 7th to 9th September 2015 in Corrymeela

Theme: Care – who cares for whom and why?

gender&justiceIn the network we try to find a theme that is connected with gender and justice alike , inform about our experiences with the theme in our work and country and have a look at the situation in the hosting country. So this year the Gender & Justice Network had an interesting overview on the care-system in Northern Ireland during these two days. Three lectures from three different points of view deepened the theme. Susan McEwen, Head of Programmes, Corrymeela, gave the first input on Monday evening introducing to the Corrymeela work: What does it mean «to live well together »? She underlined how important story telling is to build bridges and connections. The second lecture was given by Maria Gavay, member of the Corrymeela community. She got her care-experiences from the Arche-communities where she lived for some time together with disabled people. Lyn Campell came in for the last lecture on Wednesday morning to tell us about the Carers Association of Northern Ireland providing support to carers and to get carers life easier.

The Gender & Justice network had the opportunity to visit a big Care Association named « Triagel » in Ballymena. The association started 30 years ago initiated by a group of nine women to identify housing need for women suffering domestic violence.

Today the association expanded very much building homes for elderly and disabled people, providing support in creating possibilities for difficult situations, etc.

Another interesting learning part of the Gender & Justice Network was as always the moment of sharing our knowledge about the care-situations and challenges in the different countries presented by the participants.

Coordination: Nicole Richter, Institute for Church & Society, Schwerte together with Annette Feldmann, Corrymeela and volunteer Nnedinma, Corrymeela

Participants : Nicole Richter (Germany), Annette Feldmann (Corrymeela/Germany), Nnedinma (Corrymeela/ Kenia), Dr. Kirsten Beuth (Austria), Marielisa von Thadden (Germany), Martina Heinrichs (Netherlands), Jacques Van der Smissen (Netherlands), Dr. Irmgard Ehlers, Dr. Melinda Madew (Philippines), Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum (Norway), Elisabeth Reichen-Amsler (Switzerland)

Outlook:  5th -7th September 2016

Coordination: Nicole Richter. The Gender & Justice Network decided to work on the theme: Refugees crisis and gender. Where could be the most strategic place for the theme of this preconference?

There is no final decision about the place yet: It depends if the partner is sensitive on Gender & Justice issues and if we will find there experts and have the opportunity to visit places of interest. About the date and the place we will inform as soon as possible.

 Elisabeth Reichen-Amsler & Marielisa von Thadden

Klimaatloop – A Pilgrimage for Climate Justice

PCWs-and-the-Peoples-Pilgrimage- (1)At the end of this year the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, will take place in Paris. In the last few months all over the world people decided it is time to act and started walking towards Paris. Among them are many Christians and people from other faiths. On the website peoplespilgrimage.org you can find all interfaith events. The People’s Pilgrimage is a truly ecumenical event. Oikosnet-member Oikos initiated a Dutch pilgrimage for climate justice: Klimaatloop – Kerken op weg naar een rechtvaardig klimaatbeleid. In 10 stages participants walk from the North (Winsum) to the South (Vaalserberg). During a national event in Utrecht on 24 October Dutch church leaders from different denominations will walk (4 short stages between 5 churches) and talk (debates, church services, lectures). Christians and non-christians are all welcome to join in. Oikos in the Netherlands is proud to be the initiator of the Klimaatloop, because it is the first time that churches from all denominations act together and speak as one regarding to climate change: The time is now to act!


Visions for the future, Sigtuna May 18th – May 21st

Paneldebatt Sigtunastiftelsen1 Cultural identity, democracy and peace was the main theme of the confence in Sigtuna , arranged by the Sigtuna Foundation in cooperation with Oikosnet Europe, Riseci, The Swedish Christian Council and the Swedish Muslim Council. The program started out with a dialogue between Anas Altikriti, Founder and president of the Cordoba Foundation in the UK, Ute Steyer, Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Stockholm, Josep-Maria Carbonell, Dean at the Blanquerna School of Communications and International Relations at Ramon Llull University in Barcelona,  Mia Lövheim, Professor in the Sociology of religion at Uppsala University and Mona Sahlin, National Coordinator against violent extremism and previous leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. Coming from different religous backgrounds and different cultural contexts the speeches given really shed some light on the challenge of having an open dialogue – not only with the ones with whom you share your values.

Religion democracy and respectIn the following part of the conference, several members of Oikosnet Europe shared their experiences by giving speeches and presentations. Björn Wallén from the Academy of Lärkkulla gave a presentation about community based learning, Sören Lenz from Liebfrauenberg gave a speech on Laicité – the french way of living together, Angela Berger from Evangelische Akademie in Berlin gave a presentation on Pegida, the the new right wing populism in Germany, Erin Wilson, Director, Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain at Rijksuniversiteit in Groningen, gave her perspectives on religion in the public sphere, followed up by a speech on the relationship between state and religion in Germany by Sabine Federman from the Academy of Villigst.  On the second day of the conference Aleksei Bodorov from St Andrew´s Biblical Theological Institue in Moscow shared his perspective on religion, cultural identity and democracy in Russia, followed up by Roman Juriga from Pravoslavná akademie Vilémov presenting  the project “Night of Open Churces” and finally Gernot Meier from Evangelische Akademie Baden shared his experices of a religious dialogue project named In the mirror of the other.

All contributions were very valuable in their own right, giving inspiration, concrete examples and good ideas for the future. In the concluding discussion it was very clear that the members of Oikosnet Europe do have a lot in common when it comes to the challenge on how to create a fruitful  dialogue on religion and democracy, based on the freedom of and speech as well as respect for one anothers differencies. That could be a real “Vision for the Future”.

Presentations  from the conferences will be published at the website of Oikosnet Europe later on.

Sofia af Geijerstam, The Sigtuna Foundation


Recall understand and prevent

Landau the 6th – 8th of November

auschwits-birkenauThe year of 2015 is full of sad anniversaries. The liberation of the concentration camp in Auschwitz 70 years ago, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the genocide in Rwanda 1994 and the massacre at Srebrenica 20 years ago.

How could and can these crimes against humanity be possible? In which environment do they grow and who commits such acts?

The 6th – 8th of November the Evangelische Akademie of Pfalz arrange a conference in Landau on how to handle difficult crimes against humanity. The theme of the conference is Recall, understand and prevent, focusing on the process of responsibility, redress and reconciliation. If you are interested to take part in this conference please get in contact with Georg Wentz georg.wenz@eapfalz.de

Is your organisation ready for the transnational cooperation? Is it ready for Europe?

Europe-wide Survey: Challenges in the transnational cooperation for organisations in the sector of formal and informal education


The transnational cooperation of organisations and institutions within the sector of formal and non-formal education (educational institution and youth organisations) is getting more and more important in a converging Europe. Is your organisation ready for the transnational cooperation? Is it ready for Europe?
Regarding this crucial question Oikosnet Europe sends you a survey. We would appreciate if you could spend 20 minutes of your time to click on the link http://statistics.emcra.eu/index.php/633216/lang-en and if you could answer to the questions anonymously. Thanks a lot for forwarding this survey to your partners as well. Among English there will be five more languages to choose from.
Through the completion of the survey you will be able to learn which challenges your organisation is facing in the context of transnational cooperation. Your answers will help to develop an Online-Self-Assessment-Tool. This tool will assist organisations to check their ability and to optimise to work cross-border in a European context. From mid of 2016 the tool will be available free of charge on the website of the EU-Fundraising Association http://eu-fundraising.eu/ .
For further information about the project see: http://www.emcra.eu/en/projects/europeanisation/
As a gesture of appreciation for your contribution the lead partner emcra (Berlin) offers you to participate at one of their Online Seminars in one particular area of European fundraising. You can choose one seminar in German or English language.
Enjoy the survey!

Rüdiger Noll


Fear and its Antidotes

Invitation to Oikosnet`s Next Annual Conference in Corrymeela

In his latest book about Europe (Europe-An Unfinished Adventure (2004), Europa – Ein unvollendetes Abenteuer (2015)) the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Baumann identifies fear, justified or artificially produced, as a driving force in worldwide politics as well as in our societies. He speaks, inter alia, of the fear of terrorist attacks, the fear to loose one´s job, the fear of being excluded, the fear of fighting new threats with old methodologies and old equipment.

But it did not need the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 to make fear become the new paradigm. Baumann sees the Mid-70ies of the last century as a turning point when neoliberal economics became dominant and social-welfare states were dismantled. When the institutions, which supported families, societies as well as the state to cope with fears and insecurities, were sidelined, fear determined increasingly many relationships with others, new enemy pictures were established and fear became a resource in the hands of the economically powerful.
Instead of a “war against terror” as a false and dangerous antidote, Baumann advocates for hospital and inclusive societies based on democracy (participation) and justice.

The next Annual Conference in Corrymeela

Fear (“Fear and Remembering in the 21st Century”) is also the main theme of the next Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe in Corrymeela (Northern Ireland), 9-13 September 2015, to which you are cordially invited. The Corrymeela Community and Center has a lot of hands-on experience in non-violent conflict mediation in Northern Ireland as well as in worldwide conflict situations. And it also serves as a renown center for reflecting on those experiences. Through a study day, an excursion, worship life and encounters during the Annual Conference, we want to profit from this experience and expertise at a moment when Corrymeela celebrates its 50th anniversary.

In addition, many crucial items are on the business agenda of the Annual Conference in order to increase the interaction among Oikosnet members and to engage in common projects and initiatives.
For the invitation letter and your registration for the Annual Conference click here.

Care – theme for the Gender and Justice Network

“Care”, is the theme for the Gender and Justice Network of Oikosnet Europe, meeting just prior to the Annual Conference in Corrymeela. Care, in the sense of caring for each other, is certainly one of the antidotes providing hospital and inclusive societies.
For the programme of the Gender and Justice Network click here.

In order to participate tick the respective box in the online registration for the Annual Conference. The Gender and Justice Network, though looking on issues from a gender perspective, invites women and men alike.

“Dialogue for A Peaceful Change
And finally, making the best use of resources at Corrymeela, Oikosnet Europe and the Corrymeela Center invite together for a DPC-Training in Corrymeela from 5 to 9 September. “DPC” stands for
“Dialogue for A Peaceful Change” and is a methodology for non-violent conflict mediation, which was developed by Oikosnet members, including Corrymeela.
For the DPC invitation and your registration click here
Looking forward to welcoming many of you in Corrymeela in September, the President and the Board of Oikosnet Europe send you their cordial greetings!

Rüdiger Noll