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Newsletter from Oikosnet Europe, June 2019

Dear friends and members of Oikosnet Europe,

In Sweden, we are now approaching Midsummer which is celebrated this weekend – starting tomorrow. This is also the starting point for the main vacation period in Sweden. 

Earlier this week, the secretary for Oikosnet business at the Secretariat, Karin Sallander, and myself took part in the board meeting held at Agape Centro Ecumenico. At this board meeting, all board members were present. This made it possible to address some important issues that are on the board’s agenda. Since both Malte Dahme and Sara Marta Rostagno also were present at the meeting, many issues related to the AC could be discussed and sorted out.

Agape is a wonderful place and will also be the location for this year’s Annual Conference. I really encourage all of you to take part in this conference. Not only is the AC the backbone of the association and Agape a beautiful and interesting place to visit, the program also looks very promising. See further details below. Your participation will also add to the significance and constructive potential of the Annual Conference!

I wish for all of you a wonderful summer, with the right combination of relaxation and stimulation, and look forward to meet you in northern Italy in September.

Alf Linderman
Head of the Oikosnet Europe Secretariat
Executive Director of the Sigtuna Foundation

Welcome to the annual conference of Oikosnet Europe

Agape Italy 11 to 15 September 2019 
On behalf of the Board of Oikosnet Europe and on behalf of Agape Centro Ecemenico in Italy, it is our pleasure to invite you to the next Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe. The AC is scheduled to take place from 11 – 15 September 2019 in the beautiful settings of Torino in Northern Italy.  

Theme of the conference
The theme of the 2019 Annual Conference deals with identities in a changing world.

Identity is a tricky thing – you cannot be without it (to whom can you say “you” if you do not know an “I”?) and therefore often it seems to be natural. As we all know it is rather complex and far from being plain and simple: it depends on our history, our local and cultural context, as well as on our intentions – we are something between who we were and who we want to be.

Oikosnet's AC this year takes place in a region that will allow us a proper field work on all the different aspects of identity, witnessing migration flows and cultural shifts. Encountering experts, historians and activists, we will get insights on the identity discourse of the Waldensian Church, a pre-reformation protestant church located in the valleys around Agape, forced into exile and liberated 1848. We will look at how this identity shapes this church's work in the migration contexts of today. We will have a closer look on the migration routes passing in a valley near Agape, how they are affected by a political situation which tries to shape the past for its current intention, and we will find there the urge to define borders as well as the seed for a real European Civil Society. And, last but not least, we will see and discuss practical examples of communitarian work on identity, which needs sometimes to change to remain what it has been.

Agape is woven into a very special context: it is part of a minority church, yet it is located in the only region where members of the Waldensian Church form a majority; Agape has been built at the top a tight mountain valley which has been subject to forced and voluntary migration and it is now witnessing new forms of migration; it has been build right after a time of massive alienation and distance among humans on local, national and international level as a project of reconciliation, common good and community. Its architecture facilitates group processes and community building and in the decades of its existence Agape was be able to welcome challenges and diversities without becoming something different. This has shaped Agape's community and this spirit lives in Agape's walls – as the Annual Conference is our occasion for sharing and updating each other on our missions and projects, we will do so in the communitarian spirit that Agape offers to see the glimpses of a common identity which lies in the shared ground of the One.

Registration and how to get there
Agape lies within the Waldensian Valley in the north of Italy. The closest airport is Turino. And from there it takes some time to drive. For the Oikosnet Annual Conference, Turino will be the starting point of shuttles to Agape. Participants should arrive well before 18h00 on 11 September. More detailed information will be provided to registered participants. For more information on the Agape Center check: 
The registration for the conference is open until August 21. We look forward to see you all there!

Oikosnet Europes engagement in CEC

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) regards Oikosnet Europe as an “organisation in partnership”. Earlier this year, CEC presented a draft of a strategic work plan to all its member churches and partner organisations for commenting.

The strategic plan is to guide CEC’s work for the years to come and also to determine as to where CEC wants to make a difference in bringing a faith-based voice to the European institutions. Oikosnet Europe took the challenge seriously and, after discussions in the Board, responded to CEC’s plans and offered its comments and resources with regard to strategic issues as well as in view of the many topics which CEC sees as part of its work plan.

In follow-up of this consultation process and a meetings of CEC’s Governing Board, CEC now issued a letter with three overarching aims for its future work and announcing six working groups to be established. These working groups will work until the next CEC Assembly in about 2023. The frequency of meetings is usually two to three times a year. The six broad themes around which the working groups are to convene are:

- ecclesiology and mission

- diversity, pluralism and education for democracy

- economic and ecological justice and sustainable future

- science, bioethics and technology

- human rights education and advocacy

- social justice.

As Oikosnet Europe is an organisation in partnership, we are also eligible to suggest members for these working groups from among our constituency. Therefore, Oikosnet members are invited to suggest potential candidates with adequate expertise, to the Oikosnet Executive Secretary ( until 1.September 2019. The next Annual Conference of Oikosnet Europe (11-15 September) will then discuss the matter and take a decision about names to be forwarded to CEC. The final selection of working group members will remain entirely in the hand of CEC.

The letter from CEC (and its appendices) to its member churches and organisations in partnership can be found on the Oikosnet website

Invitation to the Arab Europe Citizens Dialogue

Cairo 14 – 18 October 2019
As a member of Oikosnet Europe we are delighted to invite you to participate in the upcoming Arab-Europe Citizens’ Dialogue Conference under the theme: Peaceful Coexistence – How can people of different faiths live peacefully together?
The primary objective of the Arab-European dialogue in the coming year is creating spaces for understanding and implementing changes to increase human rights in both regions. This focus stems from the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) Forum strategy, which emphasis on coexistence, pluralism and inclusion – not exclusion methodologies in the religious context. The other objective is the interactions between religion, civil society, and politics; integration and participation of refugees; and production of media and images — which follow from an increased focus on human rights. By making human rights the focus of our efforts, the Forum for Intercultural Dialogue aims to bring this ever-important principle to the forefront.

Costs and financial support for member of Oikosnet Europe

The cost for participation, after subsidies by the conference organizers, will be app: USD 260. but as a member of Oikosnet Europe there are furthermore some possibilities for subsidies regarding travel and participation. This is handled separately by the two regions. For the European region please contact Karin Sallander at the Sigtuna Foundation

Orthodox Academy of Crete is officially a research center

With a recent bill by the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, passed by the Greek Parliament on 23 April 2019, the Orthodox Academy of Crete (OAC) was included in the Law 4310/2014 (A´ 258) concerning “Research, Technological Advancement and Innovation“ and is, thus, officially one of the State-acknowledged Research Centres (Government Gazette 4610/7-5-2019, Art. 255).

This fact constitutes a very important development for the OAC and recognition of the responsible work that is being done for more than 50 consecutive years (1968-2018), and is expected to be a landmark for its future course and academic progress on a local, a national as well as an international level.

The Foundation will now be able to respond to the “signs of the times” and continue to offer its diaconal work to the Church, but also to the well-being of our Society and our Education.

Those Members of OIKOSNET EUROPE who would like to cooperate with the OAC with regard to this new property, please contact (Dr Antonios Kalogerakis).

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