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  1. GETI’17: Making the Good News Relevant in the Public Space

    Hadje Cresencio Sadje is an associate member in the Center for Palestine Studies – SOAS University of London, UK. He is currently a Master student at the Evangelical Theological Faculty – Leuven and has been working with various professional and faith-based organisations, including Christian Peacemaker Team, Caritas Brussels, Peace Builders Community Philippines, and the Foundation University – Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

     

    Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Loving-kindness and truth go before You.

    Psalm 89:14

    The Conference of European Churches (CEC) hosted the Global Ecumenical Institute (GETI’17) in Berlin from May 19th to June 1st, 2017 in co-operation with various theological faculties in Europe. Through unique and innovative program, GETI’17 hoped to create a unique global platform for theological students and young theologians from all over the world. To celebrate the 500 years of the Reformation, GETI’17 takes ecumenical-theological response to three urgent challenges for Europe at the moment: Reforming Theology, Migrating Church, and Transforming Society. GETI’17 recognizes these theological challenges are certainly vital. The GETI program allows me to have a unique opportunity to exchange ideas, knowledge, practices, and experiences. On top of that, GETI program is not simply a process of transferring knowledge, but a process of critical theological reflection and transformative, to make the good news relevant today. On a personal level, my experience with the GETI’17 program echoes my experience working as a part-time volunteer in the Christian Peacemaker Team Greece and Caritas Brussels, where I have specifically asked the question, what is the role of “Christian churches” in the global refugee crisis?

    My question brings me back into the commemoration of the 500 years of Reformation. I realized that the GETI 2017 turned out to be a test of commitment to the popularized slogan of the Reformation tradition, “reformanda semper reformata.” Although the exact meaning is unclear, this slogan simply means that the reformed church should always be reformed. For GETI’17, as the world is changing, our Christian faith always be in a proper response in a new context and new challenges that have something to do with real life.

    In view of the above, GETI’17 refused to be silent in the public square. At the same time, it defies the dominant view of privatization of religion. GETI refutes the false division between “public” and “private” spheres in Christian life. GETI suggests that European Christian communities should influence the formation of public morality and public order in different social strata. For instance, the role of Christian churches on public policy making process, particularly in immigrant or refugee integration. It is part of our biblical mandate. Doris Peschke, a general secretary of the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) argues that “The Christian mandate is based on the Bible, from which through a meticulous process of theological interpretation Christian elaborate their code of conduct.” She further argues, “A careful hermeneutical analysis of biblical references related to migrants can offer valuable ethical insights and directives which Churches and Christians should respect when dealing with migrant populations.”

    In the last G20 Hamburg Summit, several interreligious groups/institutions, such World Faith Development Dialogue, Jacob Soetendrop Institute for Human Values, Islamic Relief Worldwide, International Catholic Migration Commission, UNFPRA, and PaRD with inputs from Berkley Center, World Council of Churches, and CRRP-University of Winchester, appeals to G20 policy makers to support wider religious roles in refugee resettlement. The often misunderstood, and commonly underappreciated religious dimension of forced migration, these religious groups argue, “Religious roles in humanitarian agendas have received considerable recent attention, including action proposals featured during the May 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.” They further argue, “However, more systematic engagement with religious actors and cooperation with religious organizations and actors (including the large body of faith-inspired organizations), which are doing important work on the ground, is needed. The G20 can play a crucial role by devoting explicit attention to the topic.” The policy suggestion paper implies that there is a strong recognition and impact of religious roles in the global refugee crisis. It is about time, for global policy makers, to recognize the valuable contributions of religious sectors in nation building. If religion has often been seen as part of the global problem, therefore, we also have to consider that religion as part of the global solution. Rabbi David Rosen argues, “If you don’t want religion to be part of the problem, then you have to make it part of the solution.”

    In this regard, GETI’17 program/course takes such timely opportunities to develop future public theologians. Only by creating an intensive short-term ecumenical training where future public theologians can respond properly that many of the global issues will not go unaddressed. As highlighted in the program, theological education plays a vital role in preparing the current and future generation of theologians, Christian activists, and churches, with theological skills needed to respond to the rising religious intolerance, extremism, and the resurgence of racism. True enough, I personally felt empowered and inspired by GETI’17 program, to continue my passion in working with refugees. This ecumenical program taught me to be more critical than ever to churches, social issues, and social order. In short, GETI’17 program making the Good News relevant in the contemporary public space.

     

    References

    Doris Peschke, The Role of Religion for the Integration of Migrants in Europe, Reforming Theology, Migrating Church, Transforming Society: A Compendium for Ecumenical Education, eds. Uta Andrée, Benjamin Simon, & Lars Röser-Israel, (Hamburg, Missionshilfe, 2017), 198-216.

    “Religion, Identity, and Violence”, The World Religions: A Contemporary Reader, ed. Arvind Sharma, (USA: Fortress Press, 2011), 17.

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    August 11th, 2017 9:33 am | Continue Reading
  2. Belarussian Christians Abroad deciding to create the Network of Solidarity

    Marharyta Taraikevich is a member of Centre Ecumena, Belarus. She is Orthodox Christian, an amateur artist and has a Master in Socio-Pedagocial Sciences.  She is the author of the blog on the site ‘Belarussian Partisan’, writing on social issues, being particularly interested in problems of civil liberties and social solidarity, inclusion and freedom of movement.  

    The First Working Meeting of Belarussian Theologists Abroad took place between 2-3 June in Tübingen, Germany. It was an event during which Belarussian Christians, who live in different countries (Germany, Belgium, Poland, France, United States), most of whom have academic degrees in Theology, had good time in discussions on actual problems of the Church and Christian life.

    Enjoying sunny weather, good coffee and beer, walking up and down the streets of the tranquil campus town, we were sharing with each other our ideas, discoveries and fruits of our reflection. We have heard something new from each other, for example, about the evolution of the Church’s attitude to the world around; about the problems of understanding sex in its tradition; about the religiosity of teenagers in Belarus and Germany; about the communities of Christian youth; about the controversy of St. Athanasius and the Arians, as well as about the problem of definition of the term ‘Arians’ itself; about the issues of canon law; about the theology of Nikolai Afanasiev; about the development of Christian community life; about the problems of the divorce and its connectivity to the problems of understanding of marriage; about the authoritarian and humanist tendencies in the Russian Orthodox Church; about the participant’s experience of communication with theologists of other religions…

    The most joyful and inspiring for me is the braveness with which I see the participants facing difficult and challenging questions. Nobody was afraid to sound unconventional; it was evident that we all respect the others’ and our own right of error, expecting that God shall cover our human errors with His love.

    The important part of the meeting was the discussion on the possibilities to help our compatriots in Belarus and abroad. Particularly we would like to share with the Belarussian students, who are interested in scientific research, information on the ways to collaborate with European institutions. This is important as Belarus is a country in which the huge part of population has university education, and there are many students and young scientists who can share their work and ideas abroad, but many of them don’t have necessary contact information.

    The meeting was preceded with participation in the events connected with the arrival in Germany of His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, and followed by the Saint Lithurgie, that was served partly in Belarussian language. Also during the meeting, the books by Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom), translated into Belarussian language, were sold in order to collect money for the new special wheelchair for the famous Belarussian journalist and writer Daria Lis.

    I hope that such meetings will be taking place regularly, as it is a really good way to change the ideas and to support each other.

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    July 8th, 2017 9:33 am | Continue Reading
  3. First days in WSCF-E

    Hi, everyone!!

    I am Maria and I have just started working as a Communications Officer in WSCF-E. I am so happy to be part of this and I will do my best not to disappoint. :)

    The past weekend I have attended a meeting of our Preparatory Committee for one of our conferences, in Dublin, Ireland, and have had the chance to meet WSCF-E’s amazing people (or at least some of them). At the beginning, I was rather nervous about the handover and the meeting and being all new to this, but oh, how useless those worries were! I have never felt more welcome in an organisation and have never made friends with my colleagues faster than I did this weekend! So, I am super, super excited to be part of the WSCF family!

    As a passionate blogger, I was really happy to see that I will also be able to post on WSCF-E’s blog. So, just so you know it, I get really excited about cats and trips in the mountains and I love to see people caring about each other. I also love books and could write overwhelmingly long blog posts about books of Russian authors that I am in love with (challenge me on this, and I will show you my 2500 words post about on Dostoievski’s ‘Brothers Karamazov’).

    I own a diary of ‘kindness acts’, in which I write every 2-3 days, or whenever I encounter random, small or large, nice gestures that people do for each other. Since I am starting to use this blog today, I was thinking it would be nice if I moved that diary online, so that I can share with you those little acts that always lighten up my day. So keep an eye on it! :)

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    June 20th, 2017 3:00 pm | Continue Reading
  4. Happy Birthday SKY!

    Our Finnish SCM, SKY-FKS, has celebrated its 120th anniversary on April 22, 2017. The General Secretary of SKY, Katri Jussila, fills us in on what SKY is all about.

    What does 120th anniversary mean to SKY?

    SKY has been involved in Church and Society for 120 years. Long history means a lot, we have been involved in many and made many new openings in the history. People’s equality, environmental issues, interfaith dialogue, and international solidarity have been sky´s themes since the 1980’s and still are. Many of the activities currently used by the Church have been spring up from SKY’s activists, including campus ministries, Finnish confirmation schools, and the first Easter walks Via crucis 1987 spring up from sky’s activists. Sky has been involved in many, and often speak out with the first ones about social justice and the related themes. It’s amazing that we are an active organization for active students to speak out about the society themes what are current of their time. Due to the long history, we are a well-known actor in the ecclesiastical field.

    How being a member of a global federation has shaped SKY as a student christian movement?

    On the global level, we have often received influences and themes what are been unknown in Finland. International influences also bring refreshing value in our activity. The global federation is a strong support that gives more power to speak out injustice and to protect the discriminated. The ecumenism of the global movement is a great spiritual asset that adds to the spirituality of the movement a valuable addition. International and ecumenical learning is also an important issue that will also be retained in the future. Providing these learning opportunities for new activists is valuable.

    Katri Jussila, Interim General Secretary

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    April 24th, 2017 12:23 am | Continue Reading
  5. “The signs of the times” – report from School of Ecumenical Leadership Formation in Cambodia

    Krista Autio a Finnish Theology MA student at the University of Helsinki. Krista have been the Global Networking Coordinator for WSCF-Europe since October 2015.

    WSCF-Asia & Pacific Region organized a School of Ecumenical Leadership Formation (SELF) for young ecumenical students in Siem Reap, Cambodia October-November 2016. The theme of the training was identity and diversity, focusing particularly on sexual diversity. This training also included sessions on feminist theology, eco-theology, human rights and human trafficking; exposures to the local context; and worship together. The speakers of the sessions are friends of WSCF-AP and are highly regarded in the ecumenical field. These included professors, pastors, human rights professionals, bishops, employees of the Christian Conference of Asia, and previous employees of WCC. I consider myself extremely lucky for being able to learn from them.

    Photo by Natalie Nathanielsz Gomes

    One important goal of ecumenism in general is to raise peacemakers. Having the training in Cambodia was a touching experience regarding peace work. The signs of the wars from the 1970s drew a grave picture of the horrors of warfare and its nature with no glory and greatness. The war was still visible in the demographic development of the population of Cambodia, since the majority of the population were young people. The war was visible as a human tragedy: six million mines caused displacement and physical suffering to the people of Cambodia. All around in nature, the pits in the ground were a stark reminder: the USA dropped more bombs in Cambodia in few months than what was dropped in Germany during the whole of WWII. At our venue, Metta Karuna Reflection centre in Siem Reap, the crucifix commemorated those disabled by the war: Jesus on the Cross with only one leg reminded people that Christ is with those who suffer, and also reminds us of the long lasting consequences of cluster bombs and land mines.

    But Cambodia has also got beyond the wars and Vietnamese occupation. From the 1990s the country has been rising from the ashes. The international presence has been vast: through institutes and NGOs working with (for example) the archaeological site of Angkor Wat temple, the infrastructure, and local people. During our two day long exposure we visited a few of these NGOs, who work with different social questions in both urban and rural areas. This gave us a better understanding of the context which different groups of people were facing in Cambodia.

    Photo by Natalie Nathanielsz Gomes

    I was at SELF representing WSCF-Europe. Many of the topics discussed at SELF were familiar to me due to my BA and MA studies in Theology, but one particular session had a huge impact in me. We were talking about contextual theology and what the Bible guides Christians to do in a contemporary world. The name of the session was “The signs of our times”. Our speaker, Professor George Zachariah from India, used the story of the birth of Christ as an example in a new and fresh way. As the Wise Men in the story got signs from God, so we as followers of Christ can too. In the story the sign was the star of Bethlehem. The story told how the Wise Men decided to follow the star to find a new king announced by an angel. First they went to the source of earthly power and authority, and went to see King Herod in vain. After this setback the Wise Men chose to follow the star instead of earthly powers and they saw the King of Heaven. The lesson of the story was not to simply follow what is expected in our societies, but to follow God, who shows us the right way if we choose to see it. The visit the Wise Men made to King Herod’s palace also caused a tragedy, since according to the story, it led to killings of innocent young children in the region. The story was applied to our time: we are also getting called by God and God sends us signs to follow. These signs may occur in unexpected ways, but the story encourages us to follow with courage. God invites us to make a difference, eradicate injustice and be with the oppressed, poor or needy in the contemporary world.

    Photo by Natalie Nathanielsz Gomes

    This lesson of the story is also the ultimate goal for WSCF in its life, work, and witness. In Asia & Pacific Region this is spoken and sang out loud. The SCM Solidarity Song starts with the words: “The song we sing not for ourselves, for those who are oppressed and chained: build up a new society, let’s share and feel with them.” The chorus continues: “Come SCMs: unite, be one; pull out injustice from this World; live with people; build together. One day we will reach a new just world”. I found this song extremely moving. These are the songs young Christians should sing across the world. Where is the spirit of making a difference? Where is the sense of creating the change? This Spirit is what inspires young Christians, gives them hope and the tools to achieve change. All WSCF Regions have their own context and reality where they live and work. That is why it is so important for SCMers to travel and visit other Regions, to get a grip of the wholeness of WSCF and how the Holy Spirit works in our time.

    Photo by Natalie Nathanielsz Gomes

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    January 26th, 2017 9:02 am | Continue Reading
  6. Joint Consultation: Being Church in Europe Today, Ecclesiology & Migration

    Pavlina Manavska, 26, living and working in Cologne Germany, WSCF Europe campaign/event coordinator.  Methodist. Macedonian

    From 8-10 of December, WSCF-Europe was invited to take part at the consultation of CCME The Churches Commision for Migrants in Europe and CEC, Conference of european Churches discussing upon the topic Being Church in Europe today, focusing on the migration and ecclesiology.

    It was a privillege to be part of this consultation, to experience how different churces from different areas with their passionate leaders who have dedicated themselfs towards a common goal,  to not hold on to what divides us, but to go forward together with what unites us as One in Christ. There were around 30 church leaders and representatives from different churches and different countries in Europe and once again all of us were remainded that Jesus Christ is our chief cornerstone and as Christ-like churches we ought to be more open for collaboration, caring for one another as we walk this journey together.

    We had productive meeting with few presentations, we got an introduction upon the document published by WCC, “The Church- towards a Common Vision” and working groups where we got to discuss and brainstorm about certain issues that different churches are facing. For WSCF-Europe as ecumenical organisation it is of essential importance to communicate with the churches in Europe, to get closer contacts and get to know the needs in order to support and join in different campaigns.

     

    Participants of the consultation on migration and churches in Europe, Copenhagen, 8-10 December 2016. ©CEC

    Read joint press release from the Conference of European Churches, Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, and the World Council of Churches here.

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    December 20th, 2016 9:02 am | Continue Reading
  7. Migration at the Intersection with Racial Justice & Indigenous Peoples’ Rights

    Clare Wilkins is an Anglican Physics graduate from the UK who works in HR. She enjoys reading and playing board games, as well as playing a variety of musical instruments.

    I recently had the great opportunity of attending the 2016 WSCF Inter-Regional Leadership Advocacy Training Programme (IRLTP) as the representative for the European region. This year’s programme was focused on Migration at the Intersection with Racial Justice and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and many of our sessions looked at the local context in Asia and particularly within Bangladesh.

    The programme began with a beautiful worship session led by our hosts at SCM Bangladesh and then we launched formally into the training. Rev Malcolm Damon from the Economic Justice Network challenged us to consider how the current world context might affect our need to support others through advocacy. He also introduced us to various platforms through which advocacy can be done.

    In the evening we attended the tenth anniversary celebration of the SCM Bangladesh Senior Friends organisation and were welcomed as guests of honour, presented with beautiful marigold garlands and entertained wonderfully.

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    On our second day we started with a biblico-theological reflection on migration from Rev Dr Aruna Gnanadason, which focused our attention on the enduring nature of migration. This enabled us to better see the context when we were then hearing about the current issues WSCF is working on from Luciano Kovacs, regional secretary for North America and Advocacy and Solidarity programme lead. In the afternoon we looked further at specific migration-related issues being faced by individuals around the world, with sessions facilitated by Mervin Toquero of Churches Witnessing with Migrants. These sessions gave us as participants the tools to begin our own action planning and work out what we can do to support advocacy in our own contexts. I look forward to sharing these ideas with you once they have been developed more fully: look out in the WSCF-E newsletter for more soon.

    We also had other incredible opportunities such as meeting migrants who had been tricked by ‘brokers’ into dangerous and frightening situations; spending time talking about the Bangladesh context with people from local churches; and talking to each other about our own contexts.

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    For me, the whole experience was a timely reminder of how as a global WSCF family we are able to come together to help make a difference to people’s lives all around the world. I will really treasure the time I had at the IRLTP and I’m sure the people I met there will be lifetime friends.

     

     

    Note from the editor: IRLTP 2016 took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on December 1-6. To download the concept paper of this meeting, click here.

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    December 16th, 2016 2:54 pm | Continue Reading
  8. The dignity of the human person

    Precondition and purpose of the interreligious dialogue in the teaching of the Holy and Great Council

     

    Natallia Vasilevichfrom SCM Belarus represented WSCF-E at the Holy and Great Council as a journalist. She writes her dissertation at the University of Bonn on the social doctrine of the Orthodox Church in the framework of the Holy and Great Council and pre-conciliar process.

    The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church which took place on Crete in June this year has great importance for the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church. For Orthodoxy, the documents and discussions of the Council of Crete are getting to be a starting point in the formulation of  positions and interpretations on a wide range of concerns about internal church life and general social life.

    One of the key positions noted in the Council’s documents is a courageous statement that religion per se is not necessarily something good, signalling that religions could be of very different quality. This does not mean that one particular religion is better than another or that there are more truthful confessions, but rather that within every religious tradition there are both sober constructive forces and manifestations of a morbid religiosity.

    In particular, the Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council notes that the symptom of such morbid religiosity is the fundamentalism which is presented in different religions (par. 17). This is why the task of the representatives of the religious communities is to oppose the “honest interfaith dialogue” to this fundamentalism.  Religious faith is compared with oil which “must be used to soothe and heal the wounds of others, not to rekindle new fires of hatred” (ibid.). Also in the Message of the Council it is noticed that “sober inter-religious dialogue” (par. 4) should promote the establishment of trust, peace and reconciliation because “the oil of religious experience must be used to heal wounds and not to rekindle the fire of military conflicts” (ibid.).

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    The document titled “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World” notes the potential of local Orthodox Churches to possibly contribute to the “inter-religious understanding and co-operation for the peaceful co-existence and harmonious living together in society.”  Presupposition of such inter-religious co-operation is nothing else than “the common acceptance of the highest value of the human person” (A.3). Thus peaceful co-existence and harmonious life are possible not (simply) by security or absence of military conflicts as such, but namely when the dignity of human person is a cornerstone of social life, since authentic peace, according to the document, “is the ripe fruit of the restoration of all things in Him, the revelation of the human person’s dignity and majesty as an image of God, the manifestation of the organic unity in Christ between humanity and the world, the universality of the principles of peace, freedom, and social justice, and ultimately the blossoming of Christian love among people and nations of the world” (C.1).

    Thus, the peace cannot exist without justice and freedom, and particularly without recognition of the unique dignity of human person. Inter-religious dialogue which is based solely on addressing common problems or persuading different communities of common interests not only does not contribute to the development of freedom, justice and human dignity, but even may hinder this dialogue.

    The key to constructing another model of inter-religious dialogue lies in the promotion within the frameworks of each of the religious traditions the concept of the dignity of the human person regardless of gender, ethnic or social background and religious affiliation. It must be the person which is precisely in the center of the dialogue rather than any “traditional” or “pseudo-traditional” values around the rhetoric of their protection, which is often what interfaith cooperation at the institutional level builds.

    Fundamentalist groups are appealing also to the protection of “traditional values”, considering the preservation of them under the guise of religious orders which have priority over the individual dignity and sometimes even over human’s life. Religion which is oriented to protect itself is very luckily to neglect the individual personalities. Religion which sees itself more valuable than the human person, neglecting the human person’s rights and freedoms, is exactly the kind of religion that Council calls “morbid”.

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    With the human dimension of religion it is fundamental to respect the human being. In the Message of the Holy and Great Council it is noted that today human rights are “at the center of politics as a response to the social and political crises and upheavals, and seek to protect the citizen from the arbitrary power of the state” (par. 10). Although “the Orthodox ideal in respect of man transcends the horizon of established human rights and that “greatest of all is love”, as Christ revealed and as all the faithful who follow him have experienced” (ibid.),  human rights should not be underestimated. On the one hand indeed, human rights are not completely sufficient, not absolute, but nevertheless they constitute the public and legal minimum, which cannot be violated by any institutions or communities – not by organizations, not by governments, and not by churches.  The limitation of certain rights is possible only within certain frames.

    For inter-religious dialogue and for the sake of tolerance and nondiscrimination a certain self-criticism of the religious communities is necessary, as is constant dialogue within them on the issues of the respect of the rights of human persons, and the identification, adoption and promotion within the various religious traditions of the ideas of justice, mercy, universal equality based on the belonging to the human race.  Such a dialogue should be constructed not only between the different religious communities, but also between religion and civil society. In certain cultures, the readiness for dialogue, admission of our own mistakes and self-criticism are often considered as demonstration of weakness, while ability to impose own opinion or to defend own interests is considered as a position of strength. However, the genuine criteria of maturity and sobriety of the religious tradition is its inclusiveness, diversity, the ability for dialogue with other, and above all the degree of respect for the dignity of the human person.

    The paper was presented at ODIHR OSCE seminar “Interreligious Dialogue for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Discrimination”, Baku, 10-11 October 2016.

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    October 28th, 2016 5:33 pm | Continue Reading
  9. Changing the world together

    Krista Autio a Finnish Theology MA student at the University of Helsinki. Krista have been the Global Networking Coordinator for WSCF-Europe since October 2015.

    In the middle of August I had the chance to travel to the Alps of Northern Italy. My destination was Agape Political camps, which was organized in the historical Ecumenical Centre Agape in Prali. I was surprised that the camp was much more global than I expected. Often I meet merely European participants at ecumenical meetings, but this was something else. I was fascinated how many nations were represented from Latin America to Africa and Asia, and from Northern America to Europe and Middle East. Me as a representative of a Nordic country, had truly the chance to learn about the diverse realities that people were coming from.

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    The topic of the camp was migration. The most precious thing was to actually meet and listen the true stories of migrants around the world that had come to Europe. Being born in Europe is not a privilege Europeans have deserved or earned. It is a coincidence, but we like to think that Europe is somehow ours and our ownership should be respected by others, the outsiders, while Europeans have never respected the ownership of other continent’s inhabitants to their own land and culture. We talked how Europeans or Americans have experienced “migrant amnesia”, when it comes to critical evaluation of our own social history. Europeans and Americans have contributed heavily to the world disharmony, that is often the cause of migration directly or indirectly. Europe also likes to see itself as a victim of uncontrollable “refugee flux”. Europe fails to see, that actually the conflict countries or their neighbouring countries bear the biggest responsibility of displaced people.

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    Among lectures and workshops, we also had the chance to build friendships, dance and laugh. The most unbelievable experience for me, was to walk on the top of Lago Verde. I have newer hiked in the Alps and wasn’t expecting how hard it would actually be. After the first pit stop, we started to walk up very steep path. After a while I thought, that maybe I should turn back. Luckily I was walking with two new friends of mine from Pakistan and Uganda and they kept encouraging me to continue. I must have been the most irritating person to walk with, but they never left me behind. I have never experienced such loyalty!

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    For five and a half hours we were climbing up and waiting to see what’s on the top, and we made it! The route was very difficult for me, so the feeling of reaching the rest of the group at the top was incredible. It was one of the most amazing things I have done so far and it really taught me an important lesson to never give up. This is something I will cherish in my heart.

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    The friendly and wonderful atmosphere of the whole week was full of agape. People from different ethnicities and religions truly showed the willingness to come together and change the world together.

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    September 20th, 2016 1:32 pm | Continue Reading
  10. We shall overcome


    13912304_285164508515744_8836719979282974212_nMinju Kim
     is a student from South Korea, currently studying Language, Culture and Communication in Hong Kong. Her lifelong challenge and adventure has always been living in a multicultural society, as from time to time she has the opportunity to live with people from different countries. Minju likes reading, writing and sharing thoughts with other people.

    This summer, I had a chance to participate in three camps in Agape Centro Ecumenico. The Center is at the top of a beautiful small village called Prali which is located an hour drive away from Turn, Italy.

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    For three weeks, I had an advantage of enjoying the magnificent nature surrounding the place. What I earned in Agape was not only this nature but also an opportunity to meet friends from all over the world. Each year during summer, multiple camps held by the Hosting Committee of Agape brings people around the world to discuss on various topics. The three camps I attended were theological, work camp and political, each one’s theme being childhood in the Bible, happiness and migrants. In each camp, I learned through many discussions and activities with other participants. I gained new knowledge and thoughts but in this short writing, I would like to talk about what I generally learned and was kept reminded of through all the camps. 

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    Despite my expectation of English being the lingua franca, I faced some language barriers with some participants as some were from non-English speaking country. It was not what I had presumed before arriving in Agape and I was more than a little surprised by this. However, as the spirit of Agape lays in voluntary work and living together as a community, I soon found a way to communicate with other people without restraint. Discussions during theological camp helped immensely in adapting into a situation like this. Through regular sessions, we were able to share our thoughts and opinions with interpreters’ help and while listening carefully to others’, I suddenly struck me that listening openmindedly comes before being too concerned about which language one was speaking. Accepting others’ viewpoints about a subject and sharing mine logically at the same time sounded like an obvious attitude of communication but it is never easy. It becomes harder when a person who has a different opinion is someone you have never come across before. It was this camp where I could practice viewing a topic from different perspectives with people who I have never met before. Overcoming the language barrier, I learned the importance of open-mindedness and understanding a concept from a broad point of view.  

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    If one asks me what I had gained other than learning how to be truly open-minded from Agape, it would be diverse cultural experience. One of the best features about Agape is pursuit of everyone’s happiness through sharing joyful spirit of each individual. Learning how to dance and sing in different languages were challenging yet giving me a rare opportunity to experience cultures of countries I have never been before. Experiencing Italian culture applied to everybody, through food, notion of time and other daily lifestyles. Traditional dances performed by friends were more than impressive, and unique snacks from diverse countries were unforgettable. Picking up some useful expressions or even knowing how to pronounce our names in different languages were short and brief experiences but it did not take long for me to realize they were chances never provided so easily if it were not for a multicultural society like Agape. I could also learn political aspects of many countries. It struck me how there were so many crucial issues regarding democracy, freedom of speech, human rights and etc in so many countries that mainstream news sometimes do not pay attention to. Meeting and making friends from many countries helped me increase my awareness of global importance. I personally took the chance to introduce an important problem in my country, South Korea. Sewol Ferry Incident which happened only two years ago in 2014, has taken away so many innocent passengers’ lives by people outside the ferry being unaware of the seriousness of the situation. It was heartwarming and even grateful to have an opportunity to talk about such a tragic incident of my country and share grief by distributing yellow ribbons which symbolize Korean people’s promise to not forget what had happened to the victims. 

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    To describe my amazing 3 weeks at Agape in one word, I would say ‘potential’. Everyone whom I met in Agape had hope deep in their minds; and also the will to carry it out in actions once they step out to the bigger world. Encouraging others’ beliefs by supporting or simply listening closely one’s view made me think that this is how we shall overcome the difficulties around the world. Appreciating one’s culture along with other cross-cultural experience could play a pivotal role in creating more peace in the world. As a participant of 2016 summer camps, I cannot wait to go back there someday and develop what I had learned there more.  

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    September 15th, 2016 1:32 pm | Continue Reading