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  1. Orthodox Easter for Dummies

    orthodoxeasterfordummies

    Orthodox Christians sometimes celebrate Easter at a different time than other Christians. This year (2016), Orthodox Easter period starts on May 1, while the Western Churches are just two weeks short from the Pentecost Feast. (Find out why.) This Easter we have interviewed a Romanian Orthodox Christian “source” to understand better, what is going on in the Orthodox church in this period.

    The actual day of Easter is preceded by the Great Lent, which is the time for preparation, silence, and concentrating on what Easter is all about – the time of renouncing of worldly distractions, and concentrating on Christ’s journey to Resurrection. This year, with Easter celebrated on 1 May, the Great Lent has started on 14 March. Each Easter week is marked by a thematic Sunday.

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    1. Sunday: Triumph of Orthodoxy
    2. Sunday: St. Gregory Palamas
    3. Sunday: Veneration of the Cross
    4. Sunday: St. John Climacus
    5. Sunday: St. Mary of Egypt
    6. Sunday: Palm Sunday. The Lord’s Entry in Jerusalem, in Romanian named Flower Sunday (Duminica Floriilor). This Sunday is preceded by Lazarus Saturday.

     

    Normally in the Orthodox Church tradition, any given day starts on the evening of the previous day. This is a little complicated to explain, but the idea is the same like in Jewish time understanding – the Sabbath starts on Friday at sunset, and ends on Saturday on sunset. So, in Orthodox Christianity, normally Sunday celebration is already getting mentions – officially starting – on Saturday evening. This is how it normally goes. However, during the Holy and Great week, the time double-speeds-up, in the words of our Romanian source, hurrying up towards the Easter, trying to get to the Feast of Feasts faster.

    After the 6th Sunday starts the Holy and Great week, where each day carries a special meaning and is celebrated differently. Since today is Holy Thursday, we paid most attention to the services from today on and until Sunday.

    On Holy Thursday morning, the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) Holy Thursday begins with the celebration of vespers and the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil, in representation of the earthly presence of Christ realized at the Last Supper. In ROC, the choir sings a special chant “From the feast table of the Lord” (“Din ospatul Stapanului“) instead of the usual Hymn to the Mother of God (Axion) – like a few other chants, this one is sung only once a year at this specific service.

    In some churches, during the service, the highest-ranked priest washes and dries the feet of twelve priests, monks or laymen, to connect the today with the humble gesture of Christ towards his disciples at the Last Supper.

    sfanta_si_marea_joi_-_cina_cea_de_taina

    On Holy Thursday evening, the liturgical time for the services is actually the Matins of Friday morning. The Holy Passion service of the reading of the Twelve Gospels is conducted. In these readings Christ’s last instructions to his disciples are presented, as well as the prophecy of the drama of the Cross, Christ’s prayer, and his new commandment. The twelve readings are:

    1. John 13:31-18:1
    2. John 18:1-29
    3. Matthew 26:57-75
    4. John 18:28–19:16
    5. Matthew 27:3-32
    6. Mark 15:16-32
    7. Matthew 27:33-54
    8. Luke 23:32-49
    9. John 19:19-37
    10. Mark 15:43-47
    11. John 19:38-42
    12. Matthew 27:62-66

    In ROC, after the 6th gospel, the time of Christ’s crucifixion symbolically arrives. A full-sized cross is taken out from the altar and brought to the middle of the church by the highest-ranked priest. The Cross is carried in the manner the original Cross was carried by Christ.

    The Great and Holy Friday begins with reading of the Royal Hours leading up to Vespers of Friday afternoon, at which time the removal of the Body of Christ from the Cross is commemorated. The priest removes the cross from the middle of the church. In a Friday evening service, called the Lamentations at the Tomb, the priest carries the Epitaphios, the painted or embroidered cloth representation of Christ, from the altar around the church before placing it in the Sepulcher, a bier symbolizing the Tomb of Christ. This procession, with the faithful carrying lighted candles, represents Christ’s descent into Hades.

    prohodul-domnului-vinerea_mare_prohodul_talpalari-foto-oana-nechifor

    In Romanian, the Lamentations at the Tomb service is called Prohodul, which is also the name for a service for grieving for one’s recently deceased close relative or friend. In this way the Orthodox Christians mourn Christ’s death as if he is a very close member of the family.

    Epitaphios is an icon embroidered usually on a piece of cloth, depicting Christ after he has been removed from the cross, lying supine, as his body is being prepared for burial. The scene is taken from the Gospel of St. John (John 19:38-42). Epitaphios is used in the Holy week as part of the ceremonies marking the death and resurrection of Christ. In ROC, the epitaphios is placed in the middle of the church, and there is a tradition to pass under that construction with epitaphios on top, on one’s knees and towards altar, to symbolize going with the Christ through the grave towards resurrection.

    epitaf

    Great and Holy Saturday Vespers and a Divine Liturgy of St. Basil are served in ROC on Saturday morning, marked with readings of Psalms and Resurrection hymns that tell of Christ’s descent into Hades, celebrated as the “First Resurrection” of Adam and the conquering of Death.

    Saturday evening is when Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, celebrations begin, just before midnight with the singing of the Odes of Lamentation as the Resurrection Vespers begins with the church in complete darkness. As midnight approaches the priest taking a light from a vigil light within the altar passes the flame to the faithful for their candles while singing “Come ye and receive light from the unwaning life, and, glorify Christ, who arose from the dead.”

    sfanta-luminaaaa

    Then the priest leads the faithful out of the church in procession. After circling the church either one or three times, as the procession nears the entrance door of the church, the priest leads in the singing of the hymn of Resurrection. “Christ has risen from the dead, by death trampling upon Death, and has bestowed life upon those in the tombs!” At this point the priest and faithful enter the well-lighted church for the remaining part of Vespers and the breaking of the fast with the Divine Liturgy. After conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, in many communities, the faithful retire to an agape meal to break the Fast together, and then return home as dawn arrives. Later in the day of Pascha the faithful again gather for prayer with lighted candles in a vespers service, singing the hymn “Christ is Risen from the Dead,” and greeting each other joyously, “Christ is risen” and responding with, “Truly He is risen.”

    invierea_domnului_5

     

    Reportage prepared by Maria Kozhinova, WSCF-E Communications Officer. For all questions or clarifications, please write to publications@wscf-europe.org.

     

     

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on April 28th, 2016 6:17 pm / Continue Reading »

  2. Religious Violence, one of the greatest myths ever told in 21st Century

    HadjeHadje 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 Protestant Theological University-Groningen and has been working with various faith-based organisation including, Escaping Barcode Life-The Netherlands, PhISO, and Foundation University-Amsterdam The Netherlands.

     

     

    ‘International relations can no longer afford to use uncritical, outdated,
    and essentially Western concepts of “religion” and “secular”
    as if they were neutral descriptors of the facts on the ground.’

    William T. Cavanaugh

    Religious violence is hotly contested public topic among religious and non-religious circles. Obviously, religious violence is now a global challenge, and demand our careful attention, as being a member of WSCF-Europe, we should be a vigilant citizen, particularly in the current situation. By this time, mainstreams media displays disturbing images of jihadist out of context and retrofitting them to the polemical purposes, religion as the main root cause of modern violence. Conceivably, this image of religion stirs up controversy depicted as, intrinsically, anti-rational. For instance, the prevailing currents of thought about Islam.

    Image source: Interfaith Explorers

    It may be possible, as Edward Said argues, this misleading category is inspired by the thought of the American conservative political scientist, Samuel Huntington. According to Huntington’s thesis, the global politics would be dominated by the war between West and non-Western civilisations (Islam & Confucianism). In other words, these would be national identity and cultural clash. Said added, it is a recycle version Cold War rhetoric. I would say that, global war of terror, is a religious rhetoric version of the Cold War. Although, it is contestable, the connection between the 9/11 attacks and Huntington thesis has led to some ultraconservative political movement to promote anti-Islam, particularly in the Western countries.

    It may be possible that misinformed individuals’ gets basic facts wrong about religion from the mass media or press. Clearly, mass media or press plays an influential role in the life of modern society, and contributed to prevailing and damaging depiction of religion in our times.

    In the light of the recent terrorist attacks, suicide bombing continuously unceasing on the global scale, the pertinent question would be, does religion cause violence? According to William T. Cavanaugh, the myth of religious violence is used to create a religious “other” which can then be exploited, marginalized, coerced, and denigrated (1). Therefore, religion should be separated from secular or mundane activity. However, Cavanaugh disagree with the conventional differentiation of religion and secular categories. Also, Cavanaugh argues, these categories are too simplistic, and not based on empirical studies. Usually, as Cavanaugh argues, when we define something it means wildly different things to different people, particularly religion and secular categories. As Edward Said describes, both definition and meaning, are contestable. For example, “the separation of church and state” are foreign concept to Muslim countries.

    Since, the secular apologists arguing the main cause of modern violence is religion, Cavanaugh contend with the great deal of tension on the following modern concepts such us, nationalism, secularism, ethnocentrism, fascism, and humanism—ideologies in other words, could be violent as some religious ideologies. Using religious language to cover-up their political agenda, Cavanaugh argues, this myth is a rhetoric to hide secular causes of global war on terror, and to commit hostility, and to marginalize certain individual and group.

    Historically, it reminds me about the Great Fire of Rome. According to Tacitus (Roman historian), as scapegoat, Emperor Nero blamed early Christians, in results, Christians were subjected to public humiliation, massive persecutions, torture, and mass murder. Today, I believe that, religion in general, suffer the same situation. I would dare to say, to blame all deadly attacks to religion we failed to see the whole picture. We must take care to look at the whole picture. We need wisdom in this time of uncertainty. It appears to be that violence and war become a precondition to use as a rational for peace. However, peace without justice is a dream speech. Peace is always depends on justice—just-peace. As long as there profit in violence and war, it will continue to reinforce fear and anxiety upon us. A feminist activist Naomi Klein once observed, war generates profits, peace does not (2). We, WSCF-E should be vigilant and bold to speak out against all acts of terror associated with religions, and condemned those who legitimize it, profit from wars, and disrespect human rights and the rule of law.

    Today, the increasing recognition of crucial role of the religious community, to facilitate and promote humanity, and for peace and harmony in a world terrorized by fear. So there is the need for a new vision—beyond the short term foreign and domestic policies imposed to us. We, WSCF-E must offer our resources and capabilities as a state actor to promote rule of law and human dignity. As Douglas Johnston at Cynthia Sampson argue, since religion associated with many international conflicts, states should understand and acknowledge the crucial role of the religious community as a missing dimension of statecraft, for example, in cultural diplomacy (3).

    As the World Council of Churches stated that, at such time it is appropriate to point to the rich resources in religion which can guide us to peace and reconciliation [v]. The Church is called to be a community for such people and task. We, WSCF-E called to dialogue and manage our religious differences. We are not only aware of our religious difference but we try to cope those differences as well by investigation of the foundation of the religions. We understand each other through a daily life dialogue. We live out the culture of dialogue, it is a way of life. Thus, openness in religious differences does not mean one must abandon his or her faith tradition. Rather, openness to other faith traditions, means a brave and humble attitude to bring religious differences into contact with each other without destroying and marginalizing them. Through daily life encounter and sincere dialogue with them, we realize that God is also with them.

    Photo source: PeaceTimes.news

    Photo source: PeaceTimes.news

     

    “No peace among the nations
    without peace among the religions.
    No peace among the religions
    without dialogue between the religions
    No dialogue between the religions
    without investigation of the foundation of the religions.”

    ― Hans Küng

     

    Further Readings

     

    [1] William T. Cavanaugh (2009). The Myth of Religious Violence: The Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict. UK: Oxford University Press.

    [2] Naomi Klein (2007). The Shock Doctrine. US: Pan Books Limited.

    [3] Douglas Johnston at Cynthia Sampson (1994). Religion: The Missing Dimension of Statecraft. UK: Oxford University Press.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on April 21st, 2016 3:50 pm / Continue Reading »

  3. Brussels stand still, if God be for us who can be against us?

    HadjeHadje 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 Protestant Theological University-Groningen and has been working with various faith-based organisation including, Escaping Barcode Life-The Netherlands, PhISO, and Foundation University-Amsterdam The Netherlands. 

     

    Terrorism is a tactic with a goal: indiscriminate violence
    to create fear and hatred.
    Refuse to fear.
    Refuse to hate.
    Then, they can’t win.
    —Jarrod Mckenna

    We, WSCF-Europe railed against the misleading rhetoric of “war of terror” not because we believe that attackers are innocent, but because we viewed it as a fountainhead and bulwark of evil. It is our act of defiance against this grand rhetoric and savage activity. It might be suggested that is a ‘price tag’ to attack against refugee camps and asylum seekers in EU.

    The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit of the World Council of Churches publicly condemned the deadly attacks and called it as “wicked and indiscriminate.” He called for prayers for those victims of violence and terrorism, including comfort for their families.

    Photo credit: AP Photo/ Martin Meissner

    The sporadic attacks on major cities (EU & non-EU cities), recently the tragedy, the March 22 in Brussels, affects the dignity, security, domestic and foreign policies of EU members. One might think that it is unexpected attacks at the de facto capital of European Union. Increasingly, we are seeing these deadly attacks have been interpreted as episodes in the global history of the “war of terror” rhetoric. We always hear the worst thing, it connotes inherently an Islamic act. It could be in that case that, racism, discrimination, and hate speech, give birth to hatred towards, of the religion of Islam (Muslim and Arab people). It seem that all possibilities of speech, debate, and communication, in particular with the mainstream media, should be frame within this hate speech against Muslim and Arab people.  However, the “war of terror”, as Slavoj Zizek put it simply, the renewed barbarism of modern Western policy makers.

    Clearly, after leading a more or less hidden existence for the last few decades, racism, discrimination, and ethnocentrism has reappeared with a vengeance, against Muslim and Arab people, on the EU agenda. The negative responses (Islamophobia) to the presence of Muslim and Arab immigrants in EU is expressed in a racism founded upon notion of Muslim as terrorist. This notion have formed after the 9/11 attacks. The new urgency of the problem, I personally believe that “Islamophobia” as a new form of anti-Semitism, is expressed in a growing number of academic and non-academic discourse.

    After the deadly attacks in Brussels, refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in EU at stake again. Obviously, immigration is an issue that divides the European nations, and demands different responses to this humanitarian crisis. However, in the recent agreement between EU and Turkey, also known as EU-Turkey refugee deal, resulted to close the main route, in order to solve the massive flow of refugees in European countries [iv]. Yet the question still remains; do EU really solve the refugee crisis or even the threat of terrorism [v]? We must remind all EU member-states, as the world getting connected, to their commitments on social justice and human rights obligation to uphold and reaffirmed.

    In the midst of an emerging culture of fear and hate, the Church has liberating role which promotes justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. The Church should unmask and challenge any form of injustices; racism, discrimination, and hate speech, including the cultivation of fear after the 9/11 attacks. It is high time for faith communities of the faithful to demonstrate that we are not intimidated with this misleading rhetoric. We must nurture our prophetic task, as Walter Brueggemann, to dismantling this dominant ideology of “war on terror” [1]. We must invoke a consciousness that God is the God of universe. As we live our life as living testimony, the Anglican Church in Brussels scheduled a mass after the incident. This public demonstration of our faith is a form of “act of defiance” against all form of violence and terrorism. Also, this “act of defiance” would overcome fear and anxiety constantly blown out of proportion. We, WSCF-E is the mouthpiece of hope, and mouthpiece for voiceless victims of terrorisms. We, WSCF-E the salt and the light of the nations. As Walter Brueggemann argues that the world grossly uncritical, we WSCF-E, are the alternative community to critic and to energize the politics of justice and compassion over the politics of oppression and exploitation.

    The WSCF-E aids the people to uphold their dignity, particularly those refugees, that all may live a life worthy of human beings. We, Christian churches in Europe should take up the challenge, by providing a voice for the voiceless refugees. We, WSCF-E promotes a counter-cultural movement for constructive social transformation should always be at the frontline. Lastly, we, WSCF-E pledged to provide concrete collective action, safe haven or sanctuary, and protection to thousand refugees at stake after the tragedy in Brussels. Just so, demonstrating our faith in the midst of this crisis, indeed, a call to confront the misleading rhetoric of “war of terror.” We must dismantle these reign of fear, false flag attacks, propaganda, and warmonger. We will not be overcome by fear and anxiety, we will overcome this darkness. We, WSCF-E as beacon of hope, we envision and to discern that God, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, is always in us, and who can be against us (Brussels)?

    Photo Credit: Chiara Benelli

    Let me conclude this reflection by quoting this wonderful passage from the gospel of Matthew 25: 34-40,

    “…For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me [vii]!

    Further readings

    [1] Walter Brueggemann. 2001. The Prophetic Imagination. Minneapolis: Fortress

     

     

     

     

     

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  4. Post, Like, Retweet, Share: A prophetic voice in the high tech-savvy generation

    HadjeHadje 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 Protestant Theological University-Groningen and has been working with various faith-based organisation including, Escaping Barcode Life-The Netherlands, PhISO, and Foundation University-Amsterdam The Netherlands. 

    A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

    — ISAIAH 40: 3

    The Staff and Officers’ Meeting 2016-World Student Christian Federation-Europe (WSCF-E) held in Oslo City, Norway provides an excellent venue to move us toward putting New Social Media, within a broader view of which the WSCF-E campaign takes place. The S&O 2016 meeting reflected on the importance of new social media and networking services in the WSCF-E’s communication strategy. The evidence that we live in a high tech-savvy generation is far more complex reality. The new social media – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn – reveal a far more interrelated and dynamic communications than has heretofore been imagined.

    Staff and Officers 2016 panorama

    It appears in our high tech-savvy generation, are characterized of increasing numbers and forms of global connectivity. It seems that these new discoveries, innovations, and new form of social media, helped us to improve our lives. The new social media have gradually been altering our worldviews, values, and lifestyle. It could be in that case, new social media are increasingly changing our everyday life. Also, it could be said that the new social media has already governed our society and our culture. According to the Pew Research Center factsheet, as of January 2014, it shows that 74% of online adults use social networking sites (men 72 &% women 76%). These figures, it might be suggested, as Alvin Toffler predicted, that we are now on the process of the communication revolution, the Third Wave Society, or the rise of the Information Technology Society, as Manuel Castells discussed in his previous works.

    I am convinced that new social media is a mixed blessing. A mixed blessing in the sense that it is not only gives us opportunities to further our capabilities, and to advance our common interest but also to destroy, silent, and marginalize other voices. It might be true that technology is both danger and saving to both the world and humanity. Yet, it is important to note that we as human being has played an important role in this process of forming, ordering and controlling the modern technology. It is important not let modern technology redefining what means to be human being is. We, human being can turn these modern technology into something productive not destructive. We can assumed that modern technology is beneficial as long as it helps us to be more human, without alienating us and destroying our environment. As modern technology getting efficient, human being’s conditions should also improving. It is safe to say, improving technology without valuing human being and our ecosystem is tantamount to mass destruction.

    In the S&O meeting, I realise that the new social media possibly can provide a public space or a platform for political campaign. In many ways, the new social media become a tool for exposing injustices, to promote public awareness and to serve as relief operation drive. Aside from these, new social media become our new avenues to express our critical opinion, ideas, and feelings. But most importantly, to have political-economic and social-cultural mobilisation.

    The S&O meeting was inspiring and challenging. Regardless of your educational background and nationality, the meeting provides valuable insights into current campaigns, and the future directions of the WSCF-E. The S&O speakers (Annegret Kapp, Marianne Ejdersten & Francios David Freschi) takes us on a journey through the world’s faith, activism, campaigning strategy and volunteer work management. Four things I learned from at the S&O 2016 meeting in Oslo: Firstly, twitter, facebook, youtube, and instagram could be a platform for an active participation among Student Christian Movement members across the whole Europe. Secondly, the new social media serves a public space for WSCF-E’s empowering young leaders such us; campaigning, advocacy, connecting grassroots work and fighting any form of injustices from regional to global level. Thirdly, the new social media become an important instrument for building public awareness and a means of relief operation drive during calamities. Lastly, the new social media could provide us with some creative ways to promote volunteerism.

    We, the WSCF-E should be taking advantage of these benefits from new social media and networking services, but also requires some commitment and work on our part. Embedded in these new social media and networking services are the capacity for social connections and support networks. On the cutting edge, investing in the new social media is to keep up, the WSCF-E, with the changing times. Creating virtual communities would provide new possibilities for WSCF-E, to spread easily and simply our regional and global campaign. It enables the individual members of the WSCF-E to come closer to participating in the global mobilisation. It reminds me of the famous punchline of an anonymous Cairo activist during 2011 Egyptian revolution (Arab spring). It goes like this, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” Interestingly, it may be possible, as Manuel Castells already described it, the IT-revolution could be a source for social change. It might be said that new social media today is a rising tide that lift all boats toward densely network society and global connectivity than ever before.

    We, know that, in all European countries and in all contexts, it is possible to take action using new social media and networking services, to challenge global injustices. As a volunteer member of the WSCF-Europe, bringing our prophetic voices into new social media or virtual reality, of course, which makes people more conscious of the role of religious community in the modern European countries. It is useful also to remind our European Christian communities about their responsibilities towards their suffering brothers and sisters caused by global injustices. We, the WSCF-E is committed to brought constructive transformation of our world by being a space for liturgical celebration, providing a theological-social analysis, and advocating prophetic action beyond boundaries, gender and ethnicity. As Jesus brought good news to the poor, proclaimed liberty to the captives and made justice triumph (Luke 4: 16-21).

    In a final note, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest thanks to the SCM Norway and WSCF-Europe for hosting and funding the S&O meeting 2016. I would like to sincerely thank the organising committee. Lastly, I would like to thank all our speakers and delegates, who attended and contributed their ideas, energy and passion.

    Further Readings:

     

    1. Alvin Toffler, Third Wave. US: Bantam Books, 1980.
    1. Anonymous Cairo activist, quoted in Nadine Kassem Chebib & Rabia Minatullah Sohail, “The Reasons Social Media Contributed to the 2011 Egyptian Revolution,” International Journal of Business Research and Management 3 (2011): 139.
    1. Manuel Castells, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. 1: The Rise of the Network Society. Cambridge MA. Oxford UK: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.
    1. Social Network Factsheet January, September 2014, Pew Research Center, http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/ Retrieved 17 March 2016.
    1. Photo credit: Hristina Tancheva
    2. Who We Are, World Student Christian Federation Global (WSCF Global), http://www.wscfglobal.org/ Retrieved 17 March 2016.
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  5. Once in Oslo

    Ruth2Ruth Wilde is SCM Britain’s Faith in Action project worker, joining the team in August 2015. Her role is to work with local groups and students to enable them to think creatively about faith, injustice and action.

    On 2 March, I was lucky enough to be able to fly out to Oslo for four nights in order to attend this year’s World Student Christian Federation Staff and Officers meeting. This was my first time at a WSCF event and, as soon as I arrived, I was made very welcome by the organisers and the other participants, many of whom already knew each other.

    Park

    Park in Oslo in March

    On the first evening of the event, we had dinner and did ‘icebreaker’ exercises. This was a nice, gentle way of breaking us into the programme, and was helpful for me, as I’d only met one of the people there before. We also had a time of meditation and worship that evening, as we did every morning and evening for the rest of the conference. This was led by Lutheran minister-to-be Are from Sweden, who also invited contributions from other participants. I found this a very helpful space for contemplation and quiet in the midst of a very busy schedule.

    Thursday consisted of educational sessions led by senior employees from the Communications department at the World Council of Churches. We mainly learnt about how we can use media, and especially social media, to our advantage in our SCMs. On Thursday evening, we had an enormously fun time sharing food and culture from our different countries. The Romanians definitely won the award for the most effort – dressing up, singing, and filling two tables with food and wine! The Austrians also dressed in national dress and many others made a lot of effort. I was left wondering how they had managed to carry so much on the flight to Oslo!

    Intercultural evening - romania

    Intercultural evening – Romania

    On Friday, we had more input from Marianne, the Director of Communications at the World Council of Churches. Then, in the afternoon, there was an excursion to the Oslo sculpture park in the rain/snow, which I was told was good, despite everyone coming back with damp socks! I was too ill to join in with the excursion, unfortunately. In the evening, I recovered enough to join in with some of the games, including a very interesting singing game that Francois from Belgium taught us. He was preparing to lead us on the final day, and warmed us up with a game where we had to make repetitive sounds with our mouths one on top of another until it became a very interesting chorus. At first, we couldn’t stop laughing, but, once we had settled into it, it became quite a meditative exercise.

    Francois, an expert in third sector volunteer management, led us on the final day. His sessions were very interactive and so held our attention easily. He taught us interesting things about using different ‘hats’ in meetings- the ‘white hat’ is for facts and figures, the ‘green hat’ for new ideas, the ‘black hat’ for risks, etc. I felt we came away from the sessions with a better understanding of how to enable and work with volunteers, and also how to chair meetings successfully.

    All in all, it was a very helpful three days. I learnt new things, networked and enjoyed the food which Gabi from Slovakia kindly cooked for us. I would highly recommend WSCF events to all students and staff in SCM Britain!

    Group photo 1

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  6. How I started as WSCF-E Capacity building coordinator

    Armine Babajanyan is 26 years old and lives in Yerevan, Armenia. In 2008 she attended a WSCF conference in Berlin on Christianity and Politics. In 2012 she was on the prepcom of “Gender: Revised!?” event in Budapest. She is a member of Armenian Apostolic Church youth movement.

    I have joined European Regional Committee (ERC) in October 2015. The role of Capacity building coordinator is new both for me and for WSCF-E. So it turned out that we have to adapt to each other. Although during last three years I followed WSCF-E on Facebook and read its news on the website, I felt I need more information on the structure, history, recent events and future goals. ERC, and especially Zuzka and Natia, helped me a lot by sharing with me useful information (meeting minutes, reports, etc.) It was all very interesting, but as I did not have a chance to participate to WSCF events in recent years, I felt I am lacking something.

    Luckily, ERC meeting in Helsinki followed shortly after holidays. I met this group of people, with whom we were having regular calls, discussing on-going projects and shared some updates. And I finally understood: I was lacking the feeling of actually being part of this wonderful community. I was lacking the spirit of WSCF. But there we were, discussing projects, trying to find the best methods, thinking on new possibilities. There was the spirit of WSCF, which brought all of us from different countries and denominations around one table; young people who were trying to respect each other cultural differences, beliefs and thoughts. During those days WSCF made another step towards building a peaceful future.

    As my first step towards integration in European Regional Committee was to collect as much information about it as possible, I asked Natia for recent Mozaik editions. I was especially interested in the edition of 2013 “Who is your neighbor?”, a piece which focuses on solidarity, as ERC decided that the thematic focus in 2017 will be “No hate speech”. I started reading the articles on the way back and could not hide my tears. People were sharing personal experiences, interviews, projects, telling how stereotypes can hurt and damage our lives. Consequently, “No hate speech” has now a new meaning for me. People, who are being hurt, are not just someone in TV or in magazine. These are my peers, living in different countries, living in humiliating environment and trying to get over the difficulties. And I want to stand beside them. I want to contribute to projects, which aim convincing us, people of the world, that there is no “good”, there is no “bad”. There is just “different”, with all its beauty in diversity.

    So yeah, this is how it all started. Now I am full of confidence and eager and hopefully in 2 years I will say, “ok, I did it. Maybe it is just a step, but I did it”.

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on February 24th, 2016 12:36 pm / Continue Reading »

  7. Inter-religious & outside the box

    MalenaMalena Tara studies Mathematics and Geography for Teaching in Bremen, Germany. Baptized in a very young age in a catholic church, she got interested in the Christian faith during her stay in England and visited the Anglican Church regularly. Today she is an active member of the protestant SCM in Germany. In her free time she likes to draw and discover other countries with all their cultural differences.

    MiriamMiriam Schubert has a BA in Literature and Film Studies, and now studies Theology in Rostock near the Baltic Sea. She was and is part of several SCM parishes in Germany and loves to work there, hold prayers, organize events etc.. Drawing and traveling are two of her favorite hobbies.
    Malena’s and Miriam’s joint testimonial follows the Religion and Politics conference in Czech Republic in October 2015.

     

    The Theology conference of the World Student Christian Federation of Europe (WSCF-E) took place in Litomysl, Czech Republic, from 17th until the 23rd October. The topic was ‘Religions and Politics: How is Multiculturalism Possible?’.

    The preparation Committee for the conference already included members of the WSCF-E as well as the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS). Therefore a perfect foundation for an inter-religious dialogue was set. Jewish and also Christians presented socially relevant topics. They themselves, further Jewish and Christian students and also guests from the local Muslim communities as well as Muslim students took part in our discussions. As there were approximately fifteen nationalities represented in the conference, there was not only the possibility to discuss theoretically about topics, but also to listen to very diverse and personal experiences from different countries and backgrounds. So, this was a perfect setting for good and interesting discussions and a promising conference! And we weren’t to be disappointed.

    We dedicated the first two days to the topics “Multiculturalism and Secularism” as well as “Religion in the Public Domain”. Besides listening to presentations we also discussed about the issues, e. g. we all took part in a role play. The role play was set in an imaginative town. We had to decide whether we want to build a mosque or not. Another topic was euthanasia and if it should be allowed.

    The following Wednesday we did a day trip to Prague. We visited the Muslim community and therefore were able to get an inside in the viewpoints represented in Islam and also about the difficult situation Muslims are in in a secularized country like the Czech Republic. Later on that day a representative of the Jewish community showed us the Jewish Quarter of Prague. We visited the Old Jewish Graveyard, different synagogues and listened to its history. We also had some hours in between the tours so that we could discover the fascinating town of Prague on our own.

    The next day we listened to a presentation about “Freedom of Religion in the European Union”. We were introduced to different laws which have led to very controversial debates regarding the banning of wearing a headscarf in France, or rather in public spheres in general. Of course, we as the audience also had very different opinions on it, which made the discussions even more interesting.

    Later a penal discussion took place with two of our Christian speakers, Rabbi Tanya Segal and the Muslim representative Zuzana Amrani. The topic of the discussion was “Secularism in Europe”.

    On the last day, we closed the conference with panel discussions in which we ourselves had the chance to enter the debate. To participate, we had drawn propositions at the beginning of the conference and we had to argue for or against the statements we got. In this way, very different topics, discussions and opinions were raised.

    All in all, the conference was a unique experience, creating a lot of space to discover a lot of new things:

    There was space to think in depth about how religious and political topics are entangled and how they allude to the multicultural and secular Europe we, today, live in. The thoughts and debates gave us the possibility to think outside the box.

    And also, there was a lot of space to get to know each other and the different religions, denominations and nations we come from. Suddenly, we linked the different nationalities in Europe – and also Chile, Philippines, Indonesia and the USA –  to different faces and personal life stories.

    We and, for sure, also the other participants took home new knowledge and new thoughts as well as new acquaintanceships and even new friendships.

    Miriam Schubert & Malena Tara, SCM Germany

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on December 29th, 2015 12:14 pm / Continue Reading »

  8. How is Multiculturalism possible?

    JanaYana Karbovska lives in Lviv. She has graduated History in Catholic University and worked in the field for a few years. Currently she works as a painter and combines this with her beloved hobby  – wire sculpture.
    Yana’s testimonial follows the Religion and Politics conference in Czech Republic in October 2015.

    The “Religions and Politics: How is Multiculturalism Possible?” conference, held in Litomysl in October 2015, gathered 30 people from around the world, with different mentalities and traditions. Our aim was to discuss a very sensitive and controversial issues on politics and religion. Despite the diversity of opinions we needed to be respectful, attentive and tolerant to each other. By lectures, excursions, group discussions and workshops, also by common life in a great location we have maintained a warm and friendly atmosphere, where we learned to understand and accept all our diversities. This experience will be useful in my environment that becomes more multicultural over the years.

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on December 29th, 2015 12:37 pm / Continue Reading »

  9. Identities Changing & Life-Changing

    LoiLoi Almeron is a Journalism Graduate Student from University of California – Berkeley. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, Major in Communication Arts, from De La Salle University (Manila, Philippines). She gained her first years of professional work experience doing television documentaries and institutional videos from Unlimited Productions, an independent media production company and subsidiary of award-winning company Probe Productions based in the Philippines. She was trained in research, field production, writing and video editing. Her work experience has deepened her interest in documenting local government affairs and socially relevant topics on cultures and beliefs.

    Loi is currently a reporter and producer based in California’s Bay Area. She constantly believes in the capability of media to inspire with credibility and accountability. She is optimistic to take part in anchoring the acumen of journalism with the service that it should provide.

    This year, Loi was the representative of World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) North America both to the International Solidarity Mission in the Philippines, and to the WSCF-Europe and European Union of Jewish Students’ joint conference on Religions and Politics held in Czech Republic.

    Changing. There is almost nothing you’ll forget about your first time in Europe. That is, at least true for me.

    Let me start by saying that I am terribly missing everyone… And we will get back to that.

    If there’s one thing that I find worthwhile and meaningful in conferences and assemblies, or even in life in general, it is when something gets me to critically think (or sometimes, just to think). That happened in my trip to Czech Republic. It had me reflecting holistically on the European situation during today’s historic refugee crisis and secularism. It is rare for me to come up to a speaker and discuss what I gathered from his/her lecture and just build up that conversation. I did that, and more.

    Before coming to Europe, I had the privilege to last summer when the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) in North America sponsored my participation in the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) in the Philippines. I was exposed to the realities and struggles of my own people, specifically the indigenous people. It was such a life-changing experience.

    And even before I got home, Luciano Kovacs of WSCF-North America shared to me the possibility to participate in WSCF-Europe and European Union of Jewish Students’ joint conference on religions and politics, and multiculturalism in Europe. I vividly remember typing down my application essay on my phone while I was in a bumpy ride in ISM. I was not sure if it would be enough and clear for WSCF-Europe to at least consider my application, especially that I was upfront in my intention and interest to broaden my knowledge within the themes of religions, cultures and faith, and in a journalistic capacity. And as soon as I returned here in the United States, I received the good news of welcome. Interesting, I thought, so we moved forward.

    From figuring out my study and work schedule here to the most tedious visa application ever and last minute (and schedule specific!) ticketing purchase, it was a back -and-forth of deciding whether to go or not. But Zuzka Babicova and Natia Tsintsadze were patient with me. I kept reminding myself that it would be all worth it. And it was.

    After the ISM I told myself that the next time I participate in an exposure opportunity again, I should record a video or audio of myself everyday to keep track of reflections. But even if I planned to do so, my priorities while in Czech Republic were more on spending the most time as I could with my fellow participants.

    It took a while before the idea that I am in Europe sunk in me. I kept telling myself… Yes I am in Europe… Yes I am in Europe… Yes I am in Europe.

    Litomysl was a sweet little town. The everyday and evening walks, and the curiosities of where the actual residents are and why a bar named after hell (after translation) has the coolest music and awesome caramel dessert, of course what vegetarian food we would have next add up to the closeness of the group.

    Honestly, I was surprised with how sociable I was there. It has always been easy for me to be personal and open up, and it became more intimate because the group made me feel included every single time. I was happy to render support in conducting WSCF’s interviews. It’s always fulfilling to do anything related to my field. Fellow international delegates even furthered my understanding of beliefs in Latin America and Indonesia. The organizers were accommodating and just amazing. Not enough words, really.

    It was funny when I realized that not only was it my first time in Europe, it was the first time that I was surrounded by mostly Europeans all the time. It became unbelievable how the group was brought together and had a perfect chemistry. I had the sweetest roommates, ever. How I miss everyone.

    In my application essay, I mentioned how my interests as a journalist are on religions, faiths and cultures. To learn, even the most vague situation, about a European religion or belief was a profound moment for me. I was never up close with learning about Christianity, especially Judaism, in Europe. I found myself observing and listening to everyone’s stories and realities. Before I thought I knew enough about the world, but the whole trip showed how much more we could actually learn through personal interactions and dialogues, and immersion into cultures.

    In my most recent essay for my Ethics class in the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley, I cannot help but include a relevant topic from the conference. I wrote about my ethical dilemma as a journalist who participated in ISM, and in it I discussed the lessons on freedom of conscience and thought that was part of a bigger lecture on freedom of religion.

    As I mentioned earlier, it is quite rare that I approach lecture speakers to have a deeper conversation. I recall that after the very first lecture, on multiculturalism and secularism in Europe, I went up to Dennis Goldstoff and just shared how I did not fully realize the arguments on both fostering and rejecting multiculturalism within nations. The argument that diversity of cultures and beliefs enriches society and lends support to immigrants, and the argument that the constant migration may lead to lost cultures and national identities. Before my thinking was that we should always open our doors to those who need help. It was a no-brainer. But it is true that losing identity is detrimental to a society.

    This is something familiar to me, especially nowadays that I have been reporting on the struggle for self-determination of the indigenous people and Muslims in the Philippines. People need that. We long for identity and freedom to be our own. (Interestingly, coming as a representative of WSCF-North America and bringing more of my Filipino heritage was enough identity crisis for me.)

    To see how the same struggle happens in different realities across distances, it changes not only who we are but also who we become in the most unexpected way.

    I have no idea how many times my life can be changed in a single year. And this strongly proved there is no quota in that respect. Thank you.

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on November 12th, 2015 2:29 pm / Continue Reading »

  10. Welcoming Each Other: From Fear to Trust

    RfP

    From the 28th October until the 1st November the Religion for Peace – European Assembly was held in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. The Assembly was on the topic of “Welcoming Each Other: From Fear to Trust” and addressed the fears of Europeans with the influx of refugee and migrants on the continent and how they can be overcome and turned into trust. Since there are 41 ongoing conflicts around the world and 60 million refugees globally, finding space for inter-faith dialogue is more important than ever. It was stated at the Assembly, that Europe is sleeping, while the conflicts around us are gradually growing bigger and bigger. One starting point for the Assembly was, that Europe needs to wake up and engage in peace building more seriously and extensively.

    For all the different religions and faiths represented at the Assembly, the combining issue was seen in the Golden rule, that each of us could relate to as a maxim of life. The Assembly was compiled of plenary sessions and workshops as well as sharing best practices of different European organisations and their engagement in overcoming the fear with interreligious activities (ex. Run for Unity or SB Overseas). This activities worked also as an inspiration to the participants to take back with them to their own communities for their endeavors in peace building and inter-faith dialogue.

    Youth delegates: Daniel Eror (EIYN), Annika Foltin (WSCF-E), Krista Autio (WSCF-E), Natalyia Pylypiv (EIYN), Daniela Malec (EIYN), Rupal Maru (EIYN)
    Youth delegates: Daniel Eror (EIYN), Annika Foltin (WSCF-E), Krista Autio (WSCF-E), Natalyia Pylypiv (EIYN), Daniela Malec (EIYN), Rupal Maru (EIYN)

     

    During the whole Assembly there were three workshop sessions with different offers. Annika visited “Cross stitch and crochet for inner peace in creativity” led by Zosia Socha, a core member of the European Interfaith Youth Network. There she learnt to crochet and how relaxing it can be. The second workshop she visited was “The role of interreligious education for overcoming fears and building trust” led by Prof. Johannes Lähnemann, who published a magazine on the same topic which shows the importance of education in primary and high school of the different religions. The last workshop she participated in was “Violence against women and girls” by Bharti Tailor. In this workshop they talked about the different types of violence and what religious leaders should do to end the violence against women and girls, such as empower young women and promote their leadership as well as involve them in theological discussions and promote gender equality.

    Krista visited a workshop called “Contributing to harmonious life and new approaches” led by Nataliya Pylypiv from EIYN. In the workshops they discussed about forgiveness and how for example the conflict in Ukraine shows the value of faith, compassion and friendliness. Workshop participants shared how they pursue for harmonious life with different ethnic and religious groups and also about the level of inter-faith dialogue and hor at the RfP level, it should move forward from dwelling in the idea, that we all worship the same God to more serious dialogue, which doesn’t avoid talking about challenging topics. Krista also participated in a workshop about “Media’s role in overcoming violence” which discussed the best practises on how RfP could contribute on educating journalists reporting on conflicts related to religions, however acknowledging that journalists are one of the most persecuted group of people in the world. The workshop tried to compose ideas for campaigns and collegiums tackling the problems of how conflicts are reported. The last workshop Krista visited was about how religions could contribute overcoming violence, and dealt some case examples of different conflicts. It highlighted the role of religious leaders and their status in the community that is in conflict.

    group pic EIYN

    The Assembly was a great way to get to know Religions for Peace and its European and local chapters. A great highlight for us was the interreligious and intercultural evening on the last day. Different interfaith groups performed on stage and created a fantastic atmosphere. It was a great experience, and we made many new friends with hopefully future possibilities of working together.

     

    FotoAnnika Foltin
    Annika Foltin is the Executive Committee member of the European Regional Committee and belongs to SCM Austria. She just finished her Master’s degree in “Diplomacy & Religion” and lives currently in Germany. She likes to read and travel.

    KristaKrista Autio
    Krista Autio is the Global Networking Coordinator of the European Regional Committee and comes from SCM Finland (SKY). She is a graduate student of Theology and Development Studies at the University of Helsinki. Her dream is to work as a pastor at international Christian cooperation field related to human rights and solidarity work.

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on November 12th, 2015 11:35 am / Continue Reading »

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The work of WSCF-Europe is financially supported by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe.

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