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  1. 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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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on March 17th, 2016 3:50 pm / Continue Reading »

  2. 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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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on March 16th, 2016 4:51 pm / Continue Reading »

  3. 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 »

  4. 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 »

  5. 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 »

  6. 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 »

  7. 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 »

  8. From Chile to Czech Republic: Religion & Politics Conference experience sharing

    Luis Aranguiz is a member of SCM Chile. He is a member of the Protestant church. Luis has a degree in Hispanic Literature and Linguistics. Nearing his 25th birthday, Luis enjoys little pleasures of life, like drinking tea, reading poetry, and riding bike.
    Luis’ testimonial follows the Religion and Politics conference in Czech Republic in October 2015.

    To be part of the event “Religion & Politics”, organized by WSCF and EUJS has been one of the best experiences of my life. I came from Chile as a member of SCM in Santiago and had many questions about this topic. So, to be involved in this event was a great opportunity to learn, discuss about political issues and to improve my understanding on the topic. Besides, it is very important to note that the event also gave me the opportunity to meet with a lot of people that has if not the same, at least similar questions. That was so strengthening to me to continue in this path.

    On the other hand, the European Assembly of WSCF was an important space to me as member of Chilean SCM, especially because it gave me the opportunity to feel part of a bigger community of believers that I didn’t know personally, but also and most important, to feel part of a group of friends. Also it was important to realize in situ that there is a lot of people in different places of the world working hardly and seeking the same thing, the Kingdom of God. That brings hope.

    Two personal experiences that I won’t forget are, by one side the possibility to have a real space of ecumenism. In Chile it occurs on other levels, but to have the opportunity to share with young people of different Christian confessions was a very nurturing experience. Another one that is related with this, is the possibility to learn about different cultures, to share different points of view about our diverse Christian spirituality. So even though Christianity is divided in many aspects, this kind of spaces are special because there we can see that we can still be one in Christ.

    This both events also mean a challenge. And perhaps this is the most important thing to me. It was like a training. So, the challenge is to translate everything I’ve learnt to contribute in my context. There are young Christian people interested on this kind of conversations, so what I have taken from this amazing experience is also useful for another people here. Even though Chilean reality is very different to European, it is also possible to work in building bridges between young people of different Christian confessions and to share about our national reality and think on how we has Christians can contribute to do it a better place.

    I only can say thanks to everyone who made these events possible.

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on November 11th, 2015 3:56 pm / Continue Reading »

  9. Cold temperature vs. warm hearts

    novaNova Yulanda Putri Sipahutar, 26 years old, is a member of national ExCo of SCM Indonesia and a member of Standing Committee in WSCF Asia Pacific Region. She is a postgraduate student in Public Administration. She loves watching movies, reading novels, and travelling.

    Nova’s testimonial follows the Religion and Politics conference in Czech Republic in October 2016.

     

    Religions are a sensitive issue in Asia, particularly in Indonesia. We faced many cases of destroying the places of worship and attacking the people of other religions. Some provinces in Indonesia implement shariah law in their areas, meaning that all women have to use hijab and cover up their bodies. On contrary, at the conference that we have talked about freedom of expression. There is a law in France that prohibits women to cover up their body and face. For us (in the discussion) it was a question of freedom of expression and the democracy. As I know that the symbol of religions in public spehere is prohibited in France because of the manifestation of equality. Even though it is debatable for many countries.

    It was interesting point that said atheist is equal with religions. Atheist has something that they believe in, theirselves or sciences, and religions belive in God. And it is the basic human rights that human being has the freedom to hold particular religion or to be an atheist. Indonesia need to learn how to respect other beliefs, because many people hold traditional religions. Traditional religions in Indonesia believe in God, but do not belong to Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hinduist, or Kong Hu Chu traditions. They are very close to the culture, ethnic tradition, to Earth even. It is very difficult to create the same position between the majority and the  minority religions. But we are trying to implement deliberative democracy that supported by moderate group and people who cares about diversity and harmony. We have built a constructive dialogue between religions, and it is working, even though we need to spread this constructive dialogue wider.

    I have learned some new things during the conference, such as euthanasia and animal slaughter, and have deepened my knowledge about refugee situation in Europe. We need Compassion and love to help the marginilized and  discriminated. There are many reasons to reject the refugees flooding Europe: economic reasons, “job stealing” reasons, public services accessibility reasons, and even just worrying about the future of Europe if migrants will be given access to European countries. European people will be a minority in terms of numbers – it is the concern of some groups who respond negatively to the refugee crisis. But the refugees are humans like us. They need our help and the migrant people are well educated people and nice people. There is no reason to reject them. I learned how to respect other people though they come from different places, different religions, race. Another thing that I have never talked about before was animal slaughter. It is one of reasons for one to become vegetarian. In my past, I have heard only health reasons behind people’s choice to become vegetarians, or even vegans.  But now I see also the aspect of respecting the rights of other creatures. I would like to share this with my SCM and the Asia Pacific region, so that we could also choose way of respecting other creatures.

    I got a new experience of how Regional Assemblies work in WSCF Europe – how the decisions are made. In democratic ways, the voted majority is always the winner. But it’s always good to listen and to reflect the minority opinion. For me personally, asking the minority’s reason of why they choose different things is way to respect them and build a dynamic and well-argumented discussion. I met SCMs from Europe region, and saw how many people accept same-sex marriage. It is great and very progressive, and we (Indonesian SCM and the AP region) are still fighting for this. And I am glad that we have voted in favour of association of SCM Armenia, and that both associated movements –  SCMs Armenia and Bulgaria – have a right to vote now; so the WSCF family is bigger now, and we can spread the values of ecumenism even wider. Age is not the limitation to serve in SCM though working as volunteer. Of course it is very good and I hope SCMs in Europe will get bigger in terms of numbers, and will create a positive and visible influence in their countries.

    The last thing that I woud like to share is about my body experience. I thought I could not survive for 10 days in Europe. It was the coldest temperature my body has ever felt. I did not bring enough jackets and sweaters with me. I got a very bad cough, flu, red burning eyes and headache. I had to adapt to the Czech timezone, which meant that my activity time and sleeping time have totally exchanged places. Asia and Europe have a very different culture of eating, I needed several days to learn to eat European foods. Yes, it was my first time in Europe. But besides my strugles, I was so lucky! I met very nice people. They took such good care of of me – they asked about my condition, suggested me whem I should take rest, borrowed a scarf, gave me the medicines I needed. I am sure for my next visitat to Europe I be much better prepared.

    Yes, I have learned so many things, and it was a great opportunity for me. I would like to say a huge Thank You to WSCF-Europe, which gave me this oppurtunity. Thank you also to the WSCF Asia Pacific and SCM Indonesia, which have supported my trip to Europe. It will be great if the members of WSCF-Europe come to our region as well, and we can learn together about Indonesia and about Asia.

    I am proud to be a part of this ecumenical movement. Let’s make this world as home for all of people.

    UT OMNES UNUM SINT

     

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on November 11th, 2015 3:56 pm / Continue Reading »

  10. Committed to Peace: Global Forum on Youth, Peace & Security

    Today the world is home to the largest generation of young people. There have been never so many young people at any other time in human history than today. The fastest grow in youth population is predominantly in the poorest nations. More than 1.5 billion people live in conflict-effected zones or countries were violent extremism is very high.[1] As the largest generation, youth are vulnerable part of societies and mostly they do not play any particular role in creating conflict situations. In contrary, they are affected by the consequences. While they have a big potential to make a positive change in the world, generally, they are not capable to protect even themselves from violence as the lack of mechanisms. Moreover, tendency to create a young people’s image as a threat to global security has significantly increased in last several years.

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    To discuss the topics of peace and security, seek solutions, exchange experiences and adopt Amman Youth Declaration, the Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security has been held in Amman, Jordan in August, 2015[2]. It was a great honor for me to be invited at the forum and be selected among 150 fully funded participants from nearly 11 000 applications. It was my pleasure to represent Young Christians for Peace and Democracy (SCM Georgia) and World Student Christian Federation-Europe at such a historical event.

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    For the first global gathering of its kind, over 400 participants from all regions of the world, includingsenior representatives from Member States; young people from youth organizations and youth groups; UN entities; INGOs; foundations and donor agencies; academics; media came together to agree on a common vision to partner with young people in preventing conflict, countering violent extremism and building lasting peace.

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    Frankly, considering the endless global summits discussion how to bring peace in the world with high officials who mostly lack commitments or practice on the ground, I did not put high expectations before the forum. However, this time it was something different. Unlike to other forums I have attended, it created a space for profound inter-generational dialogue. It was so valuable for me because it gave the possibility to increase dialogue between generations to better understand and respect each other’s opinions to overcome violence, conflicts and uphold lasting peace on all levels.

    In this format, we discussed a wide range of issues related to peace and security, including religious/ inter-religious related speech and counter speech; the role of young people in countering violent extremism; young women shaping peace; the role of state and the international community; etc. We heard inspiring stories from young activists about their journeys from exclusion to positive change-makers, from marginalized to drivers to development. At the final stage, we adopted the Amman Youth Declaration drafted after many months of consultations between youth globally. The declaration seeks to increase youth meaningful participation and leadership in peace and security and their active involvement to overcome violent extremism and promote peace. It also focuses on gender equality, prevention of gender-based violence and socio-economic empowerment of youth.[3]

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    The most inspiring part for me was the moment when over four hundred youth activists expressed their commitments to promote peace and follow up the implementation of Amman Youth Declaration on Youth, Peace and Security. Based on my personal experience, I believe that if you are really committed to peace things start changing around you. Thus, I am sure that young people I met at the forum will act as a torch of peace in their local communities to connect their lights globally for peace and bright future.

    I feel so grateful to meet so many fascinating young people doing really incredible work. In each of them, I see drivers of peace and engines of development. After the Forum, I feel unusually calm as I know that today we have a young generation with a heart in the right place. “Experience is education” as one of my colleagues said during the forum, and my experience at the forum is definitely one of this kind.

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    Additionally, as a representative of WSCF-E I had a chance to talk and share our work and activities with people working on the same issues and having similar spheres of interests. We created a group to keep in touch and work together for the better outcomes.

    Yulia

    Distributing WSCF promotional materials

    Finally, I would like to address WSCF community to spread the Amman Youth Declaration widely and use its resources to support young people’s call on the UN Security Council to recognize that they are essential partners for peace.

    As for me, I declare to be committed to empower youth from marginalized and disadvantage groups to become peace builders. I declare to support youth to have equal access to education. I declare to advocate youth to belong at the table.

    Youth4Peace!

     

    Yulia Bajelidze

    05.09.2015

     

    [1] See, UNFPA State on World Population 2014.

    [2]The Global Forum on Youth, Peace and Security was hosted by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan under the Patronage of his Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, and co-organized by the United Nations represented, on behalf of the Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD), by Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Peacebuilding Support Office, UNFPA and UNDP, in partnership with Search for Common Ground and the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.

    [3] Check the full version of the declaration on https://www.unteamworks.org/node/505475

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on September 7th, 2015 11:19 am / Continue Reading »

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