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  1. Why I chose to become a homo oecumenica? Challenging the Politics of Labelling

    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 professional and faith-based organisation including, PhISO, Peace Builders Community Philippines, and the Foundation University-Amsterdam The Netherlands. 

     

    “When we require that all people must say the same words or subscribe to the same creeds in order to experience God, we underestimate the scope and power of God’s activity in the world.”.
    —Rachel Held Evans

    The future of Christian identity has become a general concern at this very difficult yet crucial part of the 21th century. We have entered a new phase in the debate about identity formation. A Jewish activist Judith Butler called it, “identity politics” discourse. While an American critical theorist Nancy Fraser described it as “politics of recognition” debates [1]. Although these concepts are contestable, it is suggested that our identity could be philosophically, politically, and socially construct based on the notion of “us” and “them”. As we go about our daily lives, we are polarized by categorical labeling, great inequalities, and injustices but we are also increasingly interconnected. Globally, everything is so interconnected by modern technologies that enable us to challenge those conventional notions of categorical labelling, identity formation, and the politics of representation.

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    We find ourselves every day in a constant identity formation and identity crises. At all times, our lives are intimately interwoven in social networks, social expectations, and reproduction of meaning with other people. Definitely, the decisions of our immediate families, political affiliations, and social environments will probably have a major impact on our own choice and identity. In reverse, it might be said, that these social construct affect people’s perception of both themselves and their relationship to other people.

    We, as faith community, have lived through a moment that will continue to define our capacity to face those daunting challenges of diverse trajectories. Therefore, we must be critical and reflective, as Ros Hague argues, to those we considered as unchosen or enforced identities upon us [2].

    Many years ago, I was misinformed about the ecumenical advocacy of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Some of my “close Christian friends” wrongly equated the World Council of Churches vision and mission to religious syncretism. I was stunned how they categorised the WCC as false Christian organisation. Since the establishment of World Council of Churches, the ecumenical movement has been much maligned and severely misunderstood in the conservative Christian circle. Labels such as “conservative” and “liberal” Christianity are so insufficient or obscure concepts. I wilfully refuse to be labelled as “conservative” or “liberal” Christian because I believe that “categorical labeling” is a divisive language. Such label is used to interpret the stranger’s world into our own set of standard, norm, and biases. Despite Christian churches’ agreement that progress has been made in the last years of the 20th century, using superficial grasp or stereotype still continue to have distorted the imagery of the World Council of Churches, painting them all with the same brush. A common misconception about ecumenical movement is that it promotes “syncretism’ among Christian churches. Some conservative Christian communities have used some alarmist hate speeches against the WCC. For example, conservative views argues that WCC mission and vision statements paved the way for the Antichrist. Many conservatives regarded ecumenical movement as a form of New Age Movement or Satanism. For them, it is compromised that resulted in jeopardizing the Kingdom of God and loss of our Christian identity.

    I am very grateful and honoured to be a member of the World Student Christian Federation-Europe despite the odds. As a member of WSCF-E I have become so vulnerable to moral panic. I have received much criticism after this public exposure. Last month, annoyed as I was, I tried to maintain my composure and calmly responded to those individuals who tried to question my faith, theological-orientation, and advocacy. I was politically-charged as a left-wing Christian. They thought that I was losing my Christian faith and identity. Honestly, I struggled to engage my conservative family members, friends, and colleagues who have been compounded by their lack of understanding of what WCC and WSCF-E do. As was to be expected, without taking a minute, they responded back to me by quoting Biblical verses, justifying their bigotry through the Christian Scripture.

    Shortly after my three months of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) program, everything has changed. As a result of my understanding of Palestinian struggle, witnessing, and experiencing life under Israeli occupation I have realised that I needed to rethink my Christian theological stance. Undoubtedly, the EAPPI program was an eye-opener for me. It was a sudden realization that changed my life and how I see God working far beyond conventional human understanding. My growing dissatisfaction with some of my previous social organisations, cultural practices, and theological convictions led me to explore the social ministry of the World Council of Churches and World Student Christian Federation-Europe. I can say, I finally found my calling as a Christian human rights advocate. Most of all, I have found my answer to my earlier question, why I chose to be a homo oecumenica or ecumenical being. Because my insatiable curiosity led me to realization, far from imposing “categorical labeling,” and WSCF-E and WCC have been strong examples of resilience and dignity, and their insistence in building God’s Kingdom of justice, reconciliation, and peace (see Luke 4: 16-30).

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    To avoid confusion, we need to define the word, “ecumenical” or “oikoumene” (Greek translation). It means simply “the whole world.” This does not mean syncretism but promoting unity in diversity among Christian churches to challenge social injustices around the world. I would say, we are united with Lord Jesus Christ, as a centre of integrating principle. Contrary, to Stanley J. Samartha’s description syncretism as an uncritical mixture of elements from different religions without a centre of integrating principle. Samartha contends, it leads to spiritual poverty, theological confusion, and ethical impotence [3]. However, Julio Santa Ana contends that the word ecumenical is interpreted differently by different Christian groups and different time periods [4]. So different types of Christian organisations developed their own understanding of ecumenical movement. In attempt to have a broader description Thomas E. Fitzgerald put it,

    For Fitzgerald,

    “…the ecumenical movement strictly refers to the quest for Christian reconciliation and the restoration of the visible unity of the Christian churches in shared Christian faith, in the sacraments, and in witness [5].”

    Ecumenical movement is a form of awakening and responding to undaunted calls for “reconciling diversity.” Some of us tend to totalize our Christian identity. Worse, the rest of us tend to think that we have a monopoly of religious “Truth”. Admittedly, we were tempted to outcast, criticises and marginalizes people who do not share our views, beliefs, and convictions. Obviously, conservative views have no tolerance for diversity of rituals, social identities, and convictions. However, we Christians are called to embrace unity in diversity or “reconciling diversity”. The Holy Spirit that dwells in us, as community of believers, inspire us to unite against categorical labelling, discrimination, injustices, and to promote equality for all. This concept of “reconciling diversity” was introduces in the WCC document entitled, “The Church: Towards a Common Vision in 2013.” According to WCC document (2013),

    “Legitimate diversity in the life of communion is a gift from the Lord. The Holy Spirit bestows variety of complementary gifts on the faithful for the common good [6].”

    In this section, it is clearly stated that we must recognize, therefore, that diversity is a gift from the Lord. We, Christians from diverse backgrounds are called by God to make up the hedge and stand in the gap, in order to work toward peace based on justice and reconciliation. We, WSCF-E must challenge the misguided information shared by critics and those distorted imagery of the ecumenical movement.

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    I should like, in closing this reflection, to return to how people use labels to assign how others should see themselves. As Steffi Retzlaff argues, labelling is a political act since labels include and exclude [7]. We should not deceive ourselves. “Categorical labeling” is a form of symbolic violence. In most cases, it is the exercise of violence that leads to the marginalization of those people who do not share our views, beliefs, and convictions. In the religious context, “conservative” and “liberal” Christian should not be used as general descriptors. Such labels or categories represents over-simplification of our individual identities, and the people living in the margins of society have no choice but to use them. In the process, labeling might leads to marginalization, discrimination, and moral evaluation against people who do not share our views, beliefs, and convictions. We must welcome, embrace, nurture, and promote the concept of “reconciling diversity” among Christian community (including non-Christian community). We should understand that God’s Spirit moves beyond the church. We cannot and should not limit God’s work. According to the Second Prophet Isaiah (55: 8-9);

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

    We, Christians should challenge the politics of labelling. We should stop this exercise of violence, categorical labelling. We welcome the stranger and strange world. We, WSCF-E as student ecumenical movement called to join the advocacy of justice and peace action network.

    Let me conclude this short article by inviting you to reflect on this powerful passage from the Gospel according to Mark 9: 39-41;

    John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

    References

     

    [1] Nancy Fraser, “Social Justice in the Age of Identity Politics: Redistribution, Recognition, and Participation,” The Tanner Lectures On Human Values Delivered at Stanford University (April 30–May 2, 1996), 1-67. Assessed May 5, 2016.  http://tannerlectures.utah.edu/_documents/a-to-z/f/Fraser98.pdf.

    [2] Ros Hague, Autonomy and Identity: The Politics of Who We Are, (US: Routledge, 2011), 11.

    [3] Stanley J. Samartha. “The Holy Spirit and People of Other Faiths,” The Ecumenical Review 42, no.3 (1990): 250-263.

    [4] Julio de Santa Ana and Ninan Koshy. ‘On the Meaning of ‘Ecumenical’. In: Julio de Santa Ana et al. (eds.) Beyond Idealism: A Way Ahead for Ecumenical Social Ethics, 30–55. Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.

    [5] Thomas E. Fitzgerald. The Ecumenical Movement: An Introductory History, (US: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 2004), 4-5.

    [6] World Council of Churches 10th Assembly Resource Book. Geneva: WCC Publications, 2013, 16.

    [7] Steffi Retzlaff. “What is in a name? The Politics of Labelling and Native Identity Construction,” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies XXV, 2 (2005), 609-626.

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on May 30th, 2016 4:51 pm / Continue Reading »

  2. First impressions from the Study Session 2016

    Greetings from European Youth Centre Budapest – here for the study session “Let’s talk about sexuality”. Here, Niels Gade from Denmark, shares his experiences about the meeting.

    Niels, what was the most interesting thought you have discovered because of yesterday’s discussions or encounters?

    One thought is that in cultures where same-sex marriage is currently legalised, pastors reserve the right to not officiate marriages between said couples. That they have the right and may opt not to do this, is largely frowned upon by many and seen as discriminatory – but is that a fair critique? Would forcing pastors to perform same-sex marriages when it is against their conviction not in itself be an unjust limitation of theological convictions in the church?

    The most shocking gender stereotype from other cultures/countries that you have discovered during today’s “gender-in-a-box” discussion?

    Apparently, ‘curry’ is a desired quality in the ideal woman..?

    Name three of your new favourite foods or drinks from other countries – from yesterday’s international banquet?

    – Ajvar, which is forever my favourite.
    – Baklava, which is to die for.
    – Italian wine from Sicily. It is wine, after all.

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    Stay tuned for more news from the study session! Or, check our twitter feed: (link)

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on May 10th, 2016 10:21 pm / Continue Reading »

  3. 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.”

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    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.”

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    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 »

  4. 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 »

  5. 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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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on March 25th, 2016 3:50 pm / Continue Reading »

  6. 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 »

  7. 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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  8. 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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  9. 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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  10. 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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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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