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  1. What is up in WSCF-Europe from Jan 2015 until now? Dedication, Volunteering & Much Gratitude

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    Looking back at the first half of this year now, I have felt the need to write up a short blog on the life in WSCF Europe as so much has happened since the beginning of this year. WSCF-E as such stands on  volunteering of a few dedicated and gifted people on the ERC– Annika Foltin, Krista Autio, Maria Kozhinova, David Cleary, Ellie Peacock, Valentin Tranchand and an extraordinarily committed Regional Secretary – Natia Tsintsadze and many others of you who support us when we turn to you for assistance – there is so many of you! Since Jan 2015 up until now we have gone through a period of analysing and ultimately deciding to do some transformations in the way we run WSCF-E and as we go on, our team members changed too and we continue receiving a lot of support from the circle of WSCF friends.

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    As it happens after some time, we had some changes in team members. In March, after more than 3 years, Marco Fornerone, our very much valued ExCo member, finished his term, and Valentin Tranchand became his successor. Marco was always our insightful thinker and aiding our work with his grounded theology knowledge and pastoral care support. Around that time another member of the ERC, Libby Lewin, our Treasurer resigned after 3 years serving WSCF-Europe. Libby has been a committed ERC member and with Marco they both volunteered in WSCF-Europe team over more than two terms. Big thanks to them for being part of ERC, you are still part of WSCF!

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    With changes in our team, we had also changes in ‘’who does what’’. We realised a great need for improving external communications and hence we decided to split the work done traditionally by our full time intern between a remotely working Communications Officer and office based Admin and Finance Officer. We are on the way to source our two new staff  members which will should bring about better focus on communications and finance support. We also decided to share our work with friends from SCMs who are willing to support us on pro bono basis. We are already very thankful to our friends, a Senior Friend, Miro Berberov for pro bono IT support, and Gabor Nemet and Eli Bradovkova for graphic design assistance. Your skills, friends, make us look professional online! Thank you very much!

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    WSCF-Europe finances and the way we work with our financial and non-financial resources has been also changed. Being confronted with serious financial situation featuring some insecurity of payment of the salary of our key employee, Regional Secretary, which is 40% of our annual (non programmatic) administrative budget, we made correspondingly a serious decision to make a favorable solution to both our budget and the current Regional Secretary by moving the WSCF-Europe office from Berlin to Trento, Italy, the home location of our current Regional Secretary, Natia. This will happen already in mid August this year. If it proves fruitful, this may very well even set the pattern for years to come to address financial situation and also provide flexibility and benefit for our international staff member – Regional Secretary – being located in the country where the RS will be based in with good opportunities to set up the office and at the same time in the country where we have an member movement. So, we look forward to providing stability to our key employee and at the same time building a more lively connection to another member movement – SCM Italy in the upcoming years. :)

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    Our financial situation has been really such an ongoing focus for us as you may gather.  This autumn we are applying for an important administrative grant that could cover partly European RS salary costs (which has never been the case in the past) in order to decrease our European take from global resources. We hope to be more in solidarity with regions who have less opportunities as we may have in Europe. So far, we are just hoping this will turn truth and more news will be known at the beginning of 2016. Grant giving is very competitive everywhere and we hope very much we stand up to this challenge.

    Apart from finances that to a large extent make WSCF-Europe happen, we have a few projects started for which we need very little or almost no financial resources. These are the things which really bring energy and positive breeze- time and willingness to still be giving and enjoying this work together and not being worried about money… :). One of the projects that we all are in particular excited is related to our history of WSCF-Europe. We realised that resources we can publicly and easily access online are so far giving very little information about our history. We meet often our predecessors from WSCF, we hear stories and experiences but there is little captured what has happened since around mid 80s in the Europe region. Hence we started to dig into our history and this initiative was taken up by our Fundraising Coordinator, David Cleary. David is reaching out to many our Senior Friends (which was started by meeting Inger Lise in Sweden this summer) and communicating with our WSCF global Yale archive to gather information which we could bring in to our website and provide interesting source of information about our past and legacy.

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    Another project is related to communications as we are very much aware as many of you maybe as well – that our website needs some improvements… Did you feel sometimes you cannot find what you need or that our website is little boring? These are the reasons :). Maria, our Links Coordinator has been dedicating time to it and doing much developmental steps toward slowly changing our website. In addition, we are starting to get our Mozaik online and make it an online forum for ideas to flow easily in addition to our much valued old fashioned printed version of Mozaik Europe bi-annual journal. These are the ‘’big’’ projects for us, but there are also small projects which we are doing now- as making our next conference little inter-regional by inviting other region’s SCMers; as a team making our newsletter better and sourcing other regions’ news for greater interconnectedness or just something as relatively insignificant and quite uninteresting as dissolvement of our WSCF-E legal presence in Budapest after WSCF-E and Centennial Fund owned property in Budapest had been sold recently.

    Finally our energy is released for much more interesting things and we can celebrate almost complete success with this legal process:). Important is to say that this would not be possible without very resourceful assistance of our Senior Friends- Nagypal Szabolcz and Kristin Makszin living in Budapest- thank you dear friends, for still being so helpful when we need your help! 19153989505_d190c9968e_o

    Writing these lines down, beginning of August 2015, looking back at what has happened in WSCF-Europe over last few months- I feel so much gratitude to people who have helped us- for you it is perhaps little support but for us it means a lot.  Your skills, time, advise and also your financial generosity is part of what WSCF-E makes happen. Thanks to Patrizia Glaizal from SCM Paris and Are Kaspersen from SCM Sweden for being so helpful hosting our internal meetings this year. Jiri Bukovinsky who has taken up the role of Chair of search committee as a Senior Friend from Europe. Thanks to Marita Mattila,  Minna Mannert and Jooa Sotejeff who are already helping us with meeting organization in Helsinki in Jan 2016. Big thanks to our financial supporters- you know who you are- we value your giving a lot! There is so many of you who help us as we go.

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    We are going through busy times with the office move, projects going on apart from our events, changes in our staff personnel structure, and off course preparing for an important statutory meeting we are holding after two years this October. However, this would not happen if we on the ERC would not get your support. I have said thank you many times in this blog, however, I sincerely mean it dear friends, without your help and we would have done much less than what we are able to do this year.

    Yours

    Zuzka

    WSCF-E Chairperson

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  2. WSCF meeting Evangelisches Missionswerk & Bread for the World

    On 12 June 2015, representatives of our three levels in WSCF – our country level member movement in Germany- ESG represented by our long term colleague and friend- Annette Klinke, regional representatives of WSCF-Europe- Regional Secretary Natia Tsintsadze and Chairperson Zuzana Babicova along with WSCF Interim Staff Coordinator Necta Montes met with Oliver Martin- Bread for the World (a Protestant Development Service) and Christoph Anders from Evangelisches Missionswerk (EMW).

    Both organisations have been long term supporters of WSCF mission through generous financial support. The very reason why there was such a need for this in person meeting is because all three organisations did not meet for a long while. Therefore, some deeper understanding of how WSCF as an organisation is doing in particular its financial well being along with giving more insight into our programmatic direction was our reason for re-establishing connections. As WSCF had her General Assembly this year  after 6,5 years and has set on the transition period, these were also reasons why a meeting with our long term partners would be very helpful.

    Thus, we came to Berlin to meet Oliver Martin from the Bread for the World which used to support WSCF and in particular financially less capable countries with their programs. As this funding (known as WSCF Ecumenical Assistance Program) stopped some years ago and some regions of WSCF suffered from the loss of this resource, we were keen to renew the connection to the Bread for the World and understand whether there is a chance for WSCF to still receive support and what conditions there may be. Oliver Martin gave us a clear message that doors are still open and they will welcome applications from WSCF or any strong national movement capable of administering their funds professionally and up to desired standards. Oliver stressed that Bread for the World will value and will most likely give support to such conceptual proposals which will show coherence of programs organized by different parts of WSCF. He offered further consultancy through their organisation, so we left re-assured that WSCF needs to identify solid human resource capacity internally  and develop the concept for new programs that is viable for us and matching with expectations of Bread for the World.

    After conversation with Martin, we had a good few hours’ talk with Mr Anders who is the Director of EMW. EMW has been contributing to the WSCF core budget for decades with generous amount of financial resources. These were particularly very valuable in that it is rare nowadays to be able to receive undesignated funds. WSCF have been able to use this funding to annually remunerate our seven key staff members- six regional secretaries and Inter-regional Office (IRO) office personnel that are instrumental for enabling regions to have the basis for further work with national movements of WSCF and keep programs going.

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    We talked with Christoph about what WSCF need to improve and the main points from Christoph for us were – better transparency and reporting quality. We acknowledged importance of both and agreed to strive for the best;  we internally are aware of the need to address it and assured that concerns raised will be dealt with. We also talked about the change of the location of the IRO office to another place in Europe or outside. Right now when the WSCF transition team is working until the end of this year on remodelling the way WSCF may work in near future, a costly IRO Geneva location  is a key almost hot topic for many of us in the Federation. Christoph was sharing with us a few examples of global organisations changing the location and the rationale and context behind it. Christoph’s understanding was that in our context this move may represent a symbolic change which seems to be desired by many internally and that worthwhile will be to think also about theological and historical underpinning of the the place we may choose for the IRO. We appreciated Christoph’s engaged and consultative approach and willingness to support us with advice and knowledge coming from EMW’s institutional experience. Apart from many matters related directly to the current situation of ”times of transformation”, we also touched upon the theme of our global campaign (its potential and weaknesses) and its underlying engagement of friends of WSCF. How can we all – students, staff and WSCF alumnae/Senior Friends- best mutually benefit from giving and receiving as we wish to stay around WSCF. That was also our part of our discussion- an aspect that needs thoughtful process and a lot of development from us.  WSCF was also warmly welcomed to host events and meetings in EMW’s facilities in Hamburg in the future. This will surely be a good opportunity in the future to get to know more EMW.

    This meeting was very fruitful for both the actual exchange of ideas and concerns and a very good opportunity to establish personal connections with EMW represented by Mr Anders and Bread for the World represented by Mr Martin. They both showed care and committement to WSCF which was very positive for us and much appreciated. As we agreed, once the Transition team has first solid results of their analysis and proposals, our all partners including Christoph from EMW and Martin from Bread for the World will be invited for further discussion along with other partners and donors of WSCF.

    Much gratitude from Necta, Natia, Annette and Zuzana to Martin and Christoph for a trully engaging time analysing, discussing and sharing our thoughts on how to pave the way for WSCF in the coming years.

    Zuzana Babicova

    Chairperson of WSCF-Europe

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  3. Prepcom Meeting in Litomysl

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    From the 21st – 24th of June the preparatory committee (prepcom) met for the next conference in Litomysl, Czech Republic. The conference will be from the 17th – 23rd of October under the theme of  “Region and politics: democracy and moral values in multicultural Europe today”.

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    It will be a joint event with the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) and the World Student Christian Federation of Europe (WSCF-E). The prepcom meeting was very successful with two prepcom members from EUJS (Hester and Dennis), two prepcom members from WSCF-E (Annika and Ellie) and the WSCF-E Regional Secretary (Natia). We discussed the programme of the conference as well as discovered the little town of Litomysl.

     

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    We all look very much forward to the conference and in the upcoming month we will work very hard to make it as successful as possible for our participants.

    Annika Foltin

    Events Coordinator / EXCO

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  4. Catch up about the ERC Summer Meeting!

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    The European Regional Committee and Staff of WSCF-E traveled to Stockholm this month.  They as a working committee dealt with: Finances; Events 2015 & 2016; Global connections; Online communication strategy and the upcoming ERA – European Regional Assembly!

    Go to our Flickr to see pictures of the ERC at work and meeting SCM Sweden (Kriss/ Kristna Studentrörelsen i Sverige) or  Check out our WSCF-E links coordinators Facebook page for a look back at real time updates from the event.

    Official Minutes to follow soon!

    Kathryn Cammish

    Publications and Office Intern

     

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  5. Getting back to our SCM Paris & the Europe regional committee internal meeting

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    In summer 2014 we chose Paris as the  place for our next operational meeting. We choose Paris because it was a very long time since we had been there for any event nor meeting. Last time WSCF Europe was in Paris was in 2007 when we organised a conference . It took us some time to reconnect in fact 8 years! We were contacting various people on Facebook along with our official contacts for some time and eventually we got to speak to SCM Paris. They very generously helped us with our stay in a wonderful student dormitory facility. Patrizia, the dormitory manager, was particularly helpful and responsive to our needs for which we are very grateful. So our stay was secured and we the ERC, went to Paris on 14 Jan 2015.

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    Between summer 2014 and winter 2015, a lot of things happened and changed in WSCF-E Life which we were brought  to the meeting  as well as planning the next 1,5 years.  One thing we were all looking forward to was meeting for the first time our new regional secretary, Natia Tsintsadze she started working for us  in October 2014. You can read more about Natia here

    ERC1What did we work on?
    At the meeting we discussed many important areas of our work one of these was – getting funds for our events, which is increasingly more and more difficult, a very relatable subject to all who read this I suspect.  But we are not down and actually this situation makes us all the more creative. Along with fundraising and events, we were preparing for General Assembly as well as with many areas of our work that we want to improve as there is a lot of ideas among us but at times urgent matters hold us from implementing them. One step toward our improvement needs is by working more with all WSCF friends who can help us with their time and talents. Hence in spring 2015 we will be releasing many calls for interns to join our team from whichever country you live. So look at our website! It is a great opportunity to gain skills and help WSCF-Europe to flourish. We have already two such interns.

    A lot of our time and energy was also taken by a rather dramatic situation at the global financial level of the Federation. As we are dependant on the IRO given the fact that our Regional salary is paid by them , we started to tackle this issue and think through how to stabilise our regional work and  as well as the Federation. This became a priority and this was also a reason why we cancelled our gender event for which not enough money was fundraised

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    SCM Paris hosted our meeting and it was truly wonderful. We were impressed by the activities they do and diversity which is present among there people that goes even beyond Christianity yet maintains its traditional protestant core present in its name” Association des Etudiants Protestants de Paris”. “Charlie Hebdo events” testify this initiative as we saw in SCM Paris in mid Jan 2015.

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    Fun and workin Paris

    On one evening, we met with many students from the movement and SCM manager, Patrizia. We re-introduced ourselves and invited SCM Paris to be again part of our events for students. We had a really good exchange on what has happened in both organizations since 2008. We all hope that we meet some students at our next event in October 2015. :) Hope to see you there SCM Paris! Thanks again to Patrizia Glaizal, Salma Charaf and Elena   Andreescu who helped us a lot and warmly welcomed us in Paris.


    Written by our  chair Zuzka Babicova

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  6. WSCF Europe Staff & Officers’ Meeting 2015

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    Last month representatives from Student Christian Movements across Europe met together in Madrid for WSCF Europe’s annual Staff and Officers’ Meeting (S&O). The theme of the meeting was communication – looking at how we better communicate within our movements and with the students and young people we serve.

     

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    A personal highlight of the S&O was the intercultural evening on Thursday. Since WSCF Europe (and the global federation) is made up of so many distinctive cultures and communities, every meeting together is a chance to share different cultural experiences, from food and drink to music and sewing (thank you to Andrew from Belarus for a fascinating demonstration!). You can view photos from the evening, and the rest of the meeting, on SCM Britain’s Flickr page.

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    In the world of SCM, we talk a lot about diversity and how we learn from each other. In the British movement, we value the experiences of students from different Christian traditions. When it comes to faith, the old distinctions of class, race, denomination and gender are turning into the issues that unite us; the more we see people from different backgrounds coming together, the more powerful our sense of unity.

     

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    Talking to some of the other participants at the S&O, I realised that all of our movements are different. We have different traditions and ideas, and we live in societies that are changing in different ways. Living in Britain, I have no real concept of what life in Italy or Austria is like for a student. What are the issues that people care about? As a movement that spans the whole continent, how do we learn from what movements in Poland, Germany or Finland are doing?

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    As Christians, we are called to speak prophetically into the culture around us. We do this both with our words and by our actions. But culture is changing all the time. In Italy for example, a boom in immigration has led to an increasingly multicultural generation of Italians, bringing with them different spiritual experiences and Christian traditions. The Evangelical Youth Federation in Italy, which is a member of WSCF Europe, is responding by organising yearly events called ‘Youth Happenings’ – the first of which brought together over 300 people from different social and cultural backgrounds in 2014.

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    This is just one example of a student movement that is building community based on values that reflect a Christian faith I want to be part of. But there are certainly challenges ahead. At times we may feel disappointed at low turnout figures for events, or feel dissatisfied that membership is not growing fast enough. It’s important at meetings like the S&O not to hide away from our frustrations. But the experience of Christianity also teaches us that hope is not a timid response. Hope is strong and resilient. If we can make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students, we can see change occurring in the lives of thousands, if not millions.

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    I am so encouraged to be part of a movement that values hospitality and community; a movement that is listening to what people have to say and is responding positively to changes in our world. When I think of our movements in Europe, that is what I see.

    Written by Ellis Tsang of SCM Britain. 

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  7. My Word on WSCF Events

    It took quite a long while to put my thoughts onto paper and answer the question of why I continued to attend WSCF events over and over. This happened not because of lack of ideas I had in my mind but on the contrary, there were too many positive emotions, faces, thoughts and feelings whenever I thought about the federation.  My first experience with WSCF-E was in Berlin, 2010. That was the point when my journey with WSCF made a start. As I represented Young Christians for Peace and Democracy and as I served as an international contact person at the same organization, first of all I started to work hard on and ensure the idea of making our relations with WSCF-E more solid. After negotiations, many formal and informal talks, we finally organized with YCDP to become an associated member of WSCF-E, in 2011 at the European Regional Assembly in Logumkloster, Denmark.

    Since then, I have been lucky to attend a number of WSCF-E events and even serve as a member of the Preparatory Committee of a WSCF-E conference on the topic of Xenophobia and Migration in Europe held in Velletri, Italy in 2012. Here I could write more and more about my amazing personal experiences with the federation, including my engagement at WSCF global level and mystanding as a proxy for a member of the WSCF Global Advocacy and Solidarity Committee, but now I would like to focus on the aspect that makes me keep attending the events and becoming a WSCF-er as such. I am always inspired to be a part of such activities and use each opportunity, to spend timewith the WSCF community. Why?

    I will try to share the several reasons why WSCF is so precious for me. Firstly, it provides aunique chance to meet with young people from Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic backgrounds (and not only) and to share our faith and work towards social justice and peace in our communities. Throughout these years, I have met people from various cultural, national, religious, political and personal backgrounds and I really learned a lot from them. For me it is a great magic when people with all theirdifferencesmeet at WSCF events and in a second becomeso open to each other, even putting themselves at risk to be defenseless. This community always teaches how to trust one another;how to trust strangers and people regardless of our religious differences. During such meetings, we have to discuss sensitive and difficult topics, but we always find a way to be open-minded, tolerant and respectful to others. I always like to challenge my visions and in this way the WSCF gatherings have enriched my life so much.

    What I really admire about WSCF work is that it desires to empower and educate young progressive Christians with the skills to become ecumenical leaders of their communities and to fight for justice and peace. And, I find it very wise because young students who are engaged inthe WSCF activities are future politicians, religious leaders, public figures, diplomats, teachers, stakeholders of the world.

    Besides all mentioned above and besides travelling, exploring different cities, tasting and enjoying local cuisines, getting know a bit of history and culture and expendingones worldview, the best thing I love about WSCF, is the PEOPLE! Yes, the WSCF Community consists of some of the most amazing people I have met in my life. Even though, some people I have met just once we keep in touch and feel very close to each other.  I always wonder, feel excited and happy about how many young people the federation can gather that are so committed to the WSCF’s work. It’s a pure commitment to what you really believe in without expecting anything. When I am recalling now people I have met through the years, I remember many happy and sad, joyful and melancholic faces with their successful or heartbreaking stories, but behind all of them I see a great power and ability to bring a positive change in this world.  The faces of WSCF people are stucked in my mind and I am sure it will never disappear from there.

    Through WSCF I made friends not just in the European region, but now I have friends in Jordan, Mexico, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Lebanon, Columbia, Syria, Uruguay, etc. in all continents. WSCF is a big family with members spread all over the world with such a strong connection. I always feel myself as a part of one great community.  I feel that “We are many; we are one”.

    As I said in the beginning, there are too many things in my head I would like to say about the World Student Christian Federation’s work and events.Even if I were asked to describe it in two sentences, I would never end my words without emphasizing one thing that is totally incredible that happens at WSCF meetings. Yes! Magic happens for me when we pray together. In Everyday life I do not regularlyattend church services as I wish, but ecumenical prayer is so much more powerful and magical for me. During such prayers and worship, I feel God with us and in us than never, when we sing Taize songs together we leave all our differences behind and unite in Christ. Very often in such moments tears come down from my eyes. And, these are the tears of happiness, happiness of unity!

    Yulia Bajelidze

    Coordinator of SCM Georgia

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  8. A letter from our new Regional Secretary Natia Tsintsadze

     

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    Dear friends,

    I am honoured and privileged to address you for the first time in my new role as Regional Secretary of WSCF Europe. It gives me great pleasure and enormous responsibility to be with you in the WSCF and work alongside you to achieve our common objectives during these challenging times. I believe that my extensive experience in management and development areas in executive positions over the last ten years will help me to successfully

    carry out my responsibilities as Regional Secretary. I strongly believe in living by and applying Christian values and principles to our daily lives. Through my human rights and interfaith work I have been able to combine my professional and personal interests. Working for and with the WSCF-E family will make these informal links even stronger and will allow me to work in the areas I feel so passionate about: building a just and peaceful world for all through our faith and passion During the next two years I will be committed to strengthening the WSCF presence at all levels, with a special focus on achieving more synergy between local movements and regional and global structures. This synergy is particularly important through the current turbulent period of crisis and social changes. We need to share, reconcile and unite to grow and succeed in our vision. I believe the WSCF-E events and initiatives will bring together more national and local movements and will become a platform to exchange and develop our common and individual strategies. These regular meetings and cooperation should be the guarantee and dynamo of moving forward nationally and locally. I am keen to learn lessons from our past and look forward to applying some new approaches and perspectives to future development. I count on the support and enthusiasm of our volunteers in the European Executive Committee and many others across the world and I hope our joint venture will get us closer to achieving our vision. I am excited for the forthcoming opportunities in 2015 to meet many of you personally at our Staff & Officers Meeting in Madrid and the General Assembly in Colombia. On my journey with the WSCF I am open for and welcome your ideas, suggestions and criticism:  “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”, as Helen Keller said. I am grateful to share the blessings of Christmas this year together and may I also take this opportunity and joy to wish you all the best in this celebration of faith and love.

    With love from,

    Natia Tsintzadze

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  9. What Is All The Buzz About General Assembly Of WSCF?

     

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    You all may have heard that WSCF is having its most important   statutory meeting this year in Colombia. Six years  ago I attended the same meeting in Montreal and I would like to tell you what it was like for me.

    At that time WSCF was not something I thought of as a global organization. Before the GA, WSCF was for me only about my national SCM with its activities we used to have with our neighboring countries and that was it.  I did not perceive my SCM as having a global dimension though we did belong to WSCF-E.  I believe that many of you would share this view now. Attending the GA really changed my perspective and I wish it change yours. I want you to see that WSCF is a global organization and the difference you can make in it.

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    Being at the GA in Montreal showed me how immensely diverse Christians can be, as until then I did not have this experience. It is easy to not realize WSCF global in your local SCMs but SCMs shape the Global WSCF and this is something you get to experience at the GA.

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    WSCF is a really interesting gathering of young Christians from all over the world. It was me and others like me from all over the world who were important at that meeting to shape the way WSCF would develop during next the 6 years. There were many different experiences some good and some difficult but all important. I remember difficult experiences of heated discussions on giving space for gender equality in WSCF, talking about financial situations of SCMs at fund-raising workshop where the facilitator had hard time to reconcile our geographical and contextual differences. I attended Coptic Christian Sunday service for the first time and received communion from a different denomination which was not mine at an unfamiliar service. What an experience it was to be at the GA of WSCF! Having been exposed to all this diversity, I have started to realize what my SCM is part of and how difficult yet precious being a member of such a global community can be.

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    The General Assembly of WSCF is really what holds WSCF together as withoese meetings we would probably be just an online community or network of like minded people. However, we want to strive for more and for that we need to meet each other in person. The GA gives us a chance to recognize our similarities and to celebrate our differences and to deliver changes. It is not always easy but it is definitely worth it. Come to the GA and be part of the Global WSCF and make change in your organization.

    (Slovakia) is the Chairperson for WSCF Europe. 

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  10. NBCC Meeting In Aarhus Opened Doors To Compassionate Prayer

    On the first weekend of March  (Feb 28- Mar 2) I have participated in Nordic-Baltic Cooperation Council’s (NBCC) meeting in Aarhus, Denmark. The NBCC meets twice a year, and hosting of the meeting is rotated between the NBCC members. At last weekend’s meeting in Aarhus, representatives form Swedish KRISS, Danish Okumenisk Ungdom, Finnish OOL and Lithuanian Lutheran Youth were present. The theme of the event was ‘Peaceful religious coexistence in Middle East and Africa: Freedom of religion or persecutions?

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                         The crew. Photo by Evaldas Tytmonas

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    Spending good time together. Photo by Evaldas Svageris

     

    Unfortunately I arrived to Aarhus late, so I couldn’t take part in the first session by Clement Dachet on being a pastor in the conflict zone. When I arrived to the venue – a huge and modern Diakonhøjskolen, I was shown to a cool renovated room in the dormitory, and then take to the common area where the other participants were spending time together with cake and evening tea. The evening passed in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and made me really feel at home.

    On Saturday there were three main sessions. One of the sessions was held by Maria S. Hanses from Open Doors Youth, which is an international NGO. Open Doors works with Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith. Maria has been working with the Danish branch of the organization for the last 4,5 years, and hears dreadful stories of persecution of Christians every day. Maria said that she thought she would become in some way immune to these testimonials, but this never happened, and she still perceives them in a very emotional way. To her, these stories are at the same time gruesome and encouraging, and had a great impact on strengthening faith.

    Maria shares some facts with the group: Christians are the largest persecuted group of people. Every day more than 100 mln Christians face persecution. However, many of the persecuted Christians do not cease to pray to God, and also pray for their persecutors. Maria shares two quotes from the Scriptures:

    2. Tim 3:12 – In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted

    Matt. 5:44:  – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

    Maria also says that in the West where we live, it’s not persecution but persuasion that we’re facing: persuasion to go away from the Church and the faith, and enjoy life without constant prayer.

    Everybody is invited to write a postcard to one of the persecuted women in Nigeria, Deborah, whose testimonials were shared with us by Maria earlier. Every Open Doors movement in different countries has a few letter respondents (Danish list: http://ow.ly/u88Dk). This postcard-writing workshop was a very emotional experience for me, as I was thinking how can I address and encourage a women, whose husband and all children were either killed or taken away by armed men, as a cause of the family being Christians.

    Lithuanian delegates shared about an initiative in Lithuanian Lutheran Church by a bishop, which was executed in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The actives from the Church took in forty refugees from Syria, and operationality of the project is insured by Lithuanian volunteers.

    The second session on Saturday was by Rebecca Hojmark from International Council of Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark, on freedom of religion in Middle East and Norther Africa. In her session, Rebecca has referred to an interesting document, the ‘European churches engaging in human rights: Present challenges and training material’ by Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC). This material, in my opinion, may be used in WSCF-Europe’s campaign on xenophobia and social exclusion that has kicked off last weekend on Staff and Officers’ Meeting in Skopje, Macedonia.

    Rebecca told us what are the three main things that persecuted Christians and Churches ask Western Christians to do. These things are:

    1. share their story

    2. pray for them and let them know that we pray for them (This http://ow.ly/u8927 and this http://ow.ly/u89b6 resource, created by Open Doors, are a very good way to make praying for persecuted Christians around the world a regular habit)

    3. tell the politicians about what happens to those people and communities, because this is the best working way to change the situation.

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    Preparing for praying together. Photo by Evaldas Tytmonas

    I hope that WSCF-Europe will make good use of these wonderful ideas and resources in its current campaign on xenophobia.

    Maria Kozhinova () is WSCF-Europe Links Coordinator.

     

     

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    Posted by: wscfe-editor on March 12th, 2014 1:50 pm / Continue Reading »

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