Every four years the General Assembly evaluates the work of EFECW and determines the priorities for the next four years, taking into account current issues and challenges.
In 2014 the Assembly agreed the following priorities and themes.
World Day of Prayer is a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year, and who, in many countries, have a continuing relationship in prayer and service.
Through World Day of Prayer, women around the world
Through World Day of Prayer, women are encouraged
OF THE REGIONAL EUROPEAN MEETING
(SOUTH AND WEST EUROPE)
from 16th to 18th March 2012
at SAINT-THOMAS CENTRE in STRASBOURG
To begin with this report, we want to express our deep gratitude to the JSL for its generous support, which mainly helped us to have this colloquium done.
1. Who are we ?
An European network set up in 1982 – in France in 1984 – The Ecumenical Forum of European Christian women has got groups in 27 countries, holds its general Meeting every four years and a meeting of its national Coordinators every year. In 2003, 70 national Coordinators met at CIARUS in Strasbourg, with the very appreciated support of the same local authorities, on the subject “ Towards an open Europe united in justice”. One of the first objectives of our network is in fact to contribute, with meeting of reflection and of training, to form a European identity common to women all over Europe and to endeavour them to participate actively to the social and institutional life of Europe.
The French Forum group has got two active groups since the beginning, one in Paris and the other one in Strasbourg. The programme of this meeting has been prepared at the national level, but the Strasbourg group, animated by MMs Anne-Marie SCHOTT and Marjolaine CHEVALLIER had the responsibility to look for contributors, to focus the details of the programme and to provide the material organization of this event.
2. “The Christians in Near and Middle East : an unknown reality” – Why this subject?
It is very closely linked to the reality of these two last years. In fact, the media always informed us about the murder attempts against Christians and various persecutions concerning the Churches in several countries of the Near East (Irak and Egypt in particular) . We have begun to collect information and to meet persons knowing these Churches. These violences have provoked the speeding-up of an exodus which began since several years, in particular among the Christians from Palestine. The French government decided in 2010 to accept some hundreds of Christian refugees from Irak. Declarations from responsible persons in our Churches called to testify of our solidarity with these Christians running away from their country. And we, Christian women in France, how can we express our solidarity to these communities and above all, to these women who live among us ?
So in 2011 we tried to have preliminary contacts with the Christian communities welcoming representatives of various Churches of the Near and Middle East . These exiled people are scattered in the Parisian region and very strongly concerned by the re-forming of their community in our country. But it is in Strasbourg, thanks to an Iraqi Dominican Brother that two women recently recognized as refugees in France have accepted to testify of what they have suffered before leaving Irak.
3. The participants
Firstly we have to greet the presence among us of the representative of the Holy See close to European institutions, Mgr Giordano, as well as the diocesan delegate of the “Oeuvre d’Orient,” Father Vigneron, representative of the archbishop of Strasbourg. This last who travelled several times to Irak has brought his personal support to what the witnesses said. He also underlined the extreme difficulties the persecuted persons are confronted to when they arrive in France without an entrance visa.
The audience was feminine and European in majority. As we have met the same interest for the situation of Middle East Christians and Churches in neighbouring countries, we had decided to offer to Forum women from those countries to participate in the Strasbourg meeting. Thus we got an European vision, at least partial, of the situation of these communities over our borders. We were about forty participants including about two third of French women from various regions and a third of women coming from Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Spain. Thanks to the financial support we obtained, we could contribute to the travel’s expenses of the participants coming from the remotest countries.
4. Headlines of the programme
The time of the colloquium was rather short : a week-end from Friday 5 p.m. to Sunday morning. At first we had to bring to participants historical, religious, cultural and geostrategic well-documented information, to understand the origins and approach the present realities of these so various communities . We had also to foresee times of spiritual sharing, reflection and exchanges.
On Friday night, we listened to representatives of each country who reported about the situation of Middle Eastern Christians in their country, their visibility, the way they are accepted, eventually the personal knowledge of members of these Churches. We noticed that these communities are the most visible in France and in Germany, in particular by Sunday religious programmes . But there existed few links between them and our local communities , except for the ones which give them a shelter. Furthermore, the responsible persons of those Churches are all men , so it is not easy to meet women. To develop some solidarity links, we have to create opportunities of meetings, as we did for this colloquium.
The main day was Saturday 17th march. The programme included three lectures and a round table with testimonies of two Iraqi women, coming from the region of Mossoul. After lunch, this intense and rich programme was interrupted by a trip on the Ill river to discover the town of Strasbourg. Before the festive evening organized by our women in Strasbourg, a round table allowed each of us to express emotions, reflections and propositions. An ecumenical celebration animated by the Anglican minister, Mrs Christine Bloomfield brought us all together at Sunday morning. In the last hour before lunch we tried to collect in a kind of synthesis what we held back from the day before, with questions concerning our commitments and our future actions.
5. The Contributors and the main themes taken up
The first Contributor was Mr Marc Aoun, a Lebanese, a Lecturer at the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Strasbourg. With great skill Mr Aoun related “the birth and the historical evolution of the Middle East Churches” in the geographical frame of the oriental provinces of the Roman Empire (from Egypt to Mesopotamia) and confining himself to the patriarchal said historical churches. An overall table which locates the appearing of these very numerous Christian denominations and their places of settlement allow the participants to have a global vision of this world which is so badly known in the West.
After this clear and dense report, we had the chance to listen to the testimonies of two Iraqi Christian women, recently arrived in France ; thanks to them, we could get concrete awareness of the problems these minorities of Christians were confronted to in their country of origin. Our questioning regarding them was double: What circumstances have obliged them to run away from their country and how have they been welcome in France? It has been a very intense moment of emotion to share. These women testified before an audience they did not know and spoke in Arabic. Translation was made by their compatriot Brother Philippe Koshaba, a Dominican. Their worry progressively receded as they perceived the quality of listening and the intense feelings of sympathy among the audience. They both took the advantage of particularly favourable conditions when they arrived in France but the easiness of this first integration does not decrease the suffering of exile and of the separation with those who stayed there and are permanently threatened.
In the afternoon, there was a round table for the two last contributors, Pastor Thomas Wild, President of “Action Chrétienne en Orient (A.C.O.)”, a protestant association founded in Strasbourg in 1922 and Brother Philippe Koshaba, from the Dominican community of Iraq who prepares a thesis at the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Strasbourg.
These two contributors had to inform the audience on “the future of the Christians in Middle-East in the present regional context”. Th.Wild frequently travels to the countries where the ACO supports educational projects; he said at once : “I am not optimistic but I have Hope”. We have been surprised by the humility both of them expressed in spite or because of their knowledge inside these fragile communities which struggle for their survival.
If in Iran, it is almost no more possible to speak of visible Christian communities, we can persevere with the hope, Th. Wild said, because of the presence of satellite televisions which constitute a broad opening on the world. Several hundreds of thousands of Christians would stay secretly in the country.
In Egypt, since the revolution, the situation of Christians is at the same time unsettled , various and contradictory, moments of fraternizing alternating with the threats against the Christians. The Churches have approved the popular movement on the whole. A lot of conflicts originate from land property problems increased by the social situation. The society has not yet found itself ; the future depends on how many concessions the Army will give to the civil society and on the influence these elections are going to confer to the Moslem Brothers and above all to the Salafists.
In Lebanon there is a great dispersion of communities – eighteen religious groups, eleven of which are Christians. The territoriality of the religions became worse by the civil war which also increased the gap among the opposite forces. The country has got difficulties to exist as a nation, the religions do not mix.
The repression which lasts in Syria and threatens to become a civil war has not yet brought to an end the popular support of Bachar al Assad. The Christians who have been cherished by the government and had an entire liberty of worship, dread the victory of the most reactionary Islam. Most of the Churches have appealed to a dialogue but with what sort of opposition? Its forces are divided. Finally the international interests at work make the resolution of the conflict more complex.
“The future of Christians in Iraq with Islam” is the subject treated by Brother Philippe Koshaba. He first locates the extremely violent environment created by the two successive wars in the country : the Irak-Iran conflict (1990-98), the embargo imposed to Iraq which has impoverished the sectors of Health, Education, Transports and at last the American invasion since 2003. The exodus of many leaders, a lot of them being Christians, has been massive and the Iraqi scattered in 42 countries constitute the third diaspora in the world. In this dismantled country, 40% of the population is unemployed. Irak is also threatened on its borders by two fundamentalisms : the Iranian Shiism and the Wahabism in Saudi Arabia. Because of the conflicts, the fundamentalist Islamism increased considerably. The speaker insists on the important part of philosophy in the possible dialogue between Christians and Muslims. For him the drama of Islam in the Middle Age has been to be deprived of philosophers and scientific spirits, any question founding its answer in the Koran’s text. Islam has to solve its inside problem; its most advanced elements having to provide interpretations of the texts. The key for the future is education of young generations; the private religious schools which have been recently reopened can positively contribute to it.
Grand finale of this rich meeting : when she spoke, Ms Christine Bloomfield has perfectly summed up what was understood and lived the day before in a brotherly prayer. After what the participants were proposed as a conclusion a synthesis of the information to keep from these days for ecumenical forward going
6. Evaluation of the participants
We again express our gratitude to the heads and staff of the Centre St Thomas for the excellent material conditions of housing and to our friends from Strasbourg for their perfect organization and their entire dedication to our well-being. We are aware this meeting has favoured a coming closer between our groups of French women and neighbours in Europe, interested by this meeting. During the festive and relaxing moments as well as in the acquisition of new knowledge, with the leaflet distributed to the participants as introduction in the theme, and through the lectures and testimonies we listened to, we left enriched by a new opening to that other world and its history.
7. Conclusion for the future
That the reason why in Strasbourg our group is from now on engaged in a relation of true confidence with the community discovered at this colloquium. As to the Parisian group, it will take support on this first experience to try to make new contacts with the communities of refugees in the Parisian region. It is important first to make people aware of their presence , to bring better understanding, then to develop concrete ways to express our solidarity and sisterhood ; that could be the result of our colloquium.
We want also to make our European friends of the Ecumenical Forum know more about our experience so that their look could change regarding these communities of refugees and that support be brought and an open-minded relationship be developed everywhere possible.
For the F.O.F.C.E. Office, Michelle LEFEUVRE, a National Coordinator
The Ecology Summer School of EFECW at the Kirchentag in Dresden
The German branch of EFECW had been invited by the women’s centre of the Kirchentag to offer a workshop “With our heart near creation – women from east and west stand up for climate protection”.
This is a topic the Ecology Summer School works at since about a decade. It was therefore the Summer School’s task to prepare the workshop. Fourteen women from Belarus, Germany, Croatia, and Serbia met in Tharandt near Dresden end of may to do this. At the same time, in the same house, met another EFECW project group, the “Neighbours around the Baltic Sea”. We enjoyed very much to eat, celebrate, meditate and worship together, though our working hours were separate. Many of the “Neighbours” finally participated in the workshop.
During the workshop preparation the “Message of St. Petersburg” played an important role. It was admired in its wording by the Summer School participants and greeted as an essential step to forward the topic ‘responsibility for creation’ in the Forum’s work. Copies of it’s translation into German were part of to the material offered to those attending the workshop.
Our aim for the workshop was to communicate a decade of experiences and to give an impulse to every participant to see to climate protection and a careful use of energy in her own scope. This includes the personal as well as the political level.
Two speakers were involved: Anja Köhne from the German board of “Friends of the Earth” dealt with climate politics. She said: “When we get aware of climate change, it is too late.” We had to stop immediately our way of consuming energy , but women with their manner of saving energy and being interested in energy efficiency were often marginalized in public discussions and in politics. We had to change our behaviour, but new technologies were necessary as well. Yet we had to be on our guard against wrong developments under the label of climate protection: atomic energy, carbon storage, geoengineering. Irina Grushevaja from the organization “For the Children of Chernobyl” very impressively told us about the dangers of atomic energy. People in Belarus do not live after the Chernobyl catastrophe but with it. The negative consequences are still omnipresent 25 years afterwards. She said, that after the nuclear accident many women were officially forced to end their pregnancy; otherwise the negative impact of radiation would be even more obvious today. Eighteen board members of her organization have died from cancer. But it seems, that nobody wanted to learn the lesson: Fukushima happened, with the Japanese people being forced to experience the same ill fate as the people from Belarus 25 years earlier.
After the introductory speaches the workshop split up in two working groups: one around the women from Belarus to learn more about their situation. The other discussed the role of women in climate protection and the frame needed for success. The discussions were animate and concentrated. All were well aware how important the subject is and how much it affects our lives as Christian women. It became clear, that
The Summer School people very much look forward to join forces with the new working group “Creation” set up during the General Assembly in Loccum
The neighbours’ last meeting took place in Geneva John Knox Center . It was organized by Eva-Maria Fontana, the new national coordinator for Switzerland, helped by several well known members of the Forum . Italy, Spain and France were represented. We were about 24 members, pleased to become friends with new « neighbours »
VISIT TO THE ECUMENICAL CENTER AND CONFERENCE BY FULATA LUSUNGU MOYO who is a member of Central African church, working for the W C C executive program about « Women in church and society ». She expresses her difficulties to cope with the acts of violence towards women in Europe. In other parts of the world, different organizations help her in that work. Unfortunately, there is no more « women’s committee »in the KEK. E F E C W could perhaps assist her in this field.
DEBATE – MEETING with NICOLE FISCHER, first president of E F E C W. After evoking the past of the Forum, she talked about its present and future activities. She heard people saying that « to deal with the question of women in the church, is an obstacle to unity »She then asked :how to make progress and what is unity ?
Churches refer to traditions rather than to the Christian message : here lies the principal obstacle. What does Unity mean ? What can the Forum do ?
It is important to insist on the women’s social question and to create possibilities of meeting, acting and contacts.
We have always respected churches, but freedom for women is always to be conquered.
A COORDINATION COMMITTEE’S MEMBER, Carla Maurer, from the K E K, makes three suggestions for the Forum to work on : 1) Feminism, 2) relations between generations 3)a new way of working for women who have to find a possibility to act as men do. « Not only to react, but also to act ».
Carla’s two young colleagues talked about their work in the Ecumenical Council for The Young in Europe, organisation created by the K E K, but nowadays independent. This Council deals with the young’s problems and organizes seminars on human rights, economical justice and ecology.
They want to meet young women, belonging to different denominations and hope that the Forum’s members will help them get their addresses :they could then be active on Facebook, Google Etc.
PROJECTS OF THE PRESENT DIFFERENT FORUMS
France :16-18 March 2O12 :meeting in Strasbourg about « the life of Christian women and communities in Islamic countries » We want to invite Greek members because of the important influence of their culture. The Strasbourg’s members will also contact their German neighbours because of their friendly bonds. We must remind that these meetings tend « to find a balance inside the Forum between North/East and South/West ». Our Spanish, Italian and Swiss friends agree with us.
SPAIN : In Jerusalem gather 3 different religions. Palestinian Christian women need to be supported . Spanish schoolchildren will go to the West Bank. On the other hand the « Egeria »Forum project is mentioned : each year Spanish women walk a part of Egeria way.They should reach their aim in 3 years’ time. The Forum might welcome them in Jerusalem.
ITALY : The working session of the 2O12 Forum, will deal with « the different denominations of migrant women to Italy ». The women’s Federation of the Italian Evangelical Churches, violently reacted against the present political situation. In agreement with the 13 February 2011 demonstration, they sent the following message : « As Evangelical women, we revolt against sexism and the degrading way in which women are represented : it has gone too far. »Evangelical women and men were invited to support this demonstration on 13 February. In October 2O11 will take place a formation on « the woman’s body », for the protestant churches’members.
SWITZERLAND :Ecumenical relations are developed in the parishes where the different denominations work together. We do not exactly know where is the Forum’s position. On 21 May 2011 took place the women’s 5th Synod in Zurich. Every year from 25 November to 8 December, 16 days are dedicated to « acts of violence against women ». Taking initiatives at that time, would manifest the existence of the Forum.
During the meeting we meditated on a text on Wisdom. On Saturday afternoon, we visited the Museum of Reformation. Then we formed two groups : the ones visited Geneva , the others attended vigils at the Russian orthodox church. Incense, hymns and processional rites may help people pray.
Our best thanks to Eva-Maria Fontana and the Swiss group for their welcome and organization, which gave us the opportunity of discoveries and friendly exchanges.
From the 8 - 21 August 2015, fifty women between 19 and 73 years moved into the vast monastery building in Mariensee, Germany, to create the first ever European ecumenical 'Pop Up Monastery' and to share the life with the women who live there in community. The participants were from 17 European countries, and from various Christian denominations: Orthodox and Quakers, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics and spiritual seekers. A rhythm of prayer, silence, tasks and workshops structured the day, but there was also room for celebration and exchange. Women were given the opportunity to seek time out of their busy lives and to meet women from all generations, denominations and cultural backgrounds.
This project was five years in the making, and the film ‘Gardens of Eve’ follows the women leading the project, as well as participants, as they uncover what it means to have faith, to live in community, to be searching, and to support one another on our journeys.
The film is a project of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women, and was funded by the Methodist Church in Britain. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those women involved in the production of the film for their time, talents and honesty.
From the 8th to the 21st of August, fifty women between 19 and 73 years moved into the vast monastery building in Mariensee to join the first ever European ecumenical 'Pop Up Monastery' and to share the life with the conventuals who live there. The participants were from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Moldova, Armenia, Ukraine, Serbia, England, Scotland, Sweden, Estonia, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, Romania, Belarus, Belgium and Greece. A rhythm of prayer, silence, housework and workshops structured the day, but there was also room for celebration and exchange. Women were given the opportunity to seek time out of their busy lives and to meet women from all generations, denominations and cultural backgrounds. The women were from various Christian denominations: Orthodox and Quakers, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics and spiritual seekers.
The Pop Up Monastery was an initiative of the young women's group of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women (EFECW) and has been planned over the past four years by Fiona Buchanan (Scotland), Carla Maurer (England/Switzerland), Maryana Varabyova (Belarus) and Julia Lersch (Germany).
“My stay was a gift to me and has set off a train of reflections. Each of the women participants were a gift to me and I remember them all for the beauty of their souls and bodies. They helped build cultural bridges in personal and community encounters.” (Renate Rothwell, UK)
“When I first joined a General Assembly of the EFECW six years ago, I found that my generation was hardly represented. Some of us sat together one evening and we asked ourselves how we could change this. With the Pop Up Monastery we achieved to bring the generations together and to lay the path for the future. It is great to see so many active young women now!” (Julia Lersch, Germany)
“Our generation risks forgetting the achievements of the ecumenical movement and the European project that brought peace and unity to our continent. Europe is a hugely complex and diverse continent, and we have to spend time together to learn who the others are in order to understand the political challenges of today. New wars and crisis have become daily reality for many of us. At the Pop Up Monastery our longing for peace and inclusion became evident in prayers, but also in many discussions. One of the most emotional moments for me was when a woman from the Ukraine prayed for her country in one of the evening prayers.” (Carla Maurer, Switzerland)
“Women are a crucial pillar of our communities and carry a lot of responsibility. For women to take a week off and step out of their daily routine is a political statement.” (Martina Heinrichs, Netherlands)
“Sharing our home and our way of living and working during the Pop Up Monastery has been a very enriching experience for us. May the shared experience empower us to work for a better future in God’s world.” (Abbess Görcke)
“It is not just the Pop Up Monastery itself but the preparation meetings that have taught me to be more tolerant, to listen and to find a compromise. We are all different, we come from different countries and denominations. Our diversity is one of the most precious things in the Pop Up Monastery.” (Maryana Varabyova, Belarus)
“As I always rush, that week was really precious for its meditative and calm mood. And the most important: I felt strong support from other women in connections with tragic events in my country.” (Natalyia Horbal, Ukraine)
The Pop Up Monastery is a pilot project, and might be multiplied in the future to grow the spirit of community. A documentary film will be released in 2016, sponsored by the Methodist Church in Britain, and a brochure will be developed to inspire similar follow up projects. The planning group will produce guidelines on how to organise a Pop Up Monastery.
More information on the Pop Up Monastery webpage: www.popupmonastery.com
Der Egeria-Weg ist ein ökumenisches Frauen-Pilger-Projekt für ein gemeinsames Europa. Der Weg folgt dem Reisebericht der frühchristlichen Pilgerin Egeria. Heute, nach ca. 1500 Jahren, pilgern Frauen auf den Spuren Egerias und legten jedes Jahr eine Etappe zurück. Begonnen hat der Weg 2005 in Spanien und führt innerhalb von 10 Jahren durch 11 Länder Europas und des Nahen Ostens.
2015 soll der Egeria-Weg sein Ziel Jerusalem erreichen. Unter Aktuelles finden sich Informationen zum geplanten Pilgerweg durch Israel/Palästina und zu den Egeria-Begegnungstagen im Oktober 2015 in Jerusalem.
Mit dem Egiera-Projekt wollen wir den Reisebericht der Egeria neu schreiben. Mit jeder Etappe entsteht ein neues Kapitel eines gemeinsamen Reisetagesbuches, das auf dieser Homepage eingesehen werden kann.
Der Egeria-Weg ist ein Projekt des Ökumenischen Forums Christlicher Frauen in Europa (ÖFCFE e.V.)
The Conference brought together 60 women including national coordinators of the member organisations of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women (EFECW), the Coordinating Committee and member of the local/national organising Forum. The theme, this year was “… Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5,24): How can justice, cultural diversity and sensitivity go hand in hand?”. The reflection around this theme, which is the result of the strategic priorities set by the General Assembly in 2014, will help both the European and the national organisations to develop an action plan in the area.
This year’s theme, aimed at inviting participants to continue a reflection, started 20 years ago, in the churches in Europe, within the ‘Decade in Solidarity with Women’. It is in this context, that conference participants were encouraged and empowered to promote reflections and examples of implementation in their own countries and their communities.
Women of EFECW participated in the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Harare Festival of the Churches Decade in Solidarity with Women in 1998 and/or in various events during the Decade at local, national and international level. The Decade offered space for women to share their spirituality, their daily suffering and their talents. The Harare event marked the closing of a ten-year process of the WCC with the following vision:
To build a human community where the participation of each and every one is valued, where no one is excluded on the basis of race, sex, age, gender, religion or cultural practice, where diversity is celebrated as God’s gift to the world.
In the light of the 20th Anniversary of the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998) the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women started a reflection process on the achievements in our churches. At the same time, it is necessary to also focus on the discriminatory structures and practices in churches and society today.
The issue of trafficking in human beings is a vast problem with a great number of perspectives and solutions. Many countries of Europe are facing it not only as an academic topic, but, more or less, as an everyday difficulty. In answer to the CEC campaign Against Trafficking in Women which was launched in 1999 EFECW, years ago, responded on European and on National level, to the struggle of those people being trafficked as well as the possible ways of working it out, especially as far as the women's matters are concerned.
Our last General Assembly in Loccum of Germany, August 2010, dealt with the subjects of "Justice and Equality" and the fact of "Taking responsibility" in our everyday life and our members were engaged on working on specific fields for the next four years; two of those fields are the Community building, networking and dialogue and Gender equality in church and society. Within the particular path, we organise a Conference dealing with the people's right of being equal members of their society and church and having the opportunity of building their own personal networking through the dialogue with their fellow citizens.
In particular, the Conference of the Forum in Druskininkai, an adorable town, near Vilnius, in Lithuania on the 21st until the 25th of September 2011, was dedicated to women, who are willing to break the social or religious or educational walls of their exclusion. 51 women, representing 23 official countries - members of the EFECW, and 1 man (speaker), who attended the meeting, were being given a variety of perspectives of the topic, in order to reflect on them. The Vice Mayor of Druskininkai greeted our meeting, offering useful information about her town and also thoughts about women in Lithuania and their problems.
Firstly, on the 22nd of September we had the pleasure of attending the lecture of Mrs. Julija Staskauske, a young woman working in the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Lithuania. She gave us a concrete briefing of the situation of Lithuania and the ways that the state tries to prevent it or solve it. Unemployment, poverty, inequality, change of values (into money mostly), and migration, these are some of the various inside and outside factors that lead to THB (Trafficking of Human Beings). The presentation moved on to the specific field of prostitution, starting from the society and the public opinion on the problem and how a possible legalization would be the actual answer to the problem. Lithuania, since 2002, runs programmes for the Prevention and Control of THB, including prostitution, in order to take care of the victims, provide them complex measures of assistance and ensure the function of witness protection. Those goals of the programmes are ensured by the cooperation of international bodies, foreign countries and non-governmental organizations.
An extraordinary situation for the Forum was to welcome on the 23rd of September, a male keynote speaker, Rev. Sven-Gunnar Lidén, from Stockholm, Sweden, who is a Baptist Pastor and a Chairman of the European Baptist Federations anti-trafficking working group. He introduced us to the topic beginning with a unique point; the cause of the situation is already explained in the New Testament! Apostle Paul has written that the love of money is the root to all evil (Tim 6. 10). The fact that trafficking is actually slavery brought us to the action of the Church, as it was initiated in Sweden, aiming on prevention or rehabilitation. Finally, this is not a story of a tragedy, but how God transforms victims of tragedy into people with hope through others.
The third lecture concerning our topic was introduced by Dr. Solveiga Daugirdaite, from the Gender Study Centre at Vilnius University. She focused on the Autobiography and its importance especially for women, by explaining how the crucial existential questions can find answers through sharing experience by autobiographies. After dealing with the history of the autobiography, we had the opportunity to hear about women who wrote their autobiographies as a certificate of their unique existence and the fact that lots of women, who were being trafficked, have written their story. Thus breaking the silence and overcoming the shame: breaking the walls of exclusion, as the title of our conference indicates.
The time for our reflection was enough for entering into the problem and for sharing the experiences of each of the participants being carried by our cultures and countries.
The workshops and the discussion on the Ecumenical Sharing and the Young Women's Strategy involved us more into the topic and offered us challenges for the future of the Forum. We were very happy to organise the first meeting of our internal group of the Young Women, trying to develop our strategy and our next steps, in order to have more young members in our ecumenical female family.
The excursion to Gruto Park, a testimony of the Lenin and Stalin era and its impact on the Lithuanian people, and the closing evening with an authentic Lithuanian celebration brought us in the spirit of the country and assisted us to feel the rhythm of the people and their historical and cultural background, significant fields for those who participate in the ecumenical movement.
On behalf of the Co- Presidents
24. October 2011
Christian women from 27 countries came together in Tinos, Greece, for the General Assembly of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women (efecw.net). Tinos is special because it is a place of pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary. This location inspired the theme, ' Born of a woman. Christian women as a creative energy in Europe'. The Assembly was made very special by the generous hospitality of our Greek sisters and the people of Tinos.
The Forum is very diverse with women from all the Christian traditions throughout Europe and of all ages. In coming together as Christian women we hope to live the European values of reconciliation and understanding. By sharing our different experience, we reflected that each woman and man is born equal. We believe that we are created in God’s image.
We therefore bring our perspective as women of faith, our collective voice and our belief in the power of prayer to the following challenges.
We are mindful that it is 100 years since the start of the First World War and 75 years since the Second World War began. We acknowledge that women played many different roles in these wars both promoting nationalist values as well as working for peace. These devastating wars profoundly changed the lives and roles of women.
Today we continue to live in a world where there are many places of conflict including Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Palestine/Israel. The civilian population, especially women and children, is suffering greatly. These conflicts touch all our lives and it is difficult to discern what is right. We condemn the fact that for many of our nations the business of weapons manufacture is a driving economic force.
Women and women's organisations must be instruments of peace. We encourage women to come together to pray and work towards peace. The women of the Forum will continue to work within their churches to inspire them to advocate for peace within the public and private sphere.
Current conflicts heighten societal issues of racism, refugees and migrants that are already present in our European context. We believe all people are created in the image of God and this makes us deeply concerned at the dehumanising experience of refugees and migrants within our communities. We will work within our churches to ensure their dignity and support their voice.
Our presence in Greece reminds us of the severe impact of the 2008 financial crisis. We still have a financial system that causes poverty, disadvantage and environmental problems. As Christian women we will respond to the call to be a creative power by working to discover new solutions that will provide a sustainable life for future generations.
The basis of our hope for the future is nurtured by our faith and our experience that prayer works. We take as our inspiration the prayer of Hildegard of Bingen (1098 -1179 a.D.).
You are the breath, give us life,
You are the salve, heal our wounds,
You are the fire, warm our hearts,
You are the light, guide our feet.
Let all the world praise you,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen.
According to the Message of the GA, our main goals for the next 4 years are the following:
"Justice and Equality: Justice and equality belong together. No justice without gender equality! Equality is not fulfilled as yet in the countries of Europe, even though the EU and other European institutions have provided and continue to provide many decisive impulses (we refer to the work of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality).
In spite of these there is still no equal pay for equal work; there is still no common European law concerning violence against women; women still have a higher risk of becoming poor, especially when they are single parents; women still are working in precarious jobs, with little security, low pay and fewer career opportunities than men, and unemployment is still higher among women.
Modern market economies are still being defined around the concept of human beings as independent male adults. But we come into the world, and often go out of it as helpless creatures, dependent on the care and solidarity of others. A new effort is necessary to overcome still persisting dualisms; to put human needs into the centre of economic activity; and to redefine economy in light of the question how to meet the human needs of all. The market is useful as a tool, but not in the centre of the economy!
Taking Responsibility: Standing up for women's/human rights and furthering justice for all can be a costly decision. The Assembly honoured the memory of
six Russian women, among them Anna Politkovskaja, who were punished or even paid with their lives because they stood up for the human rights of others out of conviction that this was their responsibility as citizens. Taking responsibility is also the Christian way of "being here for others", as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Mother Maria Skobtsova showed, and it is possible in every situation.
Recommendations: Understanding that all our efforts are aimed at building peace with justice, we recommend the Forum to focus especially on our responsibilities as European Christian women in the following areas:
Community building, networking and dialogue Interfaith/intercultural dialogue
Ecology and economy Gender equality in church and society
Younger women in the life and work of the Forum To that end the Forum should:
* Strengthen the Forum networks, especially amongst the Mediterranean countries
* Re-establish programme commissions/working groups that will work and reflect on specific issues:
1. theology and liturgy
2. ecology and economy
SUMMARY OF THE 8th GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE ECUMENICAL FORUM OF EUROPEAN CHRISTIAN WOMEN
“Participation and Responsibility – on the way of justice there is life” – the motto of the 8th General Assembly could not be more topical. It brought together 160 delegates, guests and speakers from 27 European countries, who met from 23rd to 29th August in the Evangelische Akademie (Protestant Academy) of Loccum, north-west of Hanover. Founded a year after the end of World War 2, the Academy has been receiving guests since 1952 as a facility for peace, reconciliation and ethicalpolitical discourse. One of its charms is its proximity to the Cistercian monastery of Loccum, founded in 1163, today a training college for preachers. With inviting meeting rooms and guest houses in a country setting, it lies on the pilgrimage route to the historic monastery of Volkenroda in Thuringia.
Martina Heinrichs began by greeting everyone on behalf of the three Copresidents of the Ecumenical Forum.
Following the welcome and introduction to the Academy by its Director, Dr Stephan Schaede, and Reverends Gabriele Arndt-Sandrock and Sophie Anca, we heard warm greetings from representatives of member associations, partner organisations, and the Protestant and Catholic Churches.
The keynote speakers shone a spotlight on justice, ecumenism and spirituality, with challenging keynote addresses.
Brigitte Triems presented the European Women’s Lobby, of which she is President. Ethical economics, or the possibilities of fair trading in the “world’s household” were introduced to us by the Swiss Protestant theologian and publicist Ina Praetorius. The Russian Orthodox theologian Marina Shishova from St Petersburg linked spirituality and justice as she recalled women human-rights activists of the 1990s. Reflecting the addresses – and the infectious Bible study by Klara Butting – were the many thematic and creative workshops.
Oasis groups, study groups with experts, plenary discussions, open space conversations, not forgetting the German Evening and a bazaar with national products – all these widened our horizons. The Forum introduced individual projects, like the international Egeria Pilgrimage 2005 -2010, and a first historical documentation– the book “Ökumene weiblich” (Female Ecumenism) shows three decades of European ecumenism amongst women.
Extracts are currently being translated into English. I was impressed by the zest with which women from different cultural and regional backgrounds engaged spontaneously in warm conversations!
The brilliantly prepared business sessions brought young women to the fore in the Presidium and the Coordinating Committee at the elections.
One of the founding mothers of the Forum, who was also present, was particularly pleased with the lively future of the Forum in the 21st century:
91-year-old Ruth Epting from Basle welcomed the emergence of the young people who, as delegates or ‘stewards’, demanded recognition of their roles.
A cultural conclusion was provided on the Saturday by an excursion to Hannover. In the closing worship in the Reformed Church the Hamburg theologian Antje Heider- Rottwilm gave a sermon on the Magnifi cat, framed by the sensitive and moving liturgy created by the worship group led by Reverend Johanna Friedlein. Afterwards there was a reception by the Council of Churches.
Back in Loccum our friendly kitchen team spoilt us with a great barbecue – held indoors on account of the incessant rain. There was a standing ovation for the culinary delights! The final morning prayers sent us with travel blessings from monastic seclusion back to reality.
Summary by Dr.Cornelia Göksu
Translation by Jill King
The Message of the 7th General Assembly mentioned old demands and new challenges. The theme was “We are citizens of Europe: overcoming frontiers and respecting differences”
From the Message:
“As Christian women and citizens of Europe we are deeply concerned about the many exhausted, impoverished and endangered people who land at the shores of Europe seeking a future. By doing this they often end up in conditions close to slavery. We recognise that women are particularly in danger and vulnerable in such situations.
Europeans tend to forget that their values, above all the very idea of human rights, were forged during long historic struggles to acknowledge diversity. There is no homogeneous European culture – in all countries of Europe the “we” has always been a conglomerate of diversity.
We don‟t own Europe. As Christian women we confess that the earth belongs to God and is only entrusted to us. Saying “we” leads us to saying “they” and thus to the exclusion of others who are also God‟s beloved creatures.
Peace is a long process of rebuilding relationships and creating just conditions for living together. Countless women are involved in it at many levels.
We commend all initiatives of dialogue between people of different faiths and of no faith, and encourage all experiments to enhance good neighbourly living. We affirm the rights and responsibilities of religious minorities, including the right to have their own buildings.
As Christian women we deplore the fact that women and gender issues are no longer given the priority that they had during the Ecumenical Decade “Churches in Solidarity with Women”, and that progress that has already been achieved is being undermined. In many churches women‟s desks are disappearing.
We demand that our churches live up to their commitment in the Charta Ecumenica, „to strengthen the position and equal rights of women in all areas of life and to foster partnership in church and society between women and men‟ – not only in word but in deed.”
On our ecumenical journeys we need spiritual support and mutual solidarity.
I‟d like to say something about the preparation for the Budapest Assembly. We spent a long time looking for a theme for the General Assembly. We discussed the past, analysed the present and wondered about the future. Ruth Epting listened to us and reflected on our contributions. Then she got out her well-worn Bible, which accompanied her on all her European journeys, and looked for a text that fitted in with our conversations. That is how the theme for our 1994 General Assembly –“Be not afraid – remember the future” – came into being.
Europe was in a state of great change. For many the question was – what will happen next? The discussions and encounters helped us to name the problems and fears, and to believe that we would cope, as we had once overcome the divisions.
“Not a club, but a forum” was the opinion of the first President of the Forum, Nicole Fischer, of Geneva, Switzerland. In her report from the 2nd General Assembly, which took as its theme „Sharing Life, Building Hope‟, she makes it quite clear that building the European ecumenical network will mean a lot of work. And she emphasizes above all that we cannot avoid the difficult questions. We have to take up the burden of history, commit ourselves to the renewal of faith from woman‟s perspective, and, as „fellow workers with God‟ (1 Cor. 9), give new hope.
Nicole Fischer closes her report with the following words: “There is no way we can demand recognition, if we do not work towards recognition for marginalised groups. We must beware of becoming a women‟s club which is self-absorbed, and spreads beautiful ideas. We demand the right to be represented at all levels in church and society, and we must bring to this demand our perspectives as women, our abilities as women, our feelings and hopes as women. And we will only succeed in this, if we are in the world. For we must emphasize that we are all God‟s children, who are made completely in his image, just like everyone else. Because God has promised it, we long to be fully human”
One topic: "for a life lived in peace and justice". Nina Bobrova from Moscow, Russian Orthodox, writes in her report:
“It really is not easy to build a bridge of love and friendship, especially when we realise the prejudices which belong with different political systems in our world. We have to learn together to speak the language of the heart, and to let peaceful co-existence on earth become a constant concern in our lives. We can do it if we really want to. May God unite us in his love, and may we with one voice glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:6)”
Another topic: Women and work / Sharing – Utopian? “We want to point out that the Bible contains more role-models for women than those of mother and housewife. The bringing up of children, parental responsibility, unpaid work – these are all services to society which can be done by women and men, and which should be rewarded by the appropriate social benefits. All work serves to support life. Therefore we support the transformation of the arms industry into peaceful industry. Churches and church-based women‟s groups should set an example and begin to experiment with new ways of working – job sharing, recognition of voluntary work.”
In 1982 a committed group of women founded our Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women – EFECW. The official “birth” of EFECW takes place in Gwatt (Switzerland) at the founding (1st) General Assembly. During the meeting the delegates adopt the constitution, elect the first leaders and decide to set up commissions on the following topics to support the work priorities:
Justice and peace, reconciliation and responsibility for creation were the main themes. With the spiritual riches of all the participating denominations, supported by feminist approaches to theology, Forum women have debated these subjects, prayed about them, and encouraged each other to take responsible action.
The EFECW has three categories of membership:
How can you or your group become a member?
Coordinating Committee Members
The CC met in its new composition in Vienna, 13-16 November 2014.
EFECW envisions to be a living Christian community of sisters by creating an open and safe space where all women – beyond their differences – are empowered to share their spirituality and to experience faith.
EFECW strives to be a recognised voice of Christian women in Church and public life in Europe.
Content will be available soon