IXth General Assembly EFECW – Final Message

Christian women as a creative energy in Europe

Christian women from 27 countries came together in Tinos, Greece, for the General Assembly of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women (www.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.).

Holy Spirit
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.

National Coordinators’ Meeting 3rd July 2016, Larnaca, Cyprus – Final Message

European Christian women acting in God’s love
With a 10,000 year history, Cyprus, the island of Aphrodite, is a place of great natural beauty and geo-strategical importance. This is the island where Jesus’ Apostles walked. The EFECW women were invited to walk in their footsteps.
Over fifty National Coordinators from 23 European countries, and a representative from the World Council of Churches ‘Just Community of Women and Men’, enjoyed the hospitality of their sisters in Cyprus who hosted the conference on the theme “How can justice, cultural diversity and sensitivity go hand in hand?” from 29 June to 3 July 2016 in Larnaca.
We were inspired by the message of the prophet Amos, “… Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5, 24), because we want righteousness and justice to flourish in our churches and in our societies through a continual and living communion with God, and cooperation and love between one other. This can be achieved using modern technology and ecumenical networking in addition to traditional ways. We strongly believe that in this way we will be empowered to take bold actions in our communities.
During 2014-2015, EFECW women carried out many projects on both national and international levels to meet the needs of societies struck by poverty, migration, injustice and war. These projects, implemented with cultural relevance, sensitivity and peace building efforts, addressed issues such as: how different religious groups learn to live together, pilgrimage, awareness raising around issues relating to sex-selective abortions, faith expressed through the arts, women producing their own food to sustain themselves, and improving community cohesion with Roma and other marginalized groups.
Moreover, as we reflected on 18 years since the end of the World Council of Churches Decade in Solidarity with Women, we discovered that the main recommendations are still very urgent. The economic situation and its impact on women, and the issue of women’s participation in churches as well as in the business world, in politics and social life are still high on the agenda. Violence against women is as prevalent as before, and we need a renewed commitment to breaking the silence and challenging the systems, structures and cultural attitudes that sustain its existence.
The experience of the Pop Up Monastery (an EFECW 2015 inter-generational project initiated by young women) provided women with a space for individual spiritual growth in the search for their own identity, acknowledging their often busy and stressful lives. It set a precedent of good practice for empowering women for leadership, and providing opportunities for ecumenical and intercultural dialogue. It is essential that other women can gain similar experiences, and steps are being taken to establish the Pop Up Monastery as part of the wider ecumenical movement in Europe.
The strength of our Forum is to keep opening up to society. We want our voice to be heard like “living letters” as a sign of hope, reconciliation and mutual respect (2 Corinthians 3:3).

Statement on peace after Paris attacks (13 Nov 2015)

The Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women is deeply shocked by the attacks in Paris committed in the name of religion. This is not our understanding of faith.
We believe in a God of life and peace, of love and mercy. We believe in dialogue and communication instead of violence and death. Killing is not the solution of coping with our differences and conflicts.
We stand in solidarity with our French sisters and brothers and feel with them in their grieve and losses.

And we pray: In the midst of fear, violence and injustice all over the world and in particular in Paris during these last days
We pray to You loving God,
We cry to You merciful God,
We scream to You,
our Father and Mother Have mercy on us.
We ask and seek your forgiveness
Whenever we did not witness Your love and peace
Whenever we did not recognize the trap of evil and became selfish and closed our hearts.
But, God of peace, have mercy on us.
And have mercy on those who killed others in your name.
Open hearts and eyes of those who are full of hatred.
In those days of sorrow, Help us to stay on Your path
Help us to be witnesses of peace and light,
Rather then be caught in a never-ending circle of cruelty
Have mercy on us and stay with us, oh God.
Give us strength, to stay close to You, waiting and working for the day when “mercy and truth will meet, justice and peace will kiss each other”.
May there be light, not darkness.
May there be love, not hatred.
May there be life, not death.
May there be talking, not killing.
May there be peace, not war.

17 November 2015