2016 “… 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?” (Larnaca, Cyprus)
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.
2013 Let's rock the economy (Vienna, Austria)
2012 Forward Christian Women: Three generations with energy and vision (Great Malvern, UK)
2011 Women are breaking the walls of exclusion (Druskininkai, Lithuania)
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