Testimonials:

Pavlina Manavska was the WSCF-Europe Campaigns Coordinator between 2017 and 2019. In this role, she led a number of campaign and youth initiatives – including campaigns focused on diversity and inclusion and national youth-led studies focused on combating youth extremism.

People say that the best ideas and thoughts come to you while you are already in bed trying to fall asleep,but for some reason your eyes cannot close and your brain seems to be working harder than ever. Some say that the magic happens while you are under the shower, just like the water comes out of the showerwith all its power, so do your ideas spinning around your mind. My productive time was made possible thanks to technology. Working for an international organisation like WSCF-Europe, the home office is the only office the members on the European Regional Committee (ERC) know.

My role as Campaigns Coordinator officially started in 2017, when WSCF-Europe joined the ‚No hate speech‘ Movement, with our annual plan and activities of the campaign ‚Year with no hate‘. In 2018, the campaign “All for one. One for all” was the continuation of what we’ve started (in 2017). At the beginning, it was more than clear what the role is and what kind of ‚duties‘ and responsibilities one could have, but what was not so clear for me was how a Campaigns Coordinator fits into the work of WSCF at our regional level. Because of my previous involvement in the ERC as a Project Coordinator, I was familiar with our projects and the goals we wanted to achieve, and I also knew almost everyone involved and active in local Student Christian Movements (SCMs).

I wouldn’t like to tell you about all the projects, meetings and conferences I took part in, you can read about it in our reports. What I want to share with you is what I’ve learned and what WSCF-Europe is about. Thanks to the amazing work of our Regional Secretary Natia Tsintsadze and our Chair (until 2019) Zuzana Babicova, I had the full support and freedom to bring some of my ideas and to guide this process, a process of growing and learning throughout the 4 years of my involvement.

It is hard when you don’t see people physically to establish a good relationship. It is something that you have to invest your time and your energy in order for a relationship to work. Usually Staff and Officers Meetings were a start line, where SCMs could get to know each other and learn more about the campaign. In 2018, we organised a training in Palermo, Sicily, where the goal was to expose the negative narrative involved in hate speech and to share ideas and ways of promoting diversity and inclusion. Within the framework of that year, I took part in two local initiatives with SCM Finland and SCM Netherlands.

In 2019, we started with a leadership conference in the beautiful Georgia. Of course, when a young group of people gathers and discusses topics that matter, a fire starts burning in them. There are ideas, plans and actions born. But once we depart, we tend to lose ourselves or maybe feel discouraged because of lack of resources and time, problems in the community, hard topics to swallow and so on. This is when the hard part comes and there were so many times where I would ask myself how to set fire in people’s hearts again, motivate and remind them to finish what they’ve started without being annoying or sending too many emails where no response came back. (That happens a lot and I’ve learned not to take it personally).

This is where our weakness is, but at the same time also our strength. I realised that WSCF-Europe is all about building relationships. Just as it became very important to me, I tried to connect with as many SCMs as possible and to listen. It is amazing how much we learn and will understand if we choose to listen. Seeing friendships grow, projects being developed and young people brave and courageous willing to speak up and organise small gatherings with few people was a great encouragement for me. It might be that different countries struggle differently, but the problems of exclusion, discrimination, extremism, social injustices and broken human rights are penetrating, on smaller or bigger scales, everywhere. In the uncertain times we live in today we must be reminded that one is certain: we have each other, we have the WSCF community to support and stand with us. My term on the ERC is over, but I want to encourage everyone, students, young and old and especially the SCMs to actively be in communication with the WSCF-Europe Office and to search for help and support at any time.

To the Campaigns team, my friends, I want to express my deepest gratitude for your work, time spent, online and in person, for sharing the joys and challenges, for the support through so many projects we managed to finish together. There really isn’t anything that we can overcome if we decide to stay united and work together. For the current and future WSCF-Europe ERC Team, I wish you God’s wisdom to continue to ‚Fight the good fight of faith‘ (1 Timothy 6:12).

Jaanus Teose was the WSCF-E Gender Coordinator 2007-2009 and WSCF-E Vice-Chair 2008-2009. He holds a BA in Gender studies and an MSc in Clinical psychology. He currently works as a psychologist in Sweden.

As WSCF-E Gender Coordinator (2007-2009) and Vice Chair (2008-2009) I worked with a wide variety of issues related to gender, sexuality and equality and their connections to faith, theology and ecumenism within WSCF-E as well as together with WSCF-Es partner organizations. As is the responsibility of every coordinator, I was responsible for organizing a thematic event. The conference Gender, Society and Religion – Exploring diversity in an expanding Europe took place in Sibiu, Romania in October 2009.

WSCF-E and the wider European ecumenical milieu was a truly incredible and special thing to be a part of. It gave me a community, a home and a shelter. It renewed my waning faith and deepened my understanding of what it means to live in the light of the Christian and ecumenical tradition today.

It gave me the opportunity to work together with and learn from many immensely talented and skilled people, gave me the opportunity to develop excellent leadership, project management and communication skills (among many other things) and allowed me to grow tremendously as a person.

But what maybe stands out the most when thinking back are all the moments and memories of joy that WSCF-E brought me. The joy of new friendships. The joy of mornings and nights spent sharing coffee and community. The joy of great dancing and the joy of passionate late-night conversation, talking endlessly into the night. The joy of knowing that I was fully and truly there and alive at a certain moment in time.

So now, almost five years later and looking back on those years, I realize that I treasure them and the memories they gave birth to immensely and I am very grateful that I got to be a part of it all. Being a part of the European regional committee (ERC) and the wider WSCF-E community is an experience unlike any other and I would without hesitation recommend it to anyone.

Markus Ojakoski is currently working as Senior Consultant in Rud Pedersen’s public affairs consultancy in Helsinki. While pursuing his MSc in Philosophy (Finland) and MA in Politics and Contemporary History (UK), Markus served as WSCF-E Treasurer (2000-2005). After his graduation, he worked, among others, as  a Mayor of Kokemäki, as a Senior Political Adviser for the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development, as a Director of Administration in Teuva municipality, as a Political Adviser for the Minister of Culture and as a Political Secretary in the Centre Party of Finland.

I start 1st of January 2016 as General Secretary of the Finnish Centre’s Parliamentary Group. Centre is currently the biggest party in Finland and a Prime Ministerial party, too. I was not sure if I’d have time and energy to write a testimonial of my time in WSCF-Europe. I am, at this time, getting ready for a new job and trying to reach an honourable pullout from the previous engagements. Then, as I started thinking the past, I lost half a night of sleep as so many memories of those years in WSCF (2000 – 2005) captivated by brains. Thus, I felt I must write something.

I was a treasurer for almost six years. I was given quite a lot of control about finances, so I learned a lot about decision-making fluxes and about other informal stuff that has proven very useful in my career, which may not have ended up with, for example, big financial responsibilities without practical information I learned from working for  WSCF. Of course career may not be  that important. I, however, grew in skills and in ecumenical and moral thinking and gained numerous unforgettable encounters with people I still miss so much.

WSCF really felt spiritually/mentally like home. Not because we were agreeing on everything (we definately were not), but because it felt that a place of appreciation of me as a person and my beliefs, perhaps because my views were appreciated regardless of the differences in opinion.

As a social science minded person, encountering different cultural context, even if not enormously different, was a really a dream, too. I never regretted a participated. I regret I did not participate more.

Marco Fornerone is from Italy. He studied Theology in Rome and Yaoundé (Cameroon). He is a pastor in the Waldensian Church (reformed) and has a PhD in Hebrew Bible from the University of Lausanne. He was in the Board of SCM Italy and served as European ExCo member in 2010-2015, as part of the Personnel Committee.

Being in the ExCo made me actively involved in two important dimensions of the life of the Federation: the regional and the global, getting to know the richness of each and their diversities, even if sometimes mediate between them have not been easy. I had a great time and learnt a lot being part of the ERC and I had the opportunity to broaden my WSCF experience, getting to know other contexts and the different ways of being SCMs there.

In these years I experienced the full meaning and complexity of the world “Ecumenical” that has to do with the whole Church beyond confessions and denominations as well as with the whole world the Church is sent to. This means that we have to understand, respect who and what is ‘other’, sometimes to challenge and question it and more often ourselves, in particular when being, like I am, a white male coming from the richer and (more imperialistic) part of the world. Only in this way we can call each other brothers and sisters and truly witness the Lord of the world.

ExCo has also been the place to learn and exercise responsibility, to bear it, when involved in decision making about the life of the Federation, that is the life of the people involved in it: staff in particular, but also SCMers, often facing very tough situations and relying on the solidarity and help of the broader WSCF community, that is something we are not so used to experiencedirectly in Europe.For all these reasons, serving as regional representative in the ExCo have been a great experience and an opportunity I’m thankful for.

Dr. Szabolcs Nagypál (1974) is a graduate in ecumenical theology, law and literature; holds a PhD in (Roman Catholic) theology, as well as in law. He is an associate professor of philosophy and legal theory in Budapest, and a researcher and theologian in the Benedictine Békés Gellért Ecumenical Institute (BGÖI) in Pannonhalma. He was the editor-in-chief of the WSCF Central European Ecumenical Anthologies, as well as of Student World (SW) and Mozaik, and a member of ExCo in 1999-2004.

It is an extremely rare, probably even a unique opportunity to serve in a world-wide organisation on its highest level. The experience is even more precious if it is an intellectual challenge, as is the case with a student body. And for a believer, joyfulness is complete, when one is able to give her or his best energies to a Christian association centred on theology and spirituality.

These were my thoughts when I was honoured to be elected to the WSCF ExCo, and this feeling of being blessed and grateful for the position had never ceased to exist during those five years between 1999 and 2004. Furthermore, I encountered much more in the SCM: friendship, community, commitment, self-sacrifice, responsibility, the love of God and of the Church.

I met political agendas aiming to change the Church and the world, and while I was fascinated by some of them and kept a distance from others, I always recognised the goodwill of their representatives. The deep dialogue between denominations, cultures, regions, genders and styles of Christian devoutness shaped my theology and even inspired my doctorate on interreligious mutual enrichment. Without this leadership experience I would be a totally different person from who I am now.

Kate Sotejeff Wilson was an ExCo and ERC member in 1999-2004.

As an Ex-co member for Europe from 1999-2004, I joined meetings in Beirut, Johannesburg, Quito and New York, preparing for the Chiangmai GA.  I am Welsh myself and I worked alongside people from many countries that had been British colonies which made me think hard about the power relationships in the world today. If you have been active in WSCF-E, want to take your theological political and intercultural skills to a new level, and give something back to a movement that has shaped you, this is a great opportunity. Prepare to be challenged, not only about what you think but how you work with others.

Ellen Aasland Reinertsen lives in Oslo, Norway, where she works as a Lutheran minister in the Norwegian Folks Church. She studied theology, psychology and intellectual history at The University of Oslo and Bergen and at Universität Wien. During her student years, Ellen was active in the Norwegian SCM, in EHG in Vienna, went to several conferences arranged by WSCF-Europe and the Northern-and Central European Subregions, and served a period as Gender- and Education Coordinator in WSCF-Europe.

I remember discussions and often quarrelling during the days at conferences and ERC meetings. And dancing during the nights! I had some wonderful years as Gender – and Educations coordinator in the European Regional Committee of WSCF. I was lucky to be part of planning two conferences: A gender conference on body and sexuality in Amsterdam and a theological conference, of course with gender perspectives, in Paris. We also had a consultation on Sexual Harassment in Oslo. I enjoyed working with so many clever people from all over Europe. And I am amazed about what we were able to do. We had really bold, controversial themes in Amsterdam and to the conference in Paris we almost got the famous philosopher Paul Riceur as keynote speaker. I learned a lot about organizing and about gender views and strategies. I experienced some things about how difficult it can be to be together when we so heavily disagree. I was a feminist before I became a gender coordinator, but my years in the ERC taught med to have and look for a gender perspective and gender justice in all areas of life. That is valuable for me as I now work in the church of Norway, as a mother and as a citizen. But most of all: I formed valuable friendship, often surprising friendships, across boarders of nationality, churches and views on gender. Thank you WSCF-Europe for educating discussions, lovely friendships and a lot of good dancing!

Maria Kozhinova was Links Coordinator for WSCF-Europe between 2013-2015, and served as Communications Officer between 2015-2017.

In my opinion, Links Coordinator is the most interesting of all ERC positions (which was exactly why I have applied for it). My opinion on it did not change during these years of serving WSCF.

This position lets you travel more than other ERC members on average. You get to represent WSCF at partner events, and these trips should be mostly funded by WSCF-E. I would say, the Links position suits best a student with some flexibility regarding absences from the Uni. I wish I would have utilised this possibility of attending subregional and partner events more during my term. I have applied for Links Coordinator’s position just before my first post-graduation job started, and I have discovered only on-the-job, that it’s actually not as easy to get those free days off to take part in events, as it was in the Uni! :)

As Links Coordinator, one gets to organise an annual event – Staff and Officers’ Meeting, which is a capacity-building and networking meeting for Staff and Board members / responsible persons from European SCMs. The experience of organising S&O was a huge leap forward in organisational skills for me. You get to learn a lot from this experience, and I loved the experience of building these events from the scratch! (Of course, with the help of the ERC and responsible volunteers.)

Links Coordinator’s position also means staying in touch with SCMs. Links is the “face” of the WSCF-Europe, someone who transmits news, event updates, both official and unofficial updates. During my term, we have even created a Links Facebook Page, which is shadowing the official WSCF-E FB page with more “humane”, worldly updates :) Links Coordinator also is the person who gets information about all upcoming events in the region, and whenever there is a need to transmit a message to SCMs or to gain information, Links Coordinator is the person who operationalises this. Links is the person who has all the latest contact information about SCMs and updates on their status in membership, events etc.

Ideally, Links Coordinator handles an SCM Calendar, which is something what I have tried to implement a few times, but it didn’t work out very well so far. I wanted to collect all event calls from all European SCMs, so that the SCM coordinators would notify me in advance about them – in order to create something like an online calendar, or a section of the newsletter, stating the upcoming events in different SCMs.  This was my dream / vision when I started as Links Coordinator, and unfortunately it is still just a vision, because many SCMs do not have paid staff, and response times / levels of initiative of volunteers may vary a lot.

ERC work is also much more than what is written in Links job description. It is strategic decision making, evaluating, lots of communication, sometimes crisis communication. ERC position is an excellent opportunity to develop one’s organisational, human resources and communication skills; a great way of learning virtual teamworking and a big space for creative initiative. When I joined the ERC, for example, I’ve never thought that my skills and curiosity towards IT and gadgets would come in so handy at one point (actually more than one point!). It is a lot of work at times, some frequent email checking, but I think that this opportunity gives back much more than it takes. I will never be the same person again, after this ERC experience. Now I know my limits of what I can and can’t do organisationally much better. I have learned to dare and to provoke a conversation in a polite and gentle way.

In short, I would recommend to everyone to consider – and apply to – an ERC position. It doesn’t matter if you do not have a lot of experience beforehand – you will learn on your role, and you will have other members of ERC and staff to support you and help you. Being part of the ERC is also fun! It is really worth trying out :)

Caterina Dupré † was born in Rome in 1970, studied Protestant theology in the Waldensian Faculty of Rome, specializing in Orthodox theology by studying in Moscow and in New York. From 1997 to 1999, she was women and gender working group coordinator, in the ERC, in 1999 was elected vice-chair of the Ex.Co., serving until 2004. Consecrated a pastor in the Waldensian church in 2001, she later served as director of the Agape Ecumenical Centre. On 6th April 2015, Rev. Dr. Caterina Dupre’ passed away at the age of 44 after a cruel illness.

I have been Women and Gender Working Group coordinator from 1997 to 1999, at the time of my participation to the European Regional Committee. Many years have passed and to find some concrete informations I had to do some reaserach in my “archives”, but the meories of the people, of the growth, of the amazing experiences are still strongly there! In those two years in particular we worked on re-writing the “sexual Harassment” brochure and correcting our sexual harassment policy, which made me reflect a lot about this theme. But the most exciting work had been the preparation and conducting of the thematic conference held in Romania in Jannuary 1999. The conference was about how religious traditions and cultural background influence our images of men and women. Helding it in Romania at the time was quite a challenge (it was the first WSCF conference on gender themes in an Eastern country) for some strong prejudices that still were there on both sides, East and West. At a personal level it was the first time that I was completely in charge of organizing a conference and it certainly tought me a lot. However the beauty of our work together, the awarness that no mutual understanding can take place when you are not ready to fully listen to those you think you know and judge all of this and much more remained strongly with me until today in all the work I bring on.

Krista Autio served in the European Regional Committee, in various roles, from 2013 to 2019.

Campaigns coordinator post was quite new for the WSCF Europe, so all I had was the testimonial of the previous Campaigns Coordinator and lots of enthusiasm for the idea of European-wide campaign. Volunteering in WSCF Europe taught me a lot about NGO work in international student organization and gave me a broader picture of the benefits and challenges that ecumenical organizations currently face.

This opportunity inspired my theological thinking and growing. It has also given me lots of new friends, skills, experiences and inspired my mission in life as an ecumenical Christian who wishes to change the world for better.

Getting to know international students from different denominations all praying and worshiping together has diversified my spiritual life. Personal contacts has also helped me to understand different Christian heritages more, which I had been longing for some time. Meeting Christians all around the World has also strengthened my passion to work for justice and peace from Christian perspective, since getting to know to real people from conflict areas, development countries and having them sharing their context has been transformative for a person like me, who used to read about this all from the news and surveys.

ERC work has also varieted my language skills, since I wasn’t used to having meetings and reports in English. It has also increased my social skills and understanding of leadership, taking responsibilities, planning projects and writing reports. I have also learned to analyze problems and challenges of voluntary based international organizations and what is needed to success in this field. I have learned to be more analytical, resilient, open-minded and responsible. Growing to my role took time and lots of guidance from my counterparts, but for me it has been worth the effort.

I have learned so much important skills for working life and also discovered some of my own talents and weaknesses.

ERC started a process of personal growth in me, which I wish to proceed with.

Ana Fernández-Mayoralas is 20 years old. She is currently living in Paris, but is native to Madrid. Ana is studying Law and Business Management at the “Université Phanthéon-Sorbonne”. Ana was part of the International Preparatory Committee for the 2015 WSCF-Europe Conference “Region and politics: democracy and moral values in multicultural Europe today”, which took place in Litomysl, Czech Republic.

I remember the day I arrived at Litomysl after many hours of travel and almost losing the bus that I had to take to arrive to the castle where the conferences were to take place. I arrived with other 6 students that I met in the bus that were also attending the conferences. That night, we played fun games to get to know each other a little bit.

The following days we attended conferences and then we also had workshop to discuss in small groups the subjects of the previous conferences. I found the experience really enriching because I got to know many different points of view that I had never thought about.It´s amazing how talking with people from different backgrounds and religions can make you realize that there is not a true and only point of view. It´s necessary to listen and to put yourself in the other person´s position and especially, respect each other.

In the conferences I learned many things about subjects that I had never heard of but that were really interesting such as the Palestinian movements, the influence of religion in other countries or the customs of other cultures. There was a “conference”, well a testimony, in the mosque of Prague that I really enjoyed. We went there to hear about the Islam and its position in Czech Republic. It was really interesting to get to know more about the religion itself and the religious context in Czech Republic.

Furthermore, I got to know amazing and really interesting people. This is what I enjoyed the most out of everything. Talking and discussing with other people makes you realized that appearances are not always what they seem. We are really influenced by media, our family or culture, but sometimes it´s necessary to forget about your opinion and listen to other´s one. You may find out that you were wrong or that there was a reason behind or that your opinion was biased by your environment. This is what I found really enriching, finding out that by dialoguing you get to know and understand better the multiculturalism and the differences of thought.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this experience. I will encourage everyone to attend WSCF conferences at least once in their lifetime. It may help you clear out your ideas and for sure it will be an unforgettable experience.

Pavlina Manavska comes from Macedonia, and currently lives in Germany. From her high school days Pavlina is an active member and volunteer at the United Methodist Church in Macedonia. Pavlina served as a Co-Opted member on the 2015-2017 WSCF-E Regional Committee.

Building bridges between young people coming from different places, making connections, getting to know the otherness, meaning learning more about yourself is what WSCF Europe helped me with and made me realize that I need to become even more active. None of this would have happened if the staff from WSCF Europe weren’t so supportive and willing to reflect upon all of the participant ideas and work to accomplish them. Even though there is no SCM in Macedonia, we only have an active Youth Group at the Methodist Church; I was a participant at two conferences so I could actually learn more about it. After the conferences I got really motivated into becoming a part of WSCF. I got an email from the Links coordinator Maria Kozhinova asking whether there was an option to organize Staff and Officers Meeting in Skopje. At first I was delighted and honored. But as the questions came about venue, meals, transport I have to admit it involved a lot of research. To my big surprise there were 27 delegates coming over to Skopje and all of them were coming here for the first time. The meeting was held from 20-23 February and for me it was a successful weekend of training sessions on fundraising, campaigns, experiences and communication. A huge role was also played in fundraising for the General Assembly.

Because of my work, I couldn’t be there at all the sessions, but I managed to be there for the most part of the day. I am grateful to WSCF-Europe for organizing such an event in my country. Even though it was just for a few days I enjoyed spending time with the delegates, my friends and showing them the joys and concerns about my community and the ways how we can all help each other.

This was a great positive experience for me and I am looking forward to other opportunities and I am always open to help where there is need in WSCF.

Bernardo Canas held the position of Lingua Franca Program Intern for WSCF-Europe in 2014.

Coordinating the Lingua Franca summer camp is being a wonderful experience. Through these months I have had the opportunity to think about the topic, improve the programme, help applying for funding and spreading the word to look for resources persons and preparation committee volunteers.

LF has also been a challenge to me. Thanks to it I have learned more about organisation skills, about my own personality and way of dealing with tasks. I have worked in teams and on my own initiative, and helped by Zuzka and Hans, I have been able to deliver results. 

I thank WSCF for the opportunity to put my skills into practice and their trust in me. I have gained in confidence and discovered that I can do more tasks and address more issues than I thought.

Bernardo Canas held the position of Lingua Franca Program Intern for WSCF-Europe in 2014.

Coordinating the Lingua Franca summer camp is being a wonderful experience. Through these months I have had the opportunity to think about the topic, improve the programme, help applying for funding and spreading the word to look for resources persons and preparation committee volunteers.

LF has also been a challenge to me. Thanks to it I have learned more about organisation skills, about my own personality and way of dealing with tasks. I have worked in teams and on my own initiative, and helped by Zuzka and Hans, I have been able to deliver results. 

I thank WSCF for the opportunity to put my skills into practice and their trust in me. I have gained in confidence and discovered that I can do more tasks and address more issues than I thought.

Katarina Babicova studied Scandinavian languages and served WSCF-Europe as a volunteer, European Regional Committee Member, and also staff member from 2009-2012.

I served as volunteer Links Coordinator on WSCF-E Regional Committee in 2010-2012, when I was 22-24 years old. At that time I had only few experiences with organization of bigger events from scratch both in from the thematic and practical point of view. However, I felt a big support and belief from the other members of the team, which encouraged me to go beyond my ordinary thinking and also gave me energy to accomplish all the tasks from managing big groups, organizing program and thematic workshops, fundraising, getting lecturers or participants and their visa (often at last minute!) and many others.

If I should reflect on my current skills both social and organizational, I think I owe WSCF-E a big thanks for for not only gaining these, but many others, that I was given opportunity to develop. The one that I certainly appreciate most is just feeling comfortable in English and speaking in front of a big crowd and expressing my own opinion. The second one most appreciated would be the intercultural sensibility and awareness. Under WSCF-E I mean all people I met and learned from – the committee of good friends, staff, participants in the conferences. I am truly thankful and would encourage everybody to volunteer!