Welcome to IKETH Annual Conference, 23 – 27 September 2016 Being on the Move – Experiences of Refugee Women and their Host Communities

IKETH Annual Conference, 23 – 27 September 2016

Being on the Move – Experiences of Refugee Women and their Host Communities

The Situation
For years people from the Middle East and Africa had crossed the Southern Mediterranean and landed on the small Italian island of Lampedusa. Many had lost their lives on this dangerous passage, escaping as it were one peril only to meet other dangers.
In 2015 refugees began to take the „Balkan-route“. Hundreds of thousands arrived, Syrians, Irakis, Afghans, fleeing from situations of war, persecution  and worsening conditions in refugee camps along the Syrian/Turkish borders.
What followed was a sobering lack of solidarity among many EU members states and fears of being „over-rolled“ by refugees. This pushed some European governments more to the right. These fears have increased since the attacks in Paris November 13, 2015.

However, there was also  the  generosity of many people in many countries, who welcomed the refugees and worked tirelessly to help where governments and NGOs often could not cope with the magnitude of the situation – “welcome culture” became the word of the day, and civil society a major player in the efforts to help.
Secular organisations, communes, but also churches, mosques and religious institutions offered hospitality and temporary relief. After all, migrations play a foundational role in the three monotheistic religions: The exodus from Egypt, the hijra from Mekka to Medina, and the move from Jerusalem into the Hellenistic world became turning points in shaping the respective religious identities and enshrined hospitality, indeed, love of the stranger deeply in religious life. The equality of all human beings and the solidarity in times of distress are also pillars of human rights conventions.

The challenge was and continues to be, to organize and sustain this commitment in the concrete situation.
– How did relationships between guest and host communities develop?
– What were/are experiences of women, who mostly came with their families?
– What were difficulties on the move and later on, in the so called “integration process”?
– Did religion play a role?
– Are there new insights on “migration” in Europe, on the self-image of Europe ?

IKETH will take up these questions at its Annual Conference 2016. Together with:
– Christian, Muslim and Jewish women theologians, exploring traditions of migration and   hospitality in their religions
– with women who served as volunteers at various places,
– with  women involved in  projects of integration in host communities.

Doing this IKETH aims to contribute to a culture of civil courage; to continue networking among European women of different religions, who work in religious institutions; and  to collect elements necessary for good living together –  further exploring “convivencia”

Members and guests from several countries in the Balkans, continuing IKETH’s focus on South-Eastern Europe , involving more Muslims and more young women, for which IKETH hopes to find scholarships.



To the End of this Year 2014

Dear Members of IKETH,

Season’s Greetings to all of you, whether you are preparing for Christmas, celebrating Chanukka, or whether all of us are moving towards the end of this year 2014, with its historical memories and its threatening conflicts in so many parts of the world, also in Europe.
By exploring  and celebrating what all of us hold in common,  and by learning to respect difference IKETH  hopes to make a  contribution towards religious peace.
In 2014 we moved one step towards our focus on strengthening relationships with women theologians in the Balkan countries, by having our Annual Conference in Sarajevo, and by electing a Bosnian Muslim member to the Board.

Please help us to continue this way by paying your membership fee. You may also  donate to the Iris-Müller Fund which we set up in 2013 to enable women from low income countries and students to participate in IKETH’s annual study conference and to become part of the network.

We hope to see many of you at the 2015 Annual Conference which will take place in Berlin on the theme of “Convivencia”. Please note the dates April 16 – 19, 2015. The programme is attached to this letter and will shortly available on the IKETH website, http://www.iketh.eu

God’s rich blessings on all of you, all of us, in the new year to come and let’s stay connected!

The IKETH Board
Reinhild Traitler-Espiritu, chair, Martina Heinrichs, Naida Huskanovic, Lee Wax, Susanne Wolf


IKETH Annual Conference 2015, Hotel Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Haus, Berlin, 16 – 19 April 2015

Annual Conference 2015
Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Haus, Berlin, 16 – 19 April 2015

“Convivencia – How We Learn To Live Together”

How to live together in peace inspite of and with all our differences? How to overcome the age old fear of the other ? History shows us that religions have done both, propelled that fear but also offered ways to overcome it by sharing life in community, by strengthening what is helpful, and transforming what is harmful in relationships.

Convivencia originally was a concept of peaceful living together of Christians, Jews and Muslims in Al Andalus, medieval Spain under Muslim rule. While contested by some scholars, it is a fascinating vision of cooperation on concrete issues, while at the same time respecting religious diversity and existing differences.

The German theologian Theo Sundermeier spoke of the three “pillars” of Convivencia: All help each other, all learn from each other, all celebrate together. We want to develop the concept around the pillar of education and learning.
Inhowfar is interreligious sensitivity and knowledge trained in programmes of religious education in schools, or in religious communities; in education in ethics; in adult education. How should it be trained? How could it reach secular people, who want to live ethically responsible?
We shall reflect on these issues and analyse good practice examples.
By exploring convivencia from the perspective of Jewish, Christian and Muslim women, IKETH hopes to contribute to a practical theology of religions.

“Convivencia” – wie wir miteinander leben lernen
Wie leben wir miteinander in Frieden – trotz und mit unseren Verschiedenheiten? Wie überwinden wir die alte Angst vor den “anderen”? Die Geschichte zeigt uns, dass Religionen diese Angst geschürt, dass sie aber auch Möglichkeiten eröffnet haben, die Angst zu überwinden: Dazu gehört das Leben in der Gemeinschaft, die Stärkung all dessen was im Miteinander hilfreich ist und die Transformation schädlicher Beziehungen.

Convivencia bezeichnete ursprünglich ein Konzept weitgehend friedlicher Ko-Existenz zwischen christlichen, jüdischen und muslimischen Menschen in Al-Andalus (jenem Teil des mittelalterlichen Spanien, der sich unter muslimischer Herrschaft befand). Obwohl dieses Konzept historisch umstritten ist, bleibt es eine faszinierende Vision, verband es doch Kooperation bei konkreten Vorhaben mit Respekt für die existierenden Differenzen zwischen den Religionsgemeinschaften.

Der deutsche Theologe und Religionswissenschaftler Theo Sundermeier hat von drei Säulen der Convivencia gesprochen: Alle helfen einander, alle lernen von einander, alle feiern miteinander. Wir möchten das Konzept an der Säule Bildung und Lernen entwickeln.
Wir werden uns mit einigen kritischen Fragen im interreligiösen Lernen auseinander setzen: Wie weit ist interreligiöse Sensibilität ein Lernziel im Religionsunterricht in der Schule, in religiösen Gemeinschaften, in der Erwachsenenbildung und im Ethikunterricht ist. Wie sollte sie erlernt werden? Wie könnten säkular orientierte Menschen erreicht werden, die ethisch verantwortungsvoll leben wollen?
Dazu werden Beispiele guter Praxis vorgestellt.

Indem wir convivencia aus der (Alltags)-Perspektive jüdischer, christlicher und muslimischer Frauen betrachten, hoffen wir zu einer praktischen interreligiösen Theologie/Theologie der Religionen beizutragen.


Conference Report: Healing Memories and Making Peace – Women’s Contributions

IKETH Annual Conference, 23-30 May, 2014 in Bosnia and Herzegowina

Stories of Pain and Suffering
“We don’t want revenge. But we shall not forget” the Mothers of Srebrenica told us when we said “Goody bye” after an intensive encounter at the memorial site of Potocari. The women had walked us though the enormous field of white tombstones pointing out to us where their loved ones were buried. More than 8300 boys, youngsters, Bosniak Muslim men of all ages were killed in the genocidal massacre of July 11, 1995.
As we listened to the women and their stories of loss and pain we realized again that such suffering can and must never be forgotten. As European women we have to remind ourselves that sustainable peace and religious harmony on our continent cannot be taken for granted , but needs continuously to be struggled for – as everywhere in the world!
The visit to Srebrenica was one among several visits during the 2014 Annual Conference of IKETH that took place May 23 – 30, 2014 in Bosnia and Herzegowina. It was the first one of a series of encounter conferences that IKETH plans to organize at regular intervals: One year an encounter in a European country with special experiences or problems in interreligious living together, one year a study conference to reflect on burning issues in interreligious dialogue. The aim is to widen the IKETH network, to make it truly European and genuinely interreligious.
Education for Girls Has a Long Tradition
During our stay in BiH we paid a visit to the Islamic Faculty of Sarajevo, meeting with the Dean Dr. Busatlic and with Prof. Zehra Alispahic, who emphazised the historical and religiously anchored importance of education for girls and women. We also got to know the women’s organisation NAHLA which offers educational activities for women, among others also religious and ethical education as a basis for peace-building. As Azra Ibrahimovic of NAHLA informed us they have developed a training programme for dialogue which teaches skills in dialogue and non-violent communication.
A highlight was IKETH’s day long visit to Medica Zenica, reknowned for its work in trauma rehablitiation and peace-building. Its path-finding therapeutic and enabling educational and job training approach is well known in BiH, but it is also more and more acknowledged world wide – recent visitors included actress Angelina Jolie and British foreign secretary William Hague. Sabiha Husic-Haskic who leads the centre is an IKETH member and acted as our thoughtful local host for the encounter in BiH. We got to know a whole range of Medica’s activities, among others also Medica’s work with men.
How our Religions Define Violence – Visit to Mostar
A full day excursion took us to Mostar, the capital of Herzegowina. Our host there was Forma F and its director Mirjava Penava, who had assembled a representative group of women to meet with IKETH. We shall not foget the encounter in the garden, “between the rose and the figtree”, with the tables filled with bowls full of delicious cherry and strawberries and women eager to share their stories and activities.
There was the Jewish Interreligious Council, the women’s organisation Zene BIH, the network of Croatian women. While trauma work and dealing with violence also remains a priority , the women have initiated a theological reflection process on how their religions define violence. In the Interreligious Council (which is organized regionally) they have established a women’s network. Forma F is coordinating a joint project on equality of gender in the religions of BiH, which aims at analysing women’s positions in church and mosque.
Healing is a Long Process
Everywhere we realized that even twenty years after the war trauma work is still necessary. But there are now successful attempts at structural responses. In Medica we learned that finally the effort to gain legal recognition and recompensation for war rape victims bore fruit: Women can receive a small pension. A victory not without problems.
However, the economic situation of women still remains precarious (with the overall unemployment rate close to one third of the population). And the rise of domestic violence is unsettling. Many people (men and women alike) also feel that the country is trapped in its cumbersome political structure, as established by the Dayton agreement of 1995. It did work to stop the war, but as it follows the old ethnic lines it does little to overcome them towards a more integrated future.
We are Part of Europe!
Tourism student Sascha, our young guide in Mostar, told us several times “We are a part of Europe. We are European Muslims. We have stone caves 15.000 years old. We are a mixture of everything, our old kingdom, the Ottoman empire and the Jews from Spain, the Habsburg monarchy and Tito as well. We are part of Europe”.
This plea still rings in my ears. Who could overlook this meeting point of cultures and religions, that speaks through architecture and life styles. The many successes to live together peacefully, and the failures to do that, which caused so much suffering.
And the friendliness and hospitality of the people to who we owe so much!
We’ll stay connected!

Reinhild Traitler, IKETH Chair of the Board


IKETH Annual Conference 2014 in Bosnia i Herzegovina

Welcome to the IKETH Encounter Conference

May 24 – 29,  2014 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Welcome to the friendliness and warmth of a country that has a long tradition of  living with difference: Here Christians and Muslims lived side by side for centuries. Here Jews from Al-Andalus found refuge after the expulsion under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in the late 15th cetury.  While there were conflicts, co-existence was possible and good neighbourhood  was common practice.
However, Bosnia was also a focal point at the border line of the Ottoman and Habsburg empires, both with claims to supremacy in the region and both facing fierce opposition. The assassination of  the Austrian crown prince – by a young Serb –  in  Sarajevo led to the desaster of the first World War in 1914.
The civil war of 1992  had many historical roots and it  dangerously mixed national, “ethnic” and religious issues. Memories of this war are still fresh. So many people suffered and still suffer. But there is also much hope that life can be rebuilt.
The work of interpretation, rehabilitation and reconstruction  is a slow process.
Women and women’s organisations play an important role.
IKETH’s visit is  meant as a small sign of solidarity for their work. As a network of Jewish, Christian and Muslim women theologians involved in  practical work as pastors, teachers of religion, researchers and writers,  IKETH aims to be an active network  highlighting women’s perspectives on religious issues.
So, come to Sarajevo in late spring. Get to know the charm and generosity of its people. Meet women theologians, social workers, trauma specialists, historians, all working to make peace sustainable  and to reestablish relationships after the destruction of the war years. Listen to lectures at the Islamic Faculty introducing the complex history of the country. Enjoy a walk through the religious diversity of old Sarajevo.
And come along to Srebrenica  to pay respect  to the women who uphold the memory of those men and boys who became victims of the genocidal killings.

The IKETH Board

Hilal Kurt, Catherine Gibson, Reinhild Traitler, Lee Wax, Susanne Wolf,

with Sabiha Husic-Haskic of Medica Zenica, IKETH member from BiH and local host.

Details to the conference:
You are welcome to pass the information on to anyone you think would be interested.
Here you can see the IkethBiHprogramm2014details. Here is the Registration Form final
The special room rates are held until 10th March, so please do register before then to ensure a room at this price.