On Saturday 8 December, my travel to Lithuania and Latvia came to an end, when the WizzAir Airbus A320 safely touched down on the tarmac of Eindhoven Airport (EIN). It was an interesting and inspiring trip, which started two weeks earlier on the same airport. I had some thirty meetings, in Vilnius, Kaunas and Panevezys (Lithuania), in Ludza, Jekabpils and Riga (Latvia). Once again, I say a great “thank you” to everybody whom I have met, for sharing your time and thoughts. As an inspirational endnote, I have added a picture of the original coat of arms of bishop Jonas Kauneckas of Panevėžys. The bishop himself is holding it. Because it was considered to be too different from the usual coats of arms, it was not used officially. However, to my opinion it was well designed. The motto is a challenge to all people of good faith, “Žiūrėti Jo žvilgsniu”: To see with His eyes. For a short first impression of my trip, see Facebook.
Opposition against notions such as “feminism”, “gender” or “political correctness”, either shallow or profound, cannot be an excuse for inaction, when sensitive issues like trafficking of women, inequality, typecasting, discrimination of women, prostitution or domestic violence are being discussed. Similarly, moral indignation or feelings of moral superiority can never justify passiveness, when sins are committed against women. These were the key findings of our Communicantes conference last 3 November 2012. At castle Hernen, an audience of about twenty listened to three guests from Eastern Europe: Caritas Lithuania’s Kristina Mišinienė, Romanian journalist Márta Bodó and Sister Rebeka Anić from Croatia. Read the introduction to the conference by Communicantes President Professor Nico Schreurs and the lecture of Sister Rebeka Anic. For the work of Kristina Mišinienė, see www.anti-trafficking.lt (with pages in English language as well). Read also the announcement of the conference and some background information at http://communicantes.nl/?p=5066 (in Dutch).
Since the turn of the century, the topics of women’s emancipation and feminism have more or less disappeared from public discourse, in church circles as well. At least, this is what happened in the Netherlands. Feminism and women’s emancipation fell victim, so to say, to their own success. In Eastern Europe, however, things are more complex, as was clearly shown at the biennial regional conference of the European Society of Woman in Theological Research that took place in Split, Croatia, from 2 to 5 September 2012.* There, it became apparent that women’s issues have not been given any priority whatsoever within the Orthodox, Protestant or Roman Catholic Churches. And what is more, they are considered with great suspicion or the study thereof is merely tolerated. Continue reading
De kerk vervrouwelijkt. Al jaren is er een proces gaande van “feminisering”, waardoor steeds meer vrouwen en steeds minder mannen in de kerk actief zijn. Het verschijnsel treedt op zowel in West- als in Oost-Europa, ook in de katholieke Kerk. Deze ontwikkeling heeft bijvoorbeeld tot gevolg gehad dat het contrast tussen wat er in en wat er buiten de kerk gebeurt gaandeweg groter werd. Buiten de kerk kregen vrouwen een steeds belangrijkere en actievere maatschappelijke rol toebedeeld, terwijl daarbinnen dit proces kritisch werd en wordt bezien. Continue reading
What kind of country is Ukraine when it comes to alcohol? As a matter of fact, it is an astonishingly liberal country. The evil of alcohol abuse is allowed to roam about without much hindrance.
Alcohol abuse may well be the greatest evil in society, yet children can freely buy it, publicity is omnipresent and it is not uncommon to have a pint of beer out on the street, before midday. On festive days, parents encourage their children to drink, and this from a tender age. Beer used to be rather something for women and girls, but this is changing for the worse. Officially, drinking age is at 18 as is purchasing age, but this legislation is not being enforced. For sure, there does exist a “National Alcoholic Tradition” – see the NAT internet advertisement (pictured above on the left). Continue reading
Four days ago I returned from a trip to Ukraine. Even if this was my fifteenth or so visit since 1996, it was a great experience and it is really amazing to see how much the country has changed. Back in 1996 Ukraine was a dreary place with few colours and just a handful of cars on the streets. Probably, the country looked very much similar to what it was before the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. This situation has changed completely. Continue reading
The conference ‘Churches in Ukraine’ was held on 26 November 2011 at the picturesque Hernen Castle. Four key note speakers had been invited. Dr. Heleen Zorgdrager, who is visiting professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv since 2005, and Ukrainian nationals Father Roman Fihas MA, drs. Julia Hoppenbrouwers-Nagornyak and Mariana Kavinska MA demonstrated their intimate knowledge of Church in Ukraine. Furthermore, Professor Nico Schreurs, president of the Foundation Communicantes, spoke about the history and mission of the foundation. Editor-in-chief Father Dolf Langerhuizen introduced the audience to the review Pokrof. The conference ‘Churches in Ukraine’ was organised by the Foundation Communicantes and the review Pokrof, and was hosted by the Bredius Foundation. It is the aim of the Bredius Foundation to enhance knowledge of Byzantine culture among scholars and the general public. Continue reading
Please, have a look at some pictures from Belarus. It is a sort of picture of the day overview of my trip (17-28 October 2011). Follow the link and press on a picture to start the slideshow. Continue reading
In June 2011 I met with the highly motivated staff and volunteers of the programme “Aid to Victims of Prostitution and Human Trafficking” of Caritas Lithuania. This Roman Catholic organisation provides assistance to (mostly) women who have become victim of prostitution and of human trafficking, in the country itself or abroad. If they wish, clients receive psychological, judicial or practical assistance so they may kick-start a new life. Continue reading
From 17 to 28 October 2011, project and content manager Frans Hoppenbrouwers will be visiting the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Churches of Belarus. Since 2004 Communicantes supports Roman and Greek Catholic projects, for example pastoral care for prisoners and the training of volunteers. Furthermore, election time excepted, there’s not too much of Belarus in the news. Yet another good reason to go and have a look. Again! This will be my first visit since 2004. It will take me from Minsk to Grodno and then via Minsk to Vitebsk. (See the map.) After my return, I will let you know of my experiences. Continue reading
In some Roman Catholic circles feminism is considered of something suspect. Seemingly, this word denotes several evils that have come about through the re-appreciation of womanhood: a new and problematic relationship between man and woman; motherhood, rather optional than a duty, competes with various models of self-determination; the decline of male authority. Undeniably, these and other changes are positive and negative in the same time, for men and for women. When we visit our parish church on Sunday, however, we can clearly see that the Church itself is by and large feminised as well. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of church-goers is female, in Western and in Eastern Europe. Continue reading
Renovabis – “Active solidarity of the German Roman Catholics with the people of Central and Eastern Europe” – will hold its annual conference on 1-3 September 2011. This year’s conference is devoted to the erosion of the quality of life in the Eastern European countryside. Theme: “Rural Areas in Upheaval”. Can the Churches in Eastern Europe somehow contribute to a solution? Continue reading