Conference on the EU Presidency and Cultural Diversity for Central European Reconciliation

A conference entitled “The Role of Churches in Social Reconciliation in East-Central Europe” is to be held in Budapest, between 10-12 March. The event, which has the subtitle “Central Europe as a Model of Religious Diversity,” has been organised by the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Hungary (ECCH), the Budapest office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), as well as the foundation called Reconciliation in South East Europe (RSEE), within the framework of the “Healing of Memories” project.

Austrian, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak and Ukrainian churches.  The location of the conference is the central office of ECCH (3 Magyar tudósok krt., Budapest, 1117), and the occasion is a prominent EU presidency event of the Reformed Church of Hungary.

According to the preliminary programme of the conference, the speakers will include Bishop Gusztáv Bölcskei, President for Religious Matters of the Reformed Church of Hungary; Irinej Bulovic, Bishop of the Orthodox Eparchy of Bácska; Péter Gáncs, Presiding Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Hungary; Christoph Klein, Bishop Emeritus of the Lutheran Church of the Transylvanian Saxons; Rüdiger Noll, Director of the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches; Tony Peck, President of the European Baptist Federation; Markus Meckel, former German Foreign Minister; Laurentiu Streza, Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Nagyszeben.

The opening day of the conference is to start with thematic greeting addresses related to Central European historical and cultural diversity as a challenge for society and churches, followed by a panel discussion of church leaders and guest politicians. During the second day, the 20th-century political changes in Central and South East Europe are to be reviewed by Professor Ion Zainea from Nagyvárad (Oradea), Professor László Marjanucz from Szeged, and Magdolna Baráth, Head of Department of the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security. Afterwards, talks are to be given by all the representatives of the participating churches, under the title “The Significance of 20th-Century Events from the Perspective of Churches.”  On the third day of the conference, the church historians of the participating churches continue the discussions in workshops. The theme is the significance of 20th-century events regarding the identity and ecclesiology of churches, as well as their relations with other churches of the region. The three-day conference is to be rounded off with a panel discussion on the co-existence of churches.

The project entitled Healing of Memories (HoM) is a joint initiative of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe – Leuenberg Church Fellowship (CPCE), which aims to realise the goals set out by the CEC, the Council of Catholic Episcopal Conferences in Europe (CCEE) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in the Charta Oecumenica drafted in 1998, in order to eradicate the still-existing misunderstandings and prejudices that have surfaced over the centuries between majority and minority churches.

Within the framework of the programme, several conferences have been organised across the Carpathian Basin since 2004, with the co-operation of European partner churches, as well as training events for church employees, volunteers, pastoral counsellors in the areas of pastoral care, communication, mediation and group work. There has also been a local Healing of Memories scientific conference with the participation of all historical churches of the region.

Botond Csepregi