Board elected at A World of Neighbours annual meeting

May 13, 2022
By Magdalena Wernefeldt

The first annual meeting of the independent A World of Neighbours Network ended Thursday. A board for the foundation that is to be established has been elected and the necessity of a support network for practitioners was reinforced.

Photo: Johannes Rydinger

– We have had some intense 48 hrs, taking big steps in making this a practitioner-led movement, said Rikko Voorberg, theologian, network practitioner and one of the organisers of the first annual meeting, when the group gathered Thursday morning to conclude.

Prepared to take over
A World of Neighbours has up till now been a programme run by the Church of Sweden with the aim to connect faith based practitioners from different countries in Europe working with and for people on the move. As the programme is now coming to a close the network is prepared to take over, carry on the legacy of the initiators and determined to develop the network to its fullest. To this end a foundation is to be established.

The group of about thirty people who met for the first annual meeting represented all five Network Practitioners Programme cohorts that have been held so far, as well as the A World of Neighbours research network and people from the wider network who have touched base with A World of Neighbours at different times.

Photo: Johannes Rydinger

An interim board and its members were discussed and elected. Five people had been approached before the meeting to run for the board: Jean Duff, Partnership for Faith Development, Irland (cohort 4), Atallah Fitzgibbon, Islamic Relief Worldwide and network practitioner (cohort 2), Rebecca Lillian, rabbi at Shir Hatzafon in Copenhagen and network practitioner (cohort 1) together with researcher Ryszard Bobrowicz who has been acting director for the Network Practitioner Programme and theologian and practitioner Maria Kjellsdotter Rydinger, guaranteeing the continuous engagement of the Church of Sweden.

Interim board until next annual meeting
In the meeting Aude Sathoud, Public Relations Lobbying Manager at Voice of Ezidis, (cohort 4), Aida Moayedzadeh, project leader for social innovation at Church of Sweden, (Cohort 1), Alaaddin Uslu, student (cohort 2) and Sayed Parviz Khyber, student and member of the European Commission Expert Group on the Views of Migrants were nominated. The interim board of these nine members will serve until the next annual meeting which will be held sometime between May 29 and June 2, 2023.

Photo: Johannes Rydinger

An editorial team was elected with the mission to work on the development of strategy and content of internal and external communications. The team consists of Magdalena Wernefeldt, journalist working for the Church of Sweden, Zoé Balakrishnan, project manager Jesuit Refugee Services, Amloud Alamir, journalist working at Amal, Berlin! and Aude Sathoud, Public Relations, Lobbying Manager at Voice of Ezidis.

Photo: Magdalena Wernefeldt

As important as the formal results of the meeting was the social time the network got to spend together. The conversations and discussions at breakfasts and dinners, that could be continued during walks in the neighbourhood or under the trees in the beautiful garden of the venue, Maison Notre–Dame du Chant-d’Oiseau in Brussels, allowed for the exchanges of ideas and experiences and for relationships to deepen. The overall feeling between the participants was one of curiosity and love.

“Missed you in Brussels”
It also became clear that it was in the very last moment that the network did get to meet. After several meetings being cancelled due to the Covid19-pandemic, and with the passing of Dirk Ficca, the nestor of the Practitioners Network, the future of the network has been uncertain, at risk of “going up in smoke” as put by Rebecca Lillian. All this clearly felt by many of the practitioners. The organisers made up their mind to answer three questions during the meeting: What is happening right now in AWoN? Who is who in AWoN? Where are we going? When the participants before breaking up was asked if they felt they now had the answers one of the practitioners said.

– Three months ago I would have said no. After this meeting I know.

A few hours later the same person wrote to peers in the cohort: “Missed you in Brussels. We had wonderful days!”