Feature Article No: 05/22
05 October 2022
By Susan Kim (*)
Berit Hagen Agøy, international director for the Church of Norway, reflects on why it’s time for churches to be outspoken about solidarity—and how the Conference of European Churches (CEC) helps unite and augment their voices.
Berit Hagen Agøy believes that churches in Europe have a very crucial role to play just now, during war and uncertainty. “We experience a development towards increased economic inequality, social unrest, rightwing polices, racism, and not to forget the climate crisis,” she said. “The Christian and humanistic values of Europe are at stake.”
Equal human dignity and rights are challenged, not just in Europe but across the world, she said.
‘The churches need to be outspoken about fellowship, solidarity, and the concern for the most vulnerable,” she said. “We should never accept discrimination and exclusion.”
CEC is in a unique position to play a significant role by raising these concerns in European institutions. Churches’ dialogue with European institutions is a tool we can use to strengthen ecumenical and interfaith cooperation, as well as links between the churches and other civil society organisations, Agøy added.
“This is the time to share our Christian hope and remember that we are one humanity,” she said.
The Church of Norway is active in the Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities, an umbrella organisation for religious organisations in Norway to foster interfaith dialogue. The council has organised solidarity visits, under the slogan #safeinprayer, in the wake of attacks and harassment towards different faith groups. “We have gone to mosques, a synagogue, and churches to show solidarity and express that we in Norway are standing together to guard the freedom of religion and belief for all, and that we do not accept any harassment of people with other faith,” said Agøy.
“It is encouraging to follow news about CEC activities. The updates affirm that the churches in Europe are standing together and expressing the same values in public,” she said. “Together our voices become louder.”
She encouraged CEC to develop even more spaces—both physical and digital—for consultations and sharing of experiences.
Christian values can no longer be taken for granted in European societies, Agøy said. “CEC is a strong ecumenical fellowship in Europe that helps us remember and renew our common Christian heritage,” she said. “For the Church of Norway, it is very important that we can argue in our public debates, yet in some ways what we say is the same message as our sister churches in Europe.”
Strengthening a unified witness comes with welcoming refugees, asking for more solidarity, working on climate justice, and many other activities in which CEC member churches are involved. “A common Christian witness is crucial,” she said. “Churches must delve deeper with the way they understand Christian values. Some politicians tend to exploit the term without theological reflection.”
(*) Susan Kim is a freelance journalist from the United States.