©Peter Kenny/WCC

©Peter Kenny/WCC

Katariina Väisänen from Finland is used to ecumenical experiences, but was pleased at a course on peacebuilding in Judaism, Christianity and Islam in Geneva on how much she could share with her fellow participants due to their common humanity.

Väisänen, aged 29, is campaign coordinator at the Finnish Ecumenical Council and organizes the annual Justice and Peace campaign for Finnish churches.

She believes her social ethics studies at the University of Finland and her work were good preparation for the 26 June-14 July course for the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Interreligious Studies from the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute in Bossey.

As well as doing comparative studies on the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam - the students attended a day of prayer at a mosque, the Jewish Shabbat and the Sabbath at a Lutheran Church in Geneva.

“I had attended a mosque and a synagogue before, but not for prayer,” said Väisänen. “It touched me to see women praying in the mosque.”

She noticed, “how similar we are in so many ways - that we have the same sense of humor in many cases. It was also easy to start joking with each other and building trust,” and the structure of the course helped do this.

Yet it was the daily living together and encounters where she said she learned much.

“I really loved how we had this connection for three weeks. We lived together; we didn’t only study, like going to the university for lessons and then going back home.

“We actually lived in the same house for 24 hours. We shared so much also outside the lectures. Those discussion were many times so intensive and important in order to understand the context and the personal experiences of another people.

“It is a huge privilege to have people from all around the world, from different religions, cultures and background together and being able to ask them whatever you want to know,” noted Väisänen.

"Young people gather for peacebuilding in Judaism, Christianity and Islam" - WCC news release from 28 June 2017

Bossey Ecumenical Institute