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Like Reading Seven Novels in Three Days

This year's Nordic conference took place at Als in Denmark. Under the theme "living together across cultures", each day focused on one of three perspectives: in the family, between nations, in the local communities. Mahira Karim gives some highlights. For a full report, click here.


The conference centre was surrounded by a peaceful atmosphere with easy access to scenic nature and a beautiful coastline. Nature breathes deeply and remains untouched by the rush that pulses in our hearts as humans.

This peaceful atmosphere left its mark on the conference and ensured that the participants found the slow rhythm of nature, despite their busy lives. As one of the participants at the conference expressed it: “At this conference there was sufficient time - time for conversations, swimming, quiet time, breakfast, trips, sightseeing, play and fun.”

Conversations in "family groups"

90 people took part in the conference, with an age range from zero to 97 years. A daily plenary meeting of everyone explored the headline themes of the conference through the personal lenses of 3-4 speakers. Twice a day, everyone spent time in assigned "family groups" to talk about their own lives. These groups were, for most people, the highlight of the conference.

“Every morning we read an inspirational text, followed by a few minutes of silence before we shared thoughts and reflections about the text and the questions related to the day,” says Ragnhild Østmo from Norway.

There were seven in Ragnhild's family group. Over the course of three days, each one shares life stories and events in their lives that have made them who they are today.

“It was like reading seven novels in three days”, she says. “Our conversations have given me a lot of insight and lessons that I take with me further in my own life. I feel so privileged to have met these wonderful people.”

The Nordic conference spans several continents

With the war in Europe showing no signs of ending, it feels even more important to gather as a Nordic community to discuss what affects the participants' families, their countries and their local communities. The conference is testimony to the desire for friendship, peace and reconciliation.

A Russian participant shared her own thoughts on how she herself can create reconciliation in Europe. “I have to identify myself and apologize for what my country is doing, even though I am not part of it and am against it,” she says.

Despite their Nordic affiliation, conference participants also bring with them family histories and experiences that span continents, from Africa to Asia, from East to West.

In light of the conflict in his own country, a Palestinian participant shared reflections on how love can overcome anger. He wants to spend more time with his family.

A participant from Somalia shares his personal journey from Somalia to Sweden in 1995 and his experiences of becoming part of Swedish society. Over time, he has learned to know the new society and today works to build bridges between people who are far apart in their own local community. The audience notes down useful tips on how the individual can make such transitions easier for people who are new to a culture.

Another participant, originally from India, shares his own experiences of discovering prejudices and biases he grew up with in India, which only came to light when he moved to Sweden and told his family in India about his new Muslim friend. Subsequently, he has initiated a project to create dialogue meetings to prevent prejudice.

“Suddenly you find the world very close to you,” says Jorulf Silde, a participant from Norway. “What wealth!”

The conference gave hope not only for the Nordic region, but also beyond the region's borders. There were several couples present with partners from different countries and continents. “I don't think anyone would want to point a gun at another nation or people when their grandchildren have roots there”, says one participant. “I think this can make prejudices melt away!”

This summer, the last piece in the four-country cycle fell into place. Nordic summer conferences began in Sweden in 2019, followed by Norway the following year, and then in Finland in 2022. This year it was Denmark's turn. Judging by the response, it does not seem that this will be the last series of Nordic summer meetings under the auspices of the IofC.


A full report of the conference is available here