Communication is his passion as well as his profession but it is not so much the world of mass media that his forte rather the more “behind the scenes” communication that flows from a deep knowledge and wide experience of working in multi-lingual situations.

To those attending ecumenical meetings for the first time, Karsten Fledelius is easily recognizable. He is the one with the fuzzy hair and the equally fuzzy beard. A communicator in every sense, Karsten is an Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen, where he lectures in Media, Cognition and Communications. He is a Lutheran layman, who at the 13th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), currently meeting in Lyon, France, is representing the Baptist Church of Denmark – indeed a sign of an ecumenical heart.

Karsten worships at Copenhagen Cathedral and it was from that centre that he became involved in the ecumenical world as part of a group from the diocese concerned with international affairs. He first came to know CEC in 1991 when he attended the Nordic preparation meeting for CEC’s 1992 Prague Assembly at which he was later a delegates of the Danish Church.

It was at that Assembly that his expertise in Orthodoxy and his linguistic abilities began to impress themselves on CEC. The situation in the Balkans was already cause for concern, and as Karsten is fluent in both Russian and Serbian he became invaluable to CEC during the period of the Balkan conflict.

Karsten already had experience in that part of the world as he had studied in Yugoslavia. He was no stranger to either the churches or the politics of the area. This experience made him a natural for participation on numerous delegations and meetings, when continuing efforts were being made by the CEC and its member churches to find ways of reconciliation in the terrible bloodshed that saddened the European continent.

How is it that a Dane is so motivated? Karsten tells of the long association of Denmark with Orthodoxy, even to the extent that some Danish hymns are translations from the Byzantine tradition. His interests though are much wider than just church relationships. He is the current chair of the Danish-Russian Friendship Society, so the absence of the Russian Orthodox Church from the Lyon Assembly is particularly painful for him. He is also chair of the Danish-Southern Slav Friendship Society, a group that relates to all the countries in the western Balkan region. Recently he became the President of the Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights.

Karsten tells how all these activities fit into his professional life working with the dissemination of ideas of mass communications. He has been able, for example, to show the influence of religion as he lectures to the Danish Royal Defense Academy, and among his current projects is trying to analyze why and how Yugoslavia broke down.

At the Trondheim Assembly in 2003 Karsten was his church’s nomination to stand again for membership of the CEC Central Committee, a position that he had reveled in for the previous six years. But in the ensuing debate that constantly swirls around such nominations he sacrificed his position in favour of a younger person, surely a sign of a big heart and a visionary approach to ecumenical life. His abilities were however not lost as he became a member of the Commission of Church and Society where he has played an important role using all his skills both in language and diplomacy to further the ecumenical cause.

 

By Robin Gurney