Keynote Speakers

The confirmed keynote speakers of the conference are:

Irja Askola – “God’s most beautiful word is welcome”


Bishop Irja Askola was born  in the small Finnish town Lappeenranta next to the Russian border. She started her theological studies at the University of Helsinki 1971 and continued them as an academic research assistant until 1981.

She has studied also in Germany, USA and Tanzania. From 1991 until 1999 she worked in Geneva as an executive secretary for Conference of European Churches.

She is an active writer and has published for example seven poem books. Irja Askola was elected to  bishop  of  Helsinki diocese 2010. She is the first female bishop in Finland.

Dirk De Wachter –  “The Concepts of Care  acc.  to  the   philosophy of Emanuel Levinas”

Prof. Dirk De Wachter is a psychiatrist, psychotherapist and lecturer at the Catoholic Univerxity of Leuven, Belgium as well as Head of system and family therapy at the Academic Psychiatric Center Leuven.

In Borderline Timespsychiatrist Dirk De Wachter establishes a sharp diagnosis of today’s society: we live in borderline times. Impulsiveness, affective lability, emptiness … are not only individual symptoms, but also features of a broader, collective evolution. In his diagnosis Dirk De Wachter assigns great value to literature, philosophy and art. Dirk De Wachter Museum examines the way contemporary art represents today’s society and the current time, and reveals the shortcomings and possibilities in its own language.

The book Borderline Times and its author have been receiving a great deal of attention. That says a lot about the difficulties to which the psychiatrist’s work refers, but also about his own place in society. Dirk De Wachter Museum zooms in on the phenomenon of Dirk De Wachter and sheds light on other famous psychiatrists throughout history, who have entered the public stage, adopted a critical attitude towards society and considered art as an indispensable link. (

Publicaties: Stress, trauma en dissociatie 2007, Borderline Times. 2012 and Lifde. Een onmogelijk verlangen? 2014.

Lisbeth Gustafsson – “Ecce homo Dialogue as theological practice”


Lisbeth Gustafsson is a former news journalist and Managing editor of the Department of religion at the Swedish Television (Public Service). She has been vice General Secretary of the Study Association Bilda. Today she works as Assistant Director of Katarina Parish in Stockholm. In 2015 she received the title of Honorary Doctor of Theology at Uppsala University.

Antti Pentikäinen – “Defining humanity in front of violence and terror”



Antti Pentikäinen, Executive Director of the Secretariat and Convener of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers – and Special Envoy for the Prime Minister of Finland for the Migration Crisis Mr. Antti Pentikäinen has extensive mediation experience in conflict zones and a long history of humanitarian work, including cooperation with UN agencies. He has been leading efforts to reach out to insurgencies in several conflict zones. In 1999, as head of the European Student Unions, he supported Kosovo students and Serbian peace activists during the war in Kosovo. He became an Advisor to Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, co-founded the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) where he led its finance and administration division. He became the Assistant Secretary General of the Helsinki Process, an initiative of the governments of Finland and Tanzania, which aimed to improve global governance. In 2004, he became Executive Director of Finn Church Aid (FCA), Finland’s largest development agency providing humanitarian aid to more than 1,5 million people daily. During his leadership, FCA implemented conflict programs in a number of fragile states, and assisted traditional and religious communities to advance peace and development. He has also served during 2010-2011 as Conflict Transformation Director of Religions for Peace. Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipilä appointed Mr. Pentikäinen as his Special Envoy for the Migration Crisis in addressing the root causes. More information about the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers: