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We mourn the loss of Ilse Johanna Christiansen

It is with great dismay and deep sorrow that we bid farewell to our dear friend and companion Ilse Johanna Christiansen, who passed away on 15 May 2024. As a member of the Frisian ethnic group in Germany, Ilse Johanna was an indispensable part of the FUEN family for decades, a hands-on optimist who worked tirelessly for the interests of minorities in Europe. Her untimely and unexpected death is a bitter loss for us all.

As a staunch campaigner for the rights of European minorities and a long-standing politician for the South Schleswig Voters' Association (SSW) in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein (Germany), Ilse Johanna revolutionised the entire strategy and working methods of the Frisian minority. Always in a good mood, full of energy and filled with creative ideas, the qualified psychologist and loving mother of two was a driving force behind our work and a source of inspiration for all those who were lucky enough to work with her or know her. She was an exceptionally strong woman who was also a passionate advocate for women's rights within our minority community.

FUEN Vice President Bahne Bahnsen, who also comes from the ranks of the North Frisians, is shocked by the death of his colleague. “It is a shock for all of us and also for me personally that Ilse Johanna has passed away at the prime of her life and at the height of her career. She was the driving force behind the Frisian movement in recent decades. I worked with her for almost 15 years – she was always progressive, creative and had a good sense of humour. Together we have achieved a lot for the North Frisian minority. For example, we managed to establish the Non-Kin State working group under the umbrella of FUEN. With Ilse Johanna's death, I have lost half of my inspiration, energy and progressiveness - together we were 100 per cent, each of us contributed 50 per cent. I will miss her sorely.”

Ilse Johanna's commitment and perseverance were key to the recognition of the Frisian tradition of biike burning as a world heritage site and the establishment of a functional Friisk Stifting (Frisian Foundation) to promote the language, art and culture of the Frisians. For ten years, she also served as vice-chair of the Friisk Foriining (Frisian Association) and was later elected president of the Frasche Rädj (Frisian Council) - Northern Section and chair of the Inter-Frisian Council. She was also a member of the Minority Council of the four recognised minorities in Germany.

Full of drive, Ilse Johanna worked tirelessly for FUEN and the participation of the Frisian ethnic group in the European context. She taught us to think and act across borders. A FUEN congress without Ilse Johanna? Unthinkable! We remember, as if it were yesterday, how her eyes shone with joy and pride after the FUEN delegates agreed to organise our annual congress in Husum/Hüsem in North Frisia in September 2024. Ilse also always supported the idea of organising EUROPEADA 2024 in the German-Danish border region. The fact that she will no longer be able to experience these two major FUEN events in her home region herself fills us with immense sadness.

FUEN President Loránt Vincze also mourns our deceased friend: “Ilse Johanna Christiansen was always a welcome presence at FUEN’s events. Her enthusiasm and passion was overwhelming, as was her deep sense for truth. She was always able to cheer us up, but her light-hearted attitude was just her way to direct more attention to her beloved minority, the North Frisians. 2024 was supposed to be a great year for both her and for the Frasche Rädj seksjoon nord, as they would be one of the hosts of EUROPEADA, and the 75 year anniversary FUEN Congress, which will take place in Husum/Hüsem! She will be deeply missed not only at the EUROPEADA and the Congress, but at all of FUEN’s events for years to come. May she rest in peace!“

With Ilse Johanna's death, we have lost an enthusiastic advocate for the concerns of the North Frisians in Germany and all minorities in Europe, a visionary and a dear colleague. Her legacy will live on in the numerous projects and initiatives she launched. Our thoughts are with her family in these difficult hours, who feel this loss most deeply.

Dear Ilse Johanna, we will miss you very much and will always honour your memory. Rest in peace.


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