By Esther R. Suter*
Young adults from more than 60 countries gathered in Basel for the 40th annual Taizé European Meeting of Young Adults from 28 December - 1 January. As part of a new stage of the Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth, the meeting took place for the first time in a tri-national region (Switzerland, Germany, France).
Within the last 40 years these meetings have assembled, collectively, around two million young adults. This year, around 17,000 arrived in Basel after Christmas. Nearly 5,000 young people were from Poland and 2,800 were from Ukraine. Some Polish participants said they wanted to experience intercultural contacts and exchange as a way out of a policy of xenophobia in their country, which worries them.
In his various speeches, Brother Alois, prior of the Taizé Community, introduced four proposals for 2018 which are based on various experiences from recent visits to Sudan, South Sudan and Egypt. They are focused around “inexhaustible joy”.
Speaking about unity among Christians, he said: “As Christians of different churches, we should have the audacity to turn together towards Christ and, without waiting for our theologies to be completely in tune, to ‘put ourselves under the same roof’… to enter into this process, we can begin by thanking God for the gifts of others.”
A parish offered morning workshops on the Bible and art, led by two artists and two women pastors; the daily Bible texts were expressed in art (painting, collage, plaster and clay).
One participant, Maximilian, from Ukraine, explained his work (a plastic cup containing a newspaper, a pencil and scissors).
In Ukraine, people are deprived of their language. He as a person has no more a language to be recognized. So he cut out words and stuck them on other words, words over words without sense. He has to find a new language. In crumpling up the newspaper he set a sign for the corruption in his country. He put it into a cup together with the scissors as a sign of aggression.
Joy, as announced by Brother Alois, is the main subject for 2018 in the coming Taizé meetings in Ukraine (April), Hong Kong (August), Graz, Austria (October) and finally at the end of 2018 in Madrid.
WCC general secretary sends greetings to Taizé gathering (WCC press release of 28 December 2017)
*Esther R. Suter is a theologian, pastor and freelance journalist from Basel, Switzerland, with extensive experience in covering stories about global, regional and local ecumenism.