Bernese Anabaptist Exodus commemoratedBy Mennonite Weekly Review staff
LIESTAL, Switzerland — The Bienenberg Theological Seminary will hold a historical colloquium about the Bernese Anabaptist Exodus Sept. 1-2 in Liestal.
July 13 marked the 300th anniversary of the culmination of the great Bernese Anabaptist Exodus, when local authorities expelled more than 350 men, women and children from the canton.
According to a Bienenberg news release, this expulsion, which included both Amish and non-Amish groups, was the largest mass migration in the history of Swiss Anabaptism.
Bienenberg professor of church history and ethics Hanspeter Jecker said the Anabaptist expulsion of 1711 represented the culmination of a series of efforts by Bernese authorities to make the territory free of Anabaptists. In a 1709 meeting the Bernese cantonal parliament said it hoped to “pull this [Anabaptist] weed out of the ground completely.”
Dutch Mennonites heard about the situation, and prompted the Dutch government to intervene on behalf of the Bernese Anabaptists.
On July 13, 1711, amnesty was granted to 350 men, women and children, who traveled north in five boats heading for Basel and the Netherlands.
Some stayed in the Netherlands. Others settled in the Palatinate in Germany, and others eventually returned to Switzerland. Such a mass exodus gained Europe-wide attention and triggered a debate about appropriate ways to deal with minority populations.
“In the fight against the Anabaptists, the political and church authorities worked together most closely,” Jecker said. “Bailiff and pastor were central figures in the enforcement of governmental measures.”
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