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Last updated November 24.

May 11, 2009 issue

Swiss group’s visit continues reconciliation process

By Joanne Hess Siegrist

Nineteen visitors from Switzerland traveled to Pennsylvania and Ohio April 21-May 2 to develop new connections and friendships with North American Mennonites and Amish.

A Swiss tour group visits the 1719 Hans Herr House, a historic Mennonite site at Willow Street, Pa. Nineteen visitors from Switzerland traveled to Pennsylvania and Ohio to develop connections with North American Mennonites and Amish and to continue reconciling Anabaptists and Swiss Reformed.

A Swiss tour group visits the 1719 Hans Herr House, a historic Mennonite site at Willow Street, Pa. Nineteen visitors from Switzerland traveled to Pennsylvania and Ohio to develop connections with North American Mennonites and Amish and to continue reconciling Anabaptists and Swiss Reformed. — Photo by Joanne Hess Siegrist

All tour participants were members of the Swiss Reformed Church, which persecuted Anabaptists for more than a century and drove them from the canton of Zurich by 1650.

The Swiss group came to continue a process of reconciliation and peacebuilding. They visited U.S. sites important to Amish and Mennonites with Swiss roots.

Connections between the Swiss Reformed and U.S. Amish and Mennonites have grown ever since a 2003 conference, “Heal Our Land” in Winterthur, Switzerland; a 2004 “Day of Reconciliation” in Zurich, Switzerland; and Täuferjahr (Anabaptist year) a Swiss national celebration of Anabaptism in 2007.

Many Mennonite tourists have visited the new memorial of Anabaptist martyr Felix Manz at the Limmat River in Zurich and read a new book, Steps to Reconciliation, which contains a statement of regret for the persecution of Anabaptists by the Zurich Reformed Church.

While visiting Lancaster County, Pa., and Holmes County, Ohio, the visitors and their hosts reflected on their different ways of faith and life, while also considering their shared Swiss heritage.

The tour group visited homes, churches, museums, schools, farms and other work places. Many meaningful exchanges occurred through song and conversation. At least 10 host groups received a framed collage showing three sites of Zurich: the Grossmünster (Great Church), the fishing platform where early Anabaptist martyrs were drowned, and the new memorial stone of 2004.

Exchange visits are likely to continue. Both the Swiss and U.S. groups felt a new sense of peace, respect and understanding.

Swiss tour leaders were Peter Dettwiler, ecumenical officer of the Evangelisch-Reformierte Landeskirche des Kantons Zurich, and his wife, Helen.

Comments

  • Thanks to MWR for their fine understanding of the importance of promoting details about this exciting Swiss reconciliation and peace building process. I've collected lots of media material connected to the many happenings within these recent years and I will be pleased to continue passing on the peace.

    While the majority of folks within our global Mennonite church do not hold Swiss roots and... while many of those holding Swiss roots totally celebrate the wonderful, colorful, ethnic varieties within our global faith community, a growing number of persons holding Swiss roots also hold a deep need to build new peacemaking connections with those of the Swiss Reform Church as they now are reaching out to us.

    For many of us we are finding that each of our children hold more than 70 different direct surnames back to Switzerland and the significance of that point is that as we understand our past we are better prepared to understand our present situations for many of us are more Swiss than we initially realized. Best of all, these days hold many faithbuilding opportunities and we pray that God's love, joy, and peace will increase with all involved!

    • USA liaison chair for Swiss Tauferjahr 2007; USA Travel Guide and Coordinator for April 2009 tour - Joanne Hess Siegrist of Bird In Hand, Pa.

    - Joanne Hess Siegrist (may 7 at 3:15 p.m.)

  • Thank you very much for the organisation of this wonderful trip in your country.

    - Häfner-Gutknecht Regula (may 18 at 10:01 a.m.)

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