Swiss group’s visit continues reconciliation processBy 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.
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.
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