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Local News Summary of December, 20th

  • Religious youngsters invade Basel between Christmas and New Year
  • Director of Baselworld optimistic for 2018
  • Prison for thief after fake bomb alert in Pratteln BL 

Religious youngsters invade Basel between Christmas and New Year

Usually between Christmas and New Year the city is like the Marie Celeste. This year, however, a storm will hit Basel: thousands of young people from all over Europe will flock to the region to pray.

The volunteers arrive on 27th December, one day before the Taizé youth gathering. Organisers expect «only» 1,000 people to help out. The big wave of 20,000 people, who are all taking part in the event, follows the next day. Various extra trains and 270 buses will bring thousands of people to Basel. The pilgrimage, organised by the Taizé community in Burgundy, France, wants to promote world peace and the unity of the Christian community.

Roger Schutz, The Swiss founder of the order and the son of a minister, originally wanted to become a writer but fell out with his publisher and instead went to Geneva to study theology. However, his plan to found an order did not go smoothly either and he went as far away from Geneva as possible to achieve this dream. During the Second World War, «frère Roger», along with other theology students, had used his own flat to give shelter to refugees and victims of war.

Only united Christians are strong

Fanned by the idea to unite different Christian faiths and to emphasise what they had in common instead of their differences, he finally founded his own order after the war in the small farming village of Taizé in Burgundy, France. Roger Schutz' thinking was shaped by the war years. His community hid Jews, deserters, and offered services for prisoners of wars in the «zone libre». In the picturesque village of Taizé, the community grew fast.

In the beginning, frère Roger attempted to simplify faith. But soon he distanced himself from the «hippyish» idea that the order did not need a leader. He also «realised» that the evangelical councils are needed to form a community. As a result, he and his fellow brothers vowed to remain celibate, to share goods, and to recognise and serve the prior (elder) as an authority. In 2005, however, during a service attended by 2,500 people, frère Roger was killed. The 90-year-old was stabbed in the back by a «mentally confused» Romanian woman. The tragedy happened in Taizé itself, a place which is a symbol for community, peace, and reconciliation among Christians.

Following his death, the brothers continued to run the monastic order. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people still take part in a pilgrimage to the Burgundy village in order to do pottery and talk with the brothers, of which there are more than 100. 

Silence, singing and a lot of prayers

The Taizé community is coming to Basel on the «Pilgrimage of Trust», which is the 40th youth gathering of its kind. The large evening prayers, attended by people from 45 countries, will take place at the ice rink and the St Jakob Halle. Here, the organisers will distribute 50,000 meals which they hope to have collected within the next two weeks. Finding accommodation for the pilgrims is hard work too and involves the entire region - from Arlesheim to Lörrach and Saint-Louis. Encounters and trust between strangers are in the focus. And these encounters should lead to community and peace.

The Taizé-order does not make it easy for its supporters. There will be prayers at least three times a day. These prayers will last for three hours. A preliminary event took place last week in the Grossmünster in Zurich, with the service starting with a ten-minute silence. After that, a monotone, meditative singing began. This lasted for a long time. The monks from Taizé focus on silence and inner contemplation. Loud praise camps, and trendy and hip independent churches cannot be found here. This can also be read in the message given by the current prior of Taizé, frère Alois: «In order to promote the message we want to gather in prayer more often than before,» he said. «The simple beauty of the common prayer can open us up for the secret of God and lead us to a personal encounter with him.»

And there will be many, many prayers. Including international guests and hosting families, Taizé will move around a 100,000 people between Christmas and New Year. So after Christmas Basel will be contemplative once again.

Director of Baselworld optimistic for 2018

Sylvie Ritter, director of the Baselworld international watch and jewellery fair, has said she is «optimistic» about the March 2018 fair, even if the number of exhibitors is down on last year. The biggest brands will still be part of the fair, she said.

«Taking market shares as a benchmark, not one important exhibitor has abandoned the fair,» Ms Ritter said in an interview with the «Quotidien Jurassien» newspaper on Tuesday. The watch brands exhibiting at Baselworld would represent the vast majority of the Swiss export both in terms of value and numbers, she said.

The director of Baselworld therefore does not fear that they are losing ground against the watch fair SIHH in Geneva. «The two concepts cannot be compared,» Ms Ritter said. On one side, 35 exhibitors from a very specific segment were in Geneva, while on the other side between 600 to 700 exhibitors from the entire branch were in Basel. In comparison, the watch fair in Geneva attracted 1,300 visitors last year, she said.

Prison for thief after fake bomb alert in Pratteln BL

A woman was on Tuesday sentenced to a conditional prison sentence by the Baselland penal court after faking a bomb alert.

The 37-year-old woman, an employee of Möbel Pfister, faked the bomb alert at the company premises in Pratteln in 2015 in an attempt to disguise her theft of thousands of francs from the firm's safe. 

At court yesterday, the former senior manager of the furniture shop was sentenced to 24 months and was put on probation for three years for theft, making a false alarm, terrifying the public, several offences of falsifying documents, and obstruction of course of justice. The woman must also pay back the remaining amount of the money she stole from Möbel Pfister.

The panel of three judges also sentenced the woman to a conditional penalty of 90 daily rates across her probation of three years as well as a fine. She must also pay the legal costs for the legal defence service assigned to her. She was told by the judges that she needs to seek help for her gambling addiction.