Taizé meeting in Basel finished on New Year
Prayers instead of fireworks: The 40th ecumenical Taizé youth gathering came to an end in Basel on New Year. About 20,000 young people met for five days to set a mark for dialogue between religions and cultures.
The young participants arrived in Basel from all over the world, particularly from Poland and the Ukraine. “Once you are back home, let us all overcome barriers, talk to people who think differently, and build bridges,” prior Frère Alois said during the last evening prayer on Sunday.
The young believers started their journeys home on Monday after a last lunch with their host families. The 2017 Taizé meeting (which was joined by the Bishop of Basel Felix Gmür) began on Thursday evening, 28 December, with a first communal prayer in the Basel St Jakob stadium.
The friars of the Taizé order have organised conferences for young people between 18 and 35 years of age for the last four decades. Communal prayers and exchanges of beliefs and age-related questions form part of the programme.
The participants stayed with host families, in flat shares, and with single people in the Basel region. Some groups also slept in church buildings. People from a total of 45 countries took part in the meeting.
Trust instead of isolation
This year’s conference was about how to combat the spread of fear and isolation in the world – Taizé focused on happiness and trust to reach out to those who took part. Frère Alois stated that this was a crucial step for societies which are increasingly suspicious of one another.
Because of this, the conference also had a political dimension. The young people create a network which can help to gain a better understanding between different European countries.
The first Taizé meeting took place in Paris in 1978. The annual event is organised by an ecumenical friars’ community based in Taizé in Eastern France. Basel is the second Swiss city (after Geneva in 2007) to host the meeting.
For 2018, the friars’ community is inviting young people to join them for Taizé in Madrid.
Busy night for Basel’s emergency services during New Year celebrations
It was a busy start to the year for Basel’s police and paramedics. The police were called to 178 emergencies over New Year’s Eve (compared to 118 in 2017) and 58 operations (compared to 74 last New Year). The paramedics were called out a total of 43 times (compared to 36 times last year) – mostly because of alcohol-related incidents. Basel’s fire fighters had to respond to 8 emergency call-outs.
Tens of thousands celebrated the new year in Basel in a peaceful and civilised manner, the Department of Justice and Security (JSD) reported on Monday. Thousands witnessed the 21-minute fireworks on the Rhine after midnight, even though it began to rain heavily 10 minutes before the start at 12.30am.
Many people overestimated their drinking capabilities or did not take into account the potency of some drugs – 19 of 43 paramedic calls related to intoxication. Noise, arguments and fights also kept the police busy until the early morning hours.
As with last year, some people also gathered in the St Johann area to form an unauthorised protest march.. On their way to Kleinbasel until Hirscheneck, the group sprayed slogans on walls and obstructed public transport, the JSD stated.
Around 1am, the police also received a call that a building in Schwarzwaldallee 269 had been taken over by masked demonstrators. The old apartment building had been vacated after a two-and-half year occupation period in August 2017.
Police forces prevented the building becoming re-occupied. Basel’s fire fighters then secured the building temporarily, the JSD further informed. According to a JSD statement, there were no violent confrontations.
However, some rubbish bins were set on fire and caused property damage in the adjacent neighbourhood – Basel’s authorities believe that the would-be-occupants had started the fires.