Bern Appeal 1969-2019: An anniversary mobilising the Swiss communities

Bern Appeal 1969-2019: An anniversary mobilising the Swiss communities

Fifty years after Abbé Pierre’s appeal founding the international Emmaus movement, companions of the Swiss Confederation are preparing to receive guests from around the globe for this celebration.

Recently elected chair of Emmaus Switzerland, François Mollard, reviewed the founding texts of the movement last autumn. “And suddenly it jumped out at me: the 50th anniversary of the appeal which established Emmaus International was imminent, and it was in Switzerland that this adventure began!On 24th May 1969, Abbé Pierre launched the international movement from the platform in the Federal Parliament in Bern, in the presence of 150 delegates mainly from communities in Europe and Latin America, but also from India and Lebanon. “A clear sign”, François Mollard states happily. “It became clear to me that we had to celebrate this exceptional event in line with the message delivered at the time, to renew its foundation at a time when international solidarity is needed more than ever.”

The chair’s proposal was immediately welcomed by Emmaus International’s Executive Committee, and the Swiss teams set to work. The first success, which was virtually a must: the prestigious Federal Parliament in Bern, the seat of the highest offices in the land (council, parliament and government), was offered to the Emmaus movement for the day of the anniversary, Friday 24th May 2019.What a boost to our motivation“, Jérémie Udry states. “You can feel the buzz in every Swiss community.” (1) As a companion of Emmaus Valais and a member of the working group which prepared the meeting, he openly admits that this event led him to discover this episode in the movement’s history, and in particular that it had taken place in Switzerland. “This is a unique opportunity to strengthen ties between us and to enable our Swiss companions to meet, which is rarely possible.”

All the communities will be closed on that day, and coaches have been arranged to allow as many people as possible to take part in the Swiss federal capital. After the commemorative speeches made in the splendour of the Parliament, an Emmaus tent village will be built in Waisenhausplatz square. The local population will be invited to share a free meal and to discuss the work of welcoming others and the value placed on waste material by the movement. Nicolas Duborgel, member of the working group, welcomes this initiative which will offer companions the opportunity to get directly involved in the event, although he doesn’t expect that the whole community in Geneva, where he is an assistant leader, will be able to travel to Bern. “However, those registered will appreciate this outing, and they have shown their interest in find out more about the international movement.”

In Bern, it’s all hands on deck. A dozen people have been busy for weeks repainting and preparing the premises. The community will act as a welcoming platform for about 100 companions from the most remote regions in the country. Created in 2017, it is the youngest member in the country, and furthermore it is the only one established in the German-speaking area of Switzerland. “This anniversary is a stroke of luck for us”, group leader, Isabelle Müller emphasises. Not only for people in Bern to meet each other, but also for the rest of the movement in Switzerland and beyond.”

Patrick Piro
(1) Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Jura, La Chaux de Fonds, Lausanne, Tessin, Valais, Zurich