Pilgrimage to places of reconciliation

During the weekend delegates, guests and participants of the General Assembly were sent on pilgrimages to different places in the Baden Church and neighboring churches. On Saturday they sent me to Kehl and Straßburg and today to the village of Wiesenbach. For a long time, the Germans and the French were hostile to each other. The wars became more and more cruel and culminated in the 2nd World War. The Élysée Treaty ended the „German-French hereditary enmity“ on 22.01.1963 and is considered the birth of the „German-French friendship“. At that time, people were convinced that an approximation could not only be achieved through political actions or treaties between the two states, but that the idea had to take shape in daily life through regular encounters, town twinning and a youth exchange.

Directly on the border between Kehl and Strasbourg, a new district is being built in the „Port du Rhin“ neighborhood, which will then be home to around 20,000 people. Kehl and Strasbourg are growing even closer together. More than 2,000 French citizens now live in Kehl as well. The Protestant Churches of Baden and of Elsass are taking up the challenge of helping to shape coexistence in the border region and making their contribution. For the first time in their history, they have launched a joint pastoral work for this purpose and are developing and renovating the „Chapelle de la Rencontre“ (Chapel of Encounters) where the work will be placed.

The Chapel was built in 1948, shortly after the end of the war, as a project of reconciliation. It is located on the Franco-German border, in Strasbourg’s Rhine port district, near the Europe Bridge.

„The ‚Chapelle de la Rencontre‘ (Chapel of Encounter) is more than a building: It is a bilingual and cross-border project. Two Protestant churches from two countries, Germany and France, want to promote the encounter between people from bank to bank of the Rhine. A team from Strasbourg and Kehl invites to concerts, exhibitions and devotions. The chapel is an open meeting space where people of other denominations and religions are also welcome. Stories from the Bible and from other traditions are especially pleasing to children’s ears.
We are aware of the painful past that has divided countries and people. That is why we work for reconciliation, overcome borders and pray for peace.“

(quoted from the homepage of the deanery of Kehl: https://www.evangelische-ortenau.de/oekumene-deutsch-franzoesisch/oekumenisches-kirchenprojekt-chapelle-de-la-rencontre-strasbourg-kehl/

Together we made this pilgrimage on the path of reconciliation from the city of Kehl, crossing the river Rhine by the „Passerelle des Deux Rives“ (bridge of the two riverbanks) to the Chapelle de la Rencontre.

Today the pilgrimage brought us to the village of Wiesenbach. This weekend the village is celebrating the yearly local fair commemorating the consecration of the church.

They celebrated an ecumenical service together with representatives from the Hungarian and French twin cities and we again heard about the importance of  reconciliation between the Germans and French  through encounters.

The village is famous for it‘s initiatives to reconcile with the nature. This is supported not only by the local Protestant and Catholic congregation but by the whole of the people and the local government. They plan to become an energy neutral village; they have projects for planting trees and to keep the diversity of fruit trees (especially apple trees). They have special awareness programs for young people and we learnt how the local wildlife is affected by the climate change.

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