New Humanity Movement

Social Harmony and Art

 

Zurich
Here is the right place to live! This is what we are being told from Eschenbach, a Swiss village, south of Zurich, in an enchanting valley, where it is possible to find fun and relax for the whole family. Outdoor excursions and mountain bike tracks, uncontaminated nature and ... much much more! 

 

By Christine Stehli- Zurich

Eschenbach, among fields and woods, pastures and creeks, is situated in a region rich with paths and cycle tracks, that lead to farms and natural beauties. It looks like a vacation spot, just an hour by train from Zurich, where one can breathe fresh air, so that one can say: "Here is the right place to live!" 

Moreover, one would say that this is the right place to live, independently of the age, if one thinks at the courage and enthusiasm of a group of women of the village, organizers of a number of different activities that leave a mark, like looking for the "last ones" among the 5500 inhabitants of the village, and doing something concrete for them. But let us proceed one step at a time.

Brigitte Bucher came back to Eschenbach, after 10 years, with her husband and four sons, who are now adult. Together with her seven friends, they meet regularly to meditate one phrase of the Gospel and share the effects that originate from it, when put into practice. 

Brigitte has the impression that meditating is not enough and, together with her friends, she asks herself what she can concretely do. 

It is Anna Grüsser, who solves the problem: she has just joined the group, and she knows a group of refugees; the structure where they are hosted is a former kindergarten, just in the large school building of the village, but all the same, nobody knows the occupants, and where they come from.

“We have been praying for years, that somebody in the village might take care of the refugees. God has finally fulfilled our prayer!”- This is what Sister Marianne, deaconess of the Reformed Church, and a voluntary collaborator of the Municipality for the refugees, exclaimed: the phone call she received from Brigitte filled her of hope.

It soon becomes apparent the poverty that characterizes the whole structure: the persons that are hosted there, not only need material help, but, above all, warm heartedness, in order to feel that they are at home. One of the first ideas that comes to mind, is to organize a Christmas party.

The preparation starts with a lot of enthusiasm. An announcement with the invitation to the party at “The Ark”, this is the name of the structure, is posted on every door of the village. A Muslim and a Christian together decorate the Christmas tree, kids and boys prepare some Christmas sketches, a person from Ethiopia prepares the readings in English, another one from Africa those in French, and two boys the translations in German. 

Eventually, 52 persons from the village take part to the event with 12 refugees. The mayor is present too, and he gives an envelope with a money offer to Sister Marianne. It is a day of games, music, songs, which all create a joyful family atmosphere, where the language barriers are torn down, and deep and lively dialogues take place. The 12 guests of the structure can then share their experiences, being welcome and listened. It is probably the first time they are fully understood.

After that first meeting, a lot of different events lead Eschenbach inhabitants to be a true family for the refugees hosted at the Ark. Brigitte, Anna, and their friends try and give an answer to the needs of their new friends.

One of them is Habton, from Ethiopia. He is only 25 years old. Due to the political situation of his country, right now, he cannot go back. At the Ark he shares his room with three other men, and all together there are 20 other persons from Eritrea, Congo, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China and Serbia. He has 450 Francs at his disposal for room and board and clothes. Every once in a while he takes a ride by bus, and every month he phones his mother.

“I am happy, because here I can live in peace” - he tells with gratitude - “However, my life here at the Ark consists in sitting and waiting.” Brigitte and all her friends immediately understand what is the most important problem, not only for Habton, but also for many other of his companions.

They would like to be useful, even though they cannot earn any money. Therefore, thanks to their contacts with the Municipality, they can help in cleaning the streets from the snow and in keeping the woods in order. In the mean time Habton, who attends some German classes offered by the Municipality, succeeds in making himself understood, and in expanding the possibilities of contact and friendship with the village people.

One thing leads to another: warm jackets and scarves arrive at the Ark. An African lady receives a dressing gown as a gift, whereas another Congolese lady is given a crib for the kid she is going to give birth to.

Somebody donates 50 Francs in order to provide for the needs of the structure. Whenever there is an emergency, the doctor is called, and bikes are found, so that the guests of the structure can tour the village, without having to pay the bus ticket.

The Christmas party is now much easier to organize: everybody knows everybody else. Flutes, drums, any kind of music is played throughout the building. The kids perform on stage the search of a inn for Jesus, who is going to be born, and everyone gets very emotional. It is Christmas for anyone, beyond culture, religion and language. 

 

© Photo Copyright Jeffrey Keefer, Creative Commons License

 

 

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