This year, thanks to a grant from Aid to the Church in Need, donations from friends, and much digging around in the back of the sofa at the youth house to see if a few coins had slipped down behind the cushions, we were able to send a small group of young people from Bethlehem to Taizé in France. Taizé is an interchurch Christian community dedicated to peace and reconciliation, created at the beginning of the Second World War as a place where, in the words of the founder, “heartfelt kindness and simplicity would be at the centre of everything”. The community began with just two people, Brother Roger and his sister Genevieve, who opened their doors to Jewish refugees and other persecuted people who were fleeing the Nazis.
Today thousands of people come to Taizé every year, where the main focus is on building trust between people, starting with the youth. They have worked in many places where there has been war and bloodshed. One of the young people who went from our group is a Muslim (we take a Three Musketeers approach at our youth group – all for one and one for all, with all activities being open to whoever wants to pitch in) and it’s a testament to how welcoming Taizé is that he felt completely comfortable and accepted there in the middle of Ramadan. He was one of the people interviewed for a French TV station during the pilgrimage.
All our teenagers had such a moving experience there (despite their initial horror at the, um, simplicity of the food…) that they all want to return and some are planning to try and go back as long-term volunteers. Other members of the youth group are keen to go for the first time. We’re hoping to make this a regular trip, incorporating it into our interfaith and community peace work. For this we need donations. We are a small group and the backs of the sofas do not always yield a plentiful harvest. You can contribute here. Last year we cobbled together the money for this thing shekel by shekel, so every donation really does help!