500th Reformation anniversary events launched in Geneva with massive truck unveiled

(Photo: © Peter Williams / WCC)The Reformation Truck unveiled in Geneva, Switzerland on 4 November 2016.

A series of events to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation started in Geneva with the unveiling of a truck in "the city of peace" and the "city of [Jean] Calvin," in a a tack that aims to use the past to propel ways to influence the present.

By unveiling the engaging Reformation truck in a Geneva city park, events marking the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation were launched Nov. 4.

The Reformation truck will travel from Geneva to 67 Reformation cities in 19 countries and was unveiled at the international launch.

The ecumenical spirit of the commemoration of half a millennium since the Reformation had begun at the begining of the week in Lund, Sweden.

There Pope Francis shared the altar with Lutheran leaders Bishop Munib Younan and Rev. Martin Junge,

The start of the year-long pilgrimage of teaching and historical education in Geneva is in a city that welcomed the World Council of Churches since its first, preparatory offices were opened in 1939, said Rev. Olav Fkse Tveit, who leads the WCC.

"Among some, especially in the circles of Reformed Protestants, Geneva is sometimes called 'the city of Calvin'," after the Protestant Reformer Jean Calvin who died in the Swiss city in 1564.

"In the early years of the Reform, Geneva also began to be called 'the city of refuge' as it offered shelter to French Huguenots and other oppressed minorities," said Tveit.


Due to being regarded as a peace city, Geneva was chosen as the first of 67 stops for the "storymobile," loaded with testimonies and interactive experiences related to the Reformation.

Switzerland's Home Affairs minister, Alain Berset described the Reformation as being "a movement whose spiritual, cultural, societal and political influence has shaped large parts of the globe for half a millennium."

He noted the role played by Switzerland in the Reformation, which lead to a breakaway from the church of Rome that pitted Catholics and Protestants against one another for centuries, even triggering international conflicts.

"Switzerland was one of the epicenters of this spiritual and social earthquake." Berset said calling for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation to be celebrated inter-denominationally. It should be used to deepen dialogue, as there is much more that unites Protestants and Catholics than divides them, he said.

The choice of Geneva as the first stop for Reformation roadmap is a great honor for the city, stated Francois Longchamp, president Geneva's State Council.

"Geneva owes its values to a Protestant culture based on hospitality, attention, simplicity, rigor and a strong work ethic.

"It owes not only its economic strength to the Reformation, but also its spiritual influence and, to a great extent, its humanism to the movement as well", said Longchamp.

Gottfried Locher, president of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, said during the ceremony, "The Reformation inspired hearts and minds, and changed the world. And that is what we are celebrating."

With the notion that all people are equal before God, the Reformation has spurred the triumphant global march of democracy - and Switzerland and all Europe has benefitted vastly from this movement, he said.

However, "the meaning of Reformation remains unchanged: to translate the word of God into the language of the people."

Locher said the Reformers of 500 years ago were not looking to create a schism within the Church, but simply to renew the existing Church.

For the Federation of Churches, what counts most is not Luther's posting of his theses 500 years ago, but rather to reflect on what the Reformation means to the generations of today and tomorrow.

"Think open – act free – believe anew," is the slogan that the Church seeks, he said.

The Reformation truck, which will pass through 19 countries, highlights the fact that the Reformation is a global citizen", commented Chairman of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm.

The Reformation truck will stop for 36 hours in each city in order to present the local history of the Reformation.

The final destination is the German city of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther lived and worked, and where the World Reformation Exhibition – Gates of Freedom opens on May 20, 2017. Switzerland will be present with an artistic concept.

(Photo: LWF)
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