By John Bond
76 years ago, a derelict hotel in Montreux, Switzerland overlooking Lake Geneva, was bought by families and individuals associated with The Oxford Group, turning it into an international conference centre. Just over 75 years later, on April 7th 2023, IofC UK was happy to host the launch of recently published book 75 Years of Stories. A collection of individuals’ experiences of Caux and its profound effect on them, one story for every year, from 1946 to 2021.
Many have contributed to the writing of 75 Years of Stories, but no more so than Mary Lean. She, along with other contributing authors, John Bond, Michael Smith, and Elisabeth Tooms, Vice-President of the Council of IofC Switzerland were the guests of honour at the event and addressed a room of the IofC network who came to join us at Greencoat Place.
The idea for 75 Years of Stories came to Mary Lean from a young Lebanese woman, Yara Zgheib. Yara came to Caux in 2010 and later reflected that during this time she was ‘a shipwreck of a girl, angry, tired and grieving.’ Like many others, her time at Caux changed her life. She writes: ‘The wars inside me went quiet. The place taught me to breathe, to see others and myself. By the time I left, I felt so light I could have flown to Montreux.’
Yara herself is a critically acclaimed novelist. Mary recalls ‘She proposed that we should commemorate Caux’s 75th anniversary in 2021 by posting a story on the IofC Switzerland website for each year since Caux began its present role – a story of someone who came to Caux that year and what happened as a result. A group of us decided to make it happen.” Flash forward to today, and the book is now available to purchase on our website.
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, Caux has been closed for three years. This book is a celebration of the future and the continuing work planned for the year ahead. John Bond spoke of the upcoming Caux Forum, where he is currently developing the first session on ‘Healing the wounds of the past’, at which an opening speaker will be Elena Zhemkova, co-founder of Memorial, the Russian organisation which has revealed the hidden history of persecution in her country through the last 100 years and was awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize – ‘a fitting opening,’ John said, ‘since the first step in healing wounds is to reveal the truth.’
He was followed by Claude Bourdin from France, one of those responsible for the second session of the Caux Forum, on ‘Trust and Integrity in Democracy’. This conference will bring together a wide range of people active in the struggle for the integrity which is fundamental to democratic governance.
Reflecting on this event, it can be seen as a celebration. A celebration of the history of Caux, but also of what is yet to come.
Order your copy of the book today HERE.
To learn more about the Caux Forum, click HERE.