Caux is the Place
01 October 2005

The guns of the Second World War had fallen silent at last. Battered nations dreamed of peace. Philippe Mottu, a young Swiss diplomat, had formed links with the German resistance during the war. As he searched for an answer, he sensed that the moment for reconciliation would come and he wrote, ‘Caux is the place’. At the age of 33 he launched his friends on a mad venture of international reconciliation: starting with buying a huge abandoned hotel in the Swiss village of Caux. Caux is perched high above Montreux, overlooking the Lake of Geneva, about one and a half hours from Geneva itself. Since 1946, the ‘Caux conferences’ have been held in the former hotel which belongs to the international movement, Initiatives of Change.

On Caux’s agenda are the main concerns of the day and a search for solutions. In 1946 the first Germans allowed to leave their country after the war came to Caux. Over the next years, they came in their thousands and met equal numbers of French, British and Americans, as well as Japanese and their former enemies in Asia—all playing a part in reconstruction. Caux had a role in the pursuit of just solutions to tense industrial relations in Europe and Brazil in the Fifties, and as African nations moved towards independence in that decade and the next.

The search for values in new democracies in Eastern and Central Europe; racial healing in cities of the United States and Britain; the exploration of common ground in inter-religious dialogue have all been tackled openly in the framework of the Caux conferences. It was at Caux, too, that the idea was born of this year’s meeting in Brussels of ‘100 imams and 100 rabbis’, which will be repeated in Spain in 2006.

More than 1,400 people from 70 countries took part in this summer’s five conferences, under the general theme of ‘Narrowing the gap between ideals and practice’. They included delegations from the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region of Africa; indigenous representatives from Canada, Sweden and Australia; students from every continent; religious leaders and complete families. Europeans of every nationality and background explored common values on which they could unite. Journalists from Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo examined the contribution journalism could make to reconciliation. Somalis of different clans relearned how to talk to one another.

Next year the Caux conferences will celebrate their 60th anniversary. And the agenda is fuller than ever.