The Future Is a Distant Shore - National Refugee Day

By Maycock, Kendall | The World and I, December 2002 | Go to article overview

The Future Is a Distant Shore - National Refugee Day


Maycock, Kendall, The World and I


On a hot summer day last June, over a thousand people--asylum seekers and refugees from several countries, aid workers, sympathizers, and human rights advocates--took a short voyage across Lake Lucerne aboard two paddle steamers. They were celebrating Switzerland's National Refugee Day. Their journey was a media-friendly event intended to advertise the plight of refugees within Switzerland. Unfortunately, the country, not unlike its European neighbors, is turning sour on the idea of an increase in foreigners within its borders.

On board, the people were handed glasses of white wine and entertained by music from accordians and alpenhorns. The boats were headed for Rutli, which lies at the northern end of Lake Uri, the eastern extension of Lake Lucerne. The destination was suitably chosen. It was here, in 1291, that representatives of the three forest cantons solemnly swore to uphold a mutual assistance pact. The treaty signed that day in the meadow of Rutli marks the birth of the Swiss Confederation.

The signers reputedly took their cue from the legend of the heroic William Tell. …

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