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FARMING

Huge park and urban farm to be created in Geneva by 2021

A park of more than eight hectares will be constructed in Bernex on the outskirts of Geneva, by 2021.

Huge park and urban farm to be created in Geneva by 2021
A drawing of the proposed park and farm. Image: Canton of Geneva
The project, announced by the Geneva cantonal government on Tuesday, will begin construction this month, aiming to transform the area between the Bernex park and ride and Chemin des Tacons into an urban green space the size of central Geneva’s Eaux-Vives park. 
 
The as yet unnamed development will include a children’s play area, a vast area for outdoor leisure activities, walkways, cycle tracks and shaded areas created by the planting of 200 trees. 
 
It will also include an urban farm with vegetable plots and orchards managed by locals, the idea being to “bring city dwellers closer to the countryside,” according to a cantonal press release. Products from the farm will be sold at a market. 
 
Aiming to promote biodiversity, the green space will provide a welcoming environment for birds, hedgehogs and other small animals, said the statement.
 
Estimated at 13 million francs, the new park forms part of the development of the area, which will include the building of 1,600 homes in the next few years. 
 
“This park responds to the local population’s growing need for access to public green spaces,” said Geneva councillor Antonio Hodgers. “It is particularly important to act where new homes are planned, like here in Bernex.”
 
Construction is expected to take two years, with the park therefore scheduled to open in summer 2021.

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GENEVA

‘Witch hunt’: Lake Geneva baptism ban infuriates evangelicals

The Swiss canton of Geneva has banned baptisms in the waters of Lake Geneva organised by evangelical churches -- a decision they branded a "witch hunt".

'Witch hunt': Lake Geneva baptism ban infuriates evangelicals

The canton — comprising the city of Geneva and its hinterland that forms the western end of the lake — took the step on July 8, amid a backdrop of debates around secularism.

“It’s an abuse of authority,” Jean-Francois Bussy, president of the Evangelical Federation of the neighbouring canton of Vaud, told AFP.

Baptisms in Lake Geneva are permitted in Vaud, which covers the rest of the lake’s northern shore.

“We have had no complaints in the canton of Vaud, which is much more liberal at this level than Geneva, which in my opinion applies fundamentalist secularism and a quite detestable witch hunt,” said Bussy, who heads the Vaud branch of the Swiss Evangelical Network in French-speaking western Switzerland that has around 40,000 members.

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Among the Swiss confederation’s 26 cantons, Geneva and Neuchatel are the only two secular ones.

The separation of church and state has been enshrined in Geneva law for more than a century.

Geneva is nevertheless famous for having welcomed the French theologian Jean Calvin in 1536, who made the city a bastion of the Protestant Reformation, and whose statue stands against the old town’s city walls.

“Baptism is a religious service”, said the Geneva authorities, while the canton “has established the principle whereby religious events take place in private”, therefore excluding the shores and public beaches of Lake Geneva.

“Only organisations permitted to have relations with the state can request authorisation for a public religious event” — and the two evangelical parishes concerned are not among them, the authorities added.

To get on that list, organisations must undertake to exclude acts of physical or psychological violence, spiritual abuse as well as discrimination on the basis of ethnic or national origin and sexual or gender identity.

According to Bussy, “it is not very clear what motivates the cantonal authority to ban events like this which do not contravene public order”, constituting a “peaceful example of a laudable religious practice”.

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