In 1940, amid the terrors of World War II, Brother Roger (1915-2005) established an ecumenical community in the Burgundian village of Taizé, France. The purpose of this ministry was conciliation through the power of the Gospel between warring nations, alienated generations, and different faith communities. When suffering from tuberculosis as a youth, Brother Roger felt the desire “to create a community where simplicity and kind-heartedness would be lived out as essential Gospel realities.” During the war years, the community assisted numerous refugees, among them many Jews. Afterwards, the Taizé community grew and reached out to people facing poverty and oppression in various parts of the world. From 1962 brothers and young volunteers went to Eastern Europe to offer encouragement to fellow Christians. They operated discreetly in order not to endanger the people they visited. Aside from these activities, other brothers live in fraternities among the destitute of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Furthermore, the community has, from its very beginning, equipped community centers for families in need, drawing families from Europe (most recently from Bosnia), Asia (Vietnam) and Africa (Rwanda) to come to live in Taizé.
Today, the community itself consists of some one hundred brothers from both Catholic and Protestant origins and representing more than twenty-five nationalities. Apart from this core community, Taizé also organizes international meetings as part of its ‘pilgrimage of trust on earth’. At these meetings, participants are encouraged to become peacemakers and trust bearers for all generations in their communities. The Taizé community is internationalist in its outlook and welcomes people and traditions from around the world. This is reflected in their multilingual songs and prayers, which also include elements from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Thousands of young people from across the globe visit Taizé for inspiration, reflection and preparation for responsibilities in their own communities.