The day in Chautauqua began by greeting the rising sun.

At six in the morning on August 12, a group of tourists gathered.

Together they paddled out in kayaks onto the lake that gave the town in the southwestern tip of New York State its name.

Chautauqua is a word from the language of the natives who were fought and driven out by white settlers.

Since no one speaks this language as a mother tongue anymore, one does not know exactly what the name of the lake means.

According to one translation suggestion, perhaps nothing more than sea, from the universalistic aspect of its usefulness for people: Chautauqua, which means "place from which one takes fish".

There was probably no time for fishing during the high-summer ritual of secular sun worship.

After returning from the lake, the participants of the expedition could buy material for breakfast at the farmers' market, whose stalls start selling at seven o'clock.

During the morning there were spiritual gatherings for almost every taste.

At 7:45 a.m. there was an invitation to a meditation class and to the Eucharistic celebration of the Episcopal Church at the same time.

An hour later, the Holy Mass of the Catholics followed.

Five minutes into the schedule just before 9 a.m. was set aside for a communal prayer for peace through compassion.

A conversation about shelters for writers

Then, at 10:45 am, the 4,000-seat auditorium in the main building of the Chautauqua Institution hosted the talks featuring the world-renowned guest speaker.

Salman Rushdie was scheduled to speak about the importance of creating safe havens for writers who are being persecuted and threatened with death.

Henry Reese, who sat on the podium with Rushdie, used the fortune he made as the founder of a call-center empire to set up a foundation in Pittsburgh that provides such an infrastructure: an asylum for writers.

According to American custom, the star guest's appearance was limited to exactly 75 minutes.

Not out of consideration for Rushdie: all the other participants also wanted to do something else with the rest of the day.

Rushdie and Reese had just taken their seats on stage when a man from the audience lunged at Rushdie to stab him with a knife.

Rushdie was injured so badly it's uncertain if he survives.

The act was described by politicians and representatives of writers' associations as an attack on all of us, on life in freedom.

It's a truism that's nonetheless true, in Chautauqua too, in a very definite, graphic, and tangible sense.

The perpetrator could have watched his victim anywhere.

He had bought a ticket.

With the same modest financial investment, he could have secured himself admission to a Rushdie reading in Manhattan or London.

But in Chautauqua, accessibility for everyone is not just the commercial basis of the event, but an essential part of the organizer's mission.

Everything happens here without compulsion to believe

For nine weeks in the summer, events are in motion, in which the institution has its purpose of existence.

The program is a colorful mix of lectures, readings, discussion circles, sports, music and other forms of mouth and handwork.

Here free living, in its particular, sometimes classified as Western variant of purpose-disengaged exploration of the beautiful, interesting and unknown, has formed a recognizable form, a form close to formlessness.

Because everything is casual, also and above all without compulsion to believe.

The Chautauqua Institution grew out of the Christian summer school movement.

The institution was founded in 1874 by Methodists to educate and train summer school teachers, but it was non-denominational from the start.

In the early days, it was still the dispute among the Christian denominations that gave rise to doubts in the United States about the compatibility of principles of religious living with the maxims of peaceful coexistence.

The ecumenical approach in Chautauqua has long since gone beyond Christianity.

In the first half of the twentieth century there was even a national popular education movement under the name of Chautauqua, whose lecturers, like today's bestselling authors, competed with the itinerant people of the drama troupes and dance companies.

To European observers, the blend of education, edification, and entertainment seems quintessentially American, but the fashion for festivals of ideas has spilled over to the old world in more recent times.

Universities are also among the institutions that want to become adult education centers for cultural tourists.

The original religious inspiration of the Chautauqua company can still be seen not only in the daily programs, but also in the listed ensemble of buildings and green spaces.

Palestine Park was already laid out in the year the institution was founded, the floor plan of which reproduces the map of the Holy Land: a salvation-historical amusement park whose visit is intended to complement reading the Bible with a view and atmosphere.

For a long time, those attending courses at the Chautauqua Institution were housed in tents.

Even so, the way of life of the biblical peoples in the far west of the world seemed to be reviving.

After the assassination of Salman Rushdie, all events in Chautauqua were canceled for the time being.

The visitors and friends of the institution were asked to pray for the injured man.

On Friday, after the lunch break, a Muslim hour of prayer was actually supposed to take place.