“I had to leave everything behind ─ except my skills.”

Appeal of Switzerland’s churches and religious communities on Refugee Sunday and Refugee Shabbat, June 18-19, 2011

People who need to flee from their home countries due to violence and persecution are able to receive asylum in Switzerland. 25,000 recognized refugees now live in our country, while 23,000 have been granted temporary asylum. We think of those people on Refugee Sunday and Refugee Shabbat in particular. We have given them protection, anchored in our understanding of how to love our neighbors and in our obligations of international law. That is, however, still not fully sufficient, as we also need to allow them to take part in the shared life of our society.

The words “I had to leave everything behind” is written on the posters for this year’s Refugee Sunday and Refugee Shabbat campaign. This sentence refers to the profound loss that refugees undergo when they leave their home countries. Those are, however, not all the words on the poster, as it continues “except my skills” thus pointing to the potential that every refugee has to offer but which often goes unused. People come to us with their experience and knowledge, and in many cases professional training that may well go unnoticed. Refugees and those with a temporary status can use their abilities to help themselves and our society as whole. To allow that to happen, however, we need to give them the opportunity to do so and to make it possible to become truly integrated.

As churches and religious communities, it is our duty to promote this type of openness toward refugees and to contribute towards their social integration. Each story of successful integration is a benefit to us all.

Back in 1985, the churches and religious communities already issued a common appeal with the words: “Respect for the human dignity of every person, regardless of their race, language, religion, gender, or social standing is one of the fundaments of our state and our culture. This fundament must be upheld particularly in our treatment of the weak and disadvantaged and of asylum-seekers and refugees.”

We will seek to fulfill this commitment in 2011 as well.

Bishop Dr. Norbert Brunner, President, Swiss Bishops’ Conference (SBK)
Rev. Dr. Gottfried Locher, Council President, Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FSPC)
Dr. Herbert Winter, President, Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG)
Bishop Dr. Harald Rein, Bishop, Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland (CCS)

» Appeal (in German)
» Appeal (Italian)