"Together we can make it"

An appeal by the Churches and Religious Communities on Refugee Sunday and Refugee Sabbath, June 15-16, 2013.
Image: © Swiss Refugee Council

We, the Swiss people, take an ambiguous stance on the refugee question: while we prove our willingness to help refugees time and again, we also tend to take a somewhat defensive attitude.

There is a great readiness among our people to support welfare organizations and social institutions in order to help persons in need and to relieve all kinds of suffering. In the past decades, the people of Switzerland have donated billions of Swiss francs to welfare organizations and generously offered tax money. At the same time, however, negative and cautionary voices can be heard whenever the issue of how to deal with refugees and asylum seekers is discussed. These voices, too, must be taken seriously. They arise from the painful experience that there are limits to our ability to help.

Displacement and migration are not new phenomena. Even in the Bible, people are on the move, becoming strangers disconnected from their own familiar surroundings and everyday life, being uprooted. However, what is new today is the extent and intensity of modern mass migration in its various forms.

Every year, millions of people are forced to leave their home countries due to wars and armed conflicts, economic crises, environmental catastrophes and famines. They are forced to seek refuge and build a new existence. Wherever possible, they are taken in by a neighboring country, but there are many who have to travel to remote and unfamiliar countries. These people have come to live among us, to be our neighbors, almost overnight.  

Our faith uncompromisingly defends human dignity against the various ways in which human beings can be subject to degradation. The Bible declares that human beings are created in God’s image. This is the reason why we are called upon to stand up for the persecuted and the dishonored: Judaism and Christianity teach that human beings are God’s creatures, born to be His likeness. Wherever people are in need, it is not only love of neighbor that commands us to help these people, but also a true and living love of God. We cannot love God and let our fellow human beings, who are created by God in His likeness, perish.

The hardships befalling us, problems looming on the horizon, difficulties piling up: all of these obstacles can only be overcome where solidarity unites people in common action – wholly in the spirit of this year’s motto for Refugee Sunday: “Together we can make it!”

Rev. Dr. Gottfried Wilhelm Locher
President of the Council of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches FSPC

Bishop Markus Büchel
Swiss Bishops’ Conference SBC

Bishop Dr. Harald Rein
Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland CKS

Dr.  Herbert Winter
Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities SIG