FSPC Diaconal Conference discusses unconditional basic income

The Diaconal Conference of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, which took place May 6 in Bern, addressed the concept of an “unconditional basic income.” The aim was not to speak out for or against the Swiss popular initiative that was submitted last fall. Rather, the participants discussed the questions raised by this model in the light of our notions of work, the economy and social solidarity.
© SEK/Flügge

The idea of an unconditional basic income revolutionizes our way of thinking because it eliminates the obligation to work, explained Lucas Zapf, co-organizer of the FSPC Diaconal Conference and doctoral candidate at the Center for Religion (ZRWP), Economics and Politics at the University of Basel. It questions the point of view that the value of human beings is measured by what they earn and whether they have a job: “It’s a concept that shakes up the economic idea of the human being.”

The most revolutionary thing about the model proposed by the popular initiative is the word “unconditional,” emphasized Konrad Meyer, President of the Diaconal Conference and head of the Diaconal Services Department of the Evangelical Reformed Church of Basel City. It is a matter of every human being’s dignity, he added. “Do people always have to explain themselves, stripping themselves naked in a manner of speaking, whenever they need anything?” He posed this question to the group of roughly 50 delegates of the Conference “Unconditional Basic Income – Ideas of Human Beings in Labor and Economy,” mostly consisting of the social deacons of the 26 FSPC member churches and representatives of Protestant relief organizations.

Emotionally speaking, he is all for the initiative, stated guest speaker Volker Meinhardt, economist and lecturer in Berlin, but “economically we won’t be able to pull it off.”

In the administrative section toward the end of the conference, Urs Woodtli from Zurich was elected to the committee of the Diaconal Conference.The teacher, social pedagogue and pastor works at the diaconal department of vocational education and training of the Reformed Church of the Canton of Zurich.

The Diaconal Conference is an FSPC think tank. It meets twice a year and offers the opportunity to discuss social issues. Participants include the persons in charge of diaconal services in each of the 26 FSPC member churches, as well as delegates of the diaconal institutions and organizations and the Protestant relief organizations. The Diaconal Conference of May 6 was organized by committee members Antoinette Killias, Director of the National Division at HEKS (Swiss Church Aid), Hélène Küng, Director of the Centre Social Protestant Vaudois, and Stephan Schranz, Director of Social Diaconal Services of the Reformed Churches of Bern-Jura-Solothurn – in cooperation with Lucas Zapf and the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches. The next conference will take place on November 11, 2014, in Bern.

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