Getting to know asylum seekers as fellow human beings – FSPC President visits reception center

The president of the Council of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, Gottfried Locher, had an up-close and personal look at the Reception and Processing Centers, with capacities stretched to the limit. He visited the center in Basel on June 5, 2014, meeting there with pastoral care providers, the head of the legal advisement office, and the director of the center. The visit strongly reflected the particularly high view the president holds of pastoral work.

The President of the FSPC Council, Gottfried Locher (left), looking at pictures of asylum seekers who have damaged their fingertips beyond any possible recognition of their fingerprints.

The work of the centers’ pastoral care providers takes place in an environment full of tension. Asylum seekers come in the hope of being able to stay here. And while many are granted protection and permitted to remain, others do not. These people are undoubtedly often in precarious situations, whether they are young men, elderly people, families, or unaccompanied minors. It is the task of the pastoral care providers to provide them with care regardless of their reasons to seek asylum or their religious affiliation, all while taking into account ecumenical and interreligious sensibilities. This spiritual and social-diaconal support serves as a contribution toward better living conditions in the centers. Religion is indeed important for many of asylum seekers. As Locher expressed it: “Asylum seekers are people in trouble, which is why they risk their lives to come. They yearn for better lives. They have dreams just like us. We should help them and wish to do so.”

Pastoral care providers help to improve this religious resource. There are currently 16 Reformed pastoral care providers in both the Reception and Processing Centers and the new federal centers. Numerous volunteers provide them with support as well. The FSPC coordinates these services at the national level and liaises with the Federal Office for Migration. FSPC President Locher was impressed with these efforts: “The church lives here for the sake of others. We do not leave people all by themselves, and especially not those who are strangers and who are poor. The pastoral care providers are offering a great service.”

The delegates of the FSPC member churches will be making far-reaching decisions this year on the future financing of Reformed pastoral care for asylum seekers. The FSPC’s summer Assembly of Delegates, from June 15-18, 2014, will decide on the continuation of cost sharing for Reformed pastoral care at the five Reception and Processing Centers and the new federal centers.