Appeal Issued by the Churches and Religious Communities on Refugee Sunday and Refugee Sabbath, June 20 and 21, 2015

The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago and the subsequent collapse of the Communist Bloc regimes were widely considered the ultimate proof that systems of oppression, exploitation and isolation are bound to fail and that the forces of good would prevail. The emotional scenes from Berlin that went around the world showed strangers embracing, singing and dancing together – in front of the wall and on top of it. This historical event is celebrated not least of all as a big victory for the human right of migration and the freedom to travel.
Caption: Border fence in Melilla; Credit: CC/Stéphane M. Grueso

Today, 25 years later, insistent voices tell us that even though the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall is more liberated, it is still full of injustice and becoming ever more insecure and unstable. The multilayered forms of social injustice and suppression around the world and people’s irrepressible urge to escape these dire circumstances and to find refuge with us are condensed in terms such as “Lampedusa,” “Melilla border fence” and “Mediterranean mass grave”.

As the inheritors of the Judeo-Christian idea of humanity, it is our duty to stand up for human beings in need of refuge. Even back in biblical times, people were forced to leave their native lands – fleeing hostile political rulers, famines, or individual prosecution. They all had one thing in common: their journey into, and fear of, an uncertain future.

The Bible tells us about the fates of numerous refugees. Connected to these stories is the appeal to refrain from oppressing foreigners, and to grant them rights instead. Beyond that, the biblical narratives of refugees and migration even have a divine dimension: God loves foreigners and gives them food and clothes (Dt 10:18).

Streams of refugees can cause fear – fear of the foreign, fear for one’s own social and political security. These fears are understandable. Even though the world is moving closer together in the course of economic globalization and technical progress, it is at the same time more divided than ever.

Against this backdrop, this year’s Refugee Sunday /Refugee Sabbath urges us all to not let our relationship with refugees and migration be ruled purely by selection along the lines of economic interest. We are called upon to build a true communal relationship with the people coming to our country, a relationship of mutual learning and mutual enrichment.

Swiss Bishops‘ Conference
Bishop Markus Büchel

Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches
The Rev. Dr. Gottfried Wilhelm Locher, Council President

Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland
Bishop Dr. Harald Rein

Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities
Dr. Herbert Winter