Easter collection of alms for former indentured children

This year, the alms collected during Easter worship services of the Reformed Churches will go to an emergency relief fund for former ‘Verdingkinder’ (indentured children). The fund, which was established by the federal government, is not meant to represent reparations for injustices suffered, but a gesture of solidarity towards the people concerned, who are elderly now and need quick financial support.
Paul Senn, FFV, Kunstmuseum Bern, Dep GKS.©GKS.

For decades, up until 1981, tens of thousands of children and young adults in Switzerland were placed in strangers’ families or children’s homes, or even in jail, for economic, social or ‘moral’ reasons. Countless children were abused and as a result are still suffering today.

For a long time, Switzerland had turned a blind eye to this fact. But two years ago, things have been put into motion, partly thanks to a Round Table established by Federal Councilor Simonetta Sommaruga in 2013. Members of this Round Table include former indentured children, representatives of government authorities and social institutions, as well as delegates of the churches and the Farmers’ Association. Now, the commission has created an emergency relief fund for elderly former indentured children who are experiencing financial difficulties.

Following an appeal of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, the Reformed Churches of Switzerland are organizing a collection of alms to support the emergency relief fund in the spring of 2015. Many of them chose Easter Sunday for this collection of alms, as it is the worship service with the highest number of expected visitors. The FSPC provides an alms collection text for the pastors.

This gesture of solidarity is a first step towards the historical reappraisal of the role of the churches during that time. This will also include shedding light on the function of the responsible church representatives. Although there are positive examples such as Pastor Albert Wild, who denounced the abuses in his book published as early as 1970, other representatives of the clergy at the time played more unpleasant roles. It should also be kept in mind that at the time, the clergy still had an enormous influence on society.

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