A lasting peace is impossible without the recognition of religious freedom

The joint delegation of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference (SBC) and the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FSPC) has been on a solidarity tour of Lebanon since Monday, November 23. At a press conference, the delegation presented a written statement on the topic of “Religious freedom – a resource for the future of a multicultural society”. The delegation was headed by Bishop Markus Büchel, President of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, and Rev. Gottfried Locher, President of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches. With this tour, Switzerland’s two largest Christian denominations have expressed their solidarity with the beleaguered Christian communities in the crisis-ridden countries of the Middle East, as well as their advocacy for religious freedom and human rights.
Bishop Markus Büchel, President of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, Issam Darwish, melkitisch-griechisch-katholischer Erzbischof von Zahlé und der Bekaa sowie Rev. Gottfried Locher, President of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churc. Pict: Jacques Berset

During its five-day visit to Lebanon, the Catholic-Protestant delegation met with leaders of both Christian and non-Christian communities there. In their discussions, it became repeatedly apparent that Christians would remain a particularly vulnerable target of violence and terror as long as no lasting peace is brought about in the Middle East.

The eight-member delegation visited the projects of both Catholic and Protestant aid agencies and an Armenian Protestant school in Beirut, which takes in refugee children with the assistance of the Action Chrétienne en Orient agency. The group also traveled to Zahlé, where refugee families are cared for by the local Melkite Catholic church with the assistance of the agency Aid to the Church in Need. In their meetings with refugees, the delegation was troubled by how international aid efforts had been overlooking Christian refugees. Unlike other refugees, they are not accommodated in tent camps, and therefore need to rely on the support of church agencies.

Religious freedom and a lasting peace
In their joint statement, the SBC and the FSPC underscored that no truly humane society could exist without people being free in their collective and individual religious practice and faith. The freedom of religion is therefore an indispensable resource for the future of a multicultural society – whether in Switzerland, Europe, the Middle East, or elsewhere.

Religions are vital to life in society, not only because they constitute a major part of human life, but also because they provide a basis for the values that are needed in the life of a society. This involves those values that make it possible for all to live together in peace and justice. The Christian values of faith, love, and hope offer crucial perspectives in this regard. Comparable values can be found at the core of other religions as well.

Church aid agencies provide an essential service in the care and support of refugees. The SBC and FSPC appeal to its faithful and those who hold political responsibility in Switzerland to stand up for beleaguered Christians and to help them with solidarity and generosity. The FSPC and SBC call upon the Swiss parishes and congregations to support these aid projects in the Advent and Christmas period with donations and special collections, and particularly the activities of the organizations Action Chrétienne en Orient (Protestant) and Aid to the Church in Need (Catholic).

Please note: Donations and collections can be transferred to the following accounts of the two aid agencies with the memorandum “Hilfe für Syrische Flüchtlinge” [Aid for Syrian refugees]:

Action chrétienne en Orient c/o DM-échange et mission
Postal account no.: 10-700-2 / Project No. 880.7015
IBAN: CH08 0900 0000 1000 0700 2

Kirche in Not/Aid to the Church in Need
Postal account no.: 60-17200-9
IBAN: CH38 0077 8010 0177 9301 0