Appeal by the Christian Churches and the Jewish Community on Refugee Sunday and Refugee Sabbath, June 18 and 19, 2016

Job’s News “What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention?” (Job 7:17)
Refugees on Lesbos; Photo credit: Lefteris Partsalis/Caritas

Every day brings more horrible news – in biblical terms, we might call them “Job’s news” – about the plight of refugees, “waves” of refugees, refugee routes, refugee camps, refugee quotas and refugee housing. These news do not surprise us anymore; they are an ever-present topic in our newscasts. What reminds us of Job is not the suddenness of disaster striking, but the horrific storm of violence and destruction sweeping away everything in its path.

In the war and conflict zones, the destruction is absolute. Maps and borders and political coalitions are blown away like leaves. And those who end up stranded in Europe are the ship-wrecked survivors. The beams of the European house are creaking alarmingly under the troughs of this storm, and by now, those who are stranded in Europe must face stiff gales here, too.

Of course the storm doesn’t discriminate between victims of violence, people in distress, the persecuted, and freeloaders or profiteers. But whoever thinks he or she can precisely judge which is which here should first take a look at Job. At first, his immense wealth is taken from him – economic risk! Then, his family falls victim to a great wind – disaster can strike anyone! Finally, diseases destroy his body – many suffer the same fate!

In the face of the immense influx of refugees, Switzerland, along with the rest of Europe, is presented with enormous challenges. There are no easy solutions. For the sake of our humanitarian tradition, we must not make our empathy for humans in need conditional on their legal status as refugees. Between human sympathy and the application of political criteria of distinction, there is a wide gap that mirrors the brokenness of our own human existence.

Gottfried Wilhelm Locher, Council President
Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FSPC) 

Bishop Charles Morerod, President
Swiss Bishops’ Conference (SBK)

Bishop Dr. Harald Rein
Christian Catholic Church of Switzerland (CKS)       

Dr. Herbert Winter, President
Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG)