Pax Christi Switzerland

Throughout history human beings have suffered flight and persecution. War, religiously motivated oppression, political despotism, and environmental calamities have led to migration at any time and in all cultures. The problem seems, however, to have been aggravated in recent decades.

Ernst Barlach’s Der Flüchtling (the refugee) impresses with his breathless dynamic. He is chased by fear. His eye is staring into space and does not reveal much hope. Who is after him? What causes him to leave everything behind? He does not have a particular destination. His only goal is to escape. Tomorrow he might have reached our country.

Every day refugees arrive at our borders in order to look for protection. The number of asylum seekers has not only become a serious challenge to the state authorities. It is also being used by certain groups and political parties as a most welcome issue tin their campaign against foreigners. Prejudice and latent xenophobia often dominate the discussion about the future of asylum. Refugees are seen as a problem and another unwanted reason for rising expenses. What actually causes people to come to our country is often neglected.

Pax Christi Switzerland is very sensitive to these tendencies. Aware of all the difficulties that arise - for the state as well as for the whole of society - from receiving thousands of people every month, we try to navigate against the waves of intolerance and fear which eventually manifest themselves in a more and more rigid legal order. Der Flüchtling reminds us that every refugee has his own story to tell and that most of us can only try to imagine what it means to flee our home countries.

It also reminds us of our own history. While many refugees, particularly Jews, had been given refuge during the Second World War, several thousand of them had been refused permission to cross our borders. Switzerland’s ambivalent role in the war - not least with respect to refugees - means a special commitment of our section to fight for more open-mindedness and respect towards those who seek asylum in our country.

We think that it is vital to keep in mind our own historical background as well as the political context that causes people to seek refuge in our country. As members of a Christian movement we believe that every human being is equal and deserves dignity regardless of origin and race. “...for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in...” (Matthew, 25:35). We therefore feel particularly responsible for the ones who are at the bottom of society. The fact that we are part of an international movement prevents us from being captives of our own little world -