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Home page> Resources> Jewish-Christian Relations> SIDIC Periodical> 1992/3>Council of Federation of Protestant Churches of Switzerland, of the Roman Catholic Conference of Swiss Bishops and the Bishop and the Synodal Council of the Catholic-Christian Church of Switzerland

SIDIC Periodical XXV - 1992/3
The Stranger in Our Midst (Pages 11 - 14)

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The "Other" and the Stranger in Christian Tradition
Council of Federation of Protestant Churches of Switzerland, of the Roman Catholic Conference of Swiss Bishops and the Bishop and the Synodal Council of the Catholic-Christian Church of Switzerland


The Gospel confirms that the "Great Commandment" for the followers of Jesus is that of the Jewish People:

"The Lord our God, the Lord is One; and you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second (commandment) is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these". (Mk. 12:29-31; Deut. 6:4-9).

The criteria for love of God is love of neighbour. There are no exclusions (cf. Mt. 25:31-46).

There is therefore no basis for discriminating against persons on account of race or belief in the New Testament. Yet this evil has rarely been absent even from Christian society and it has been necessary for the Church to reiterate the Gospel teaching in every generation. Ours is no exception. The joint statement of three Swiss Churches on Xenophobia and Racism of May 1991, illustrates this teaching for our contemporary situation.


Extract from the statement of the Council of Federation of Protestant Churches of Switzerland, of the Roman Catholic Conference of Swiss Bishops and the Bishop and the Synodal Council of the Catholic-Christian Church of Switzerland).

Responsibility of Christians and the Churches

All have a great responsibility:

As Churches we want to understand the cause of the individual distress and the anger of part of our population and to overcome it at its root.

As Churches we want to take a position clearly and fully on the side of the victims of racism and xenophobia and to protect them from further prejudice.

As Churches we want to ensure that the laws and institutions of our country are humane and in accordance with the spirit of human rights.

We believe that every human being is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

This image hasn't only a white skin or a western nationality or belongs only to the Middle Class and the comfortably off. The image of God is also black, yellow, of mixed race, African, Asian, is poor and lowly... God made a covenant with Noah and his family that extends over all the earth:

Behold I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you... I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth (Gen. 9:9-13).

We believe that in Jesus Christ God came to save and to unite all humanity.

Jesus of Nazareth made relationships with all types of human persons and accepted all of them. He paid particular attention to the marginalised of his society and so identified himself with them that he said "As you did it to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt. 25:40).

We believe that we are united by the death of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (3:28).

The Christian community must constantly create new forms of parish life to ensure that no-one is discriminated against and all are fully accepted. It is called to see differences as an enrichment, not as a threat.

In the Bible human community is the expression of sisterhood and brotherhood. The community strives for mutual respect as well as for the reciprocal protection of its members. Hospitality is fundamental to it and embraces the marginalised, the poor, the homeless, those uprooted, foreigners. A hospitable spirit is creative, courageous and open. It overcomes the paralysis due to indifference, resignation and fear.

We believe the Spirit of Christ is with us to liberate us.
The Leper: classic example of the "outsider"

When we recognise this spirit, it liberates us from the fears that paralyse. It fills us with hope. At Pentecost it enabled the disciples to understand each other's speech. Yet the Churches have at times been guilty of racism and xenophobia. They have not always struggled resolutely and with all their strength against racism of every kind. Yes, the Churches themselves have at times behaved in a racist fashion. Let us draw the lessons of history so that we do not repeat this sin. We cannot do this without recalling the Gospel teaching.

Churches call to the Swiss People

The Bishop of the Catholic-Christian Church of Switzerland, the Conference of Swiss Bishops and the Council of the Federation of Protestant Churches of Switzerland, call on each and everyone to abstain from any xenophobic or racist word or act, and to fight against them whatever their form. We must absolutely ensure that there are no new victims of racism and that xenophobia does not spread.

Towards a Human Society

Together with our children we want to build a human society characterised by sharing and solidarity and not by indifference. We have need of others as others have need of us. It is on such a relationship that human dignity rests. To reject foreigners and their distinctiveness is, in the end, to put our own humanity in question.

Respect for Democratic Values

Faced with the danger of xenophobia and racism it is imperative to protect and deepen relations between human beings independently of their nationality. That is the only way to live in order to ensure that cultural diversity, openness, tolerance and human dignity are fundamentals of our society. The equality of all human beings, which is the foundation of democracy, must be defended, extended, and become a reality for all parts of the population. It must be implemented ever more fully in every day life. Otherwise democracy and human rights would be undermined and eventually destroyed by racist and xenophobic behaviour.

Therefore there is need for clear-sighted and wide cooperation between all the democratic structures in our country to combat xenophobia and racism and at the same time a commitment by each one to protect humanity.

Society as a whole has an obligation to overcome racism and xenophobia; it concerns the public domain and especially the Churches, but also every man and woman among us. As inhabitants of this country, we are called to become ever more conscious of the way we think, of the language we use and of our actions. The confrontation with racism and xenophobia touches us at the level of daily life, of politics, of legislation and jurisprudence, our way of speaking, our schools, economic relations, the media and advertising.

What we ask of the churches

To Overcome failings

As Churches conscious of antisemitic and racist attitudes in our own past, we are called to commit ourselves unreservedly to the persecuted, the oppressed, the disadvantaged and the marginalised. We must strive to abandon nationalistic, eurocentric and paternalistic attitudes especially in respect of people from other continents. The Christian community is summoned to help people in difficulty to live a life worthy of this name within society, not on its margin. Christian women and men should go out of their way to meet foreigners and outcasts and to welcome them.

Welcoming Foreigners

Churches and parishes are also called to welcome strangers as members of their community. They must become more aware of the concerns of their "neighbours" who are foreigners and are marginalised and become involved in their problems and desires.

Churches and parishes are likewise invited to further their relations with foreigners who are not Christians and to put at their disposal buildings and equipment, if they need them and so help them feel at home in a strange land.

That all may participate in Parish life

Many Churches and parishes have experienced the benefit of foreign men and women having full voting rights. We support and encourage efforts to extend the right to vote and eligibility to foreigners.

(The document continues with sections concerning Public and Political Authority, School and Educational Institutes, The Media and concludes:)

Hopes for the people of our country

Open Hearts

We thank all those who are working in society and in the Churches on behalf of the oppressed and the persecuted. Important stages on the road to eradicating racism and xenophobia are the acceptance and understanding of people in their difference and recognizing their right to other ways of living and thinking. To attain this, personal encounters are necessary and a sensitive knowledge about many of their life, for example, the reasons why asylum seekers have fled their country and are seeking refuge in ours.

Opening Frontiers

Even if it is difficult to fact the face, Switzerland cannot close its frontiers. Its wealth and the gap between North and South contribute to the increasing migration of peoples. And even if it remains hard for us to look the facts in the face, our country will not have fewer foreigners the future! Therefore, foster understanding and solidarity in our country for our sisters and brothers who are foreigners or outcasts on the margin of society!

Let us pledge ourselves to a common future on the side of all the oppressed in our country!

Berne and Fribourg, 14 May 1991

From the Jewish Tradition:

One day a Rabbi asked his disciples: "How does one know the precise moment when the night disappears and the day dawns - the moment at which one must bless God for the creation of light?" One disciple said: "When from afar one can distinguish between a palm tree and a fig tree". "No", replied the Rabbi. Another said "When from afar one can distinguish between a dog and a kid". "No", said the rabbi. "Then when is it?" asked the disciples. "When from afar, in seeing a man, you recognise him as your brother, because then the night that was in your soul disappears and both your heart and his are filled with light".


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