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Counselling work Zurich launches Muslim pastoral care project

When a Christian needs emergency spiritual support in a hospital, in a care-home or after an accident, there is an existing network in place to make sure pastoral carers can attend quickly. For the 100,000 Muslims living in canton Zurich however, only one man has been on call 24 hours a day until now: imam, Muris Begovic. (SRF/SDA/swissinfo.ch).

Together with the Association of Islamic Organisations in Zurich (VIOZ) and two Christian churches, the canton of Zurich is supporting the expansion of Muslim emergency- and hospital-care by providing start-up funding. 

For the approximately 100,000 Muslims in canton Zurich, there is currently no regulated pastoral care on offer during emergencies or in hospitals. The canton is now working with the VIOZ in the training and supervision of the specialised pastoral carers.

From 2019, around ten Muslim emergency counsellors are to be trained and will start their work. Sites can be hospitals, but also care centres or homes for disabled people. Emergency organisations should also be able to turn to the Muslim counsellors if necessary.

The Swiss Center for Islam and Society at the University of Fribourg is responsible for the education and training of the Muslim pastors. A course lasts eight days and also includes an 'internship', where the pastors gain practical experience.

According to Jacqueline Fehr, a member of Zurich's cantonal government, the participants are carefully scrutinised in a multi-stage procedure, and a monitoring committee regularly carries out supervision.

The Evangelical Reformed Church of canton Zurich and the Roman Catholic body of the canton are closely involved. The latter also contributes CHF25,000 to the project. Both state churches have a great deal of experience in emergency and hospital pastoral care, according to Fehr.

Canton Zurich will finance the project until the end of 2018 with CHF325,000. The VIOZ is financially involved with CHF60,000. The goal at the end of 2019 is for the Muslim community to independently finance its emergency pastoral care. At present, there are around 50 emergency Muslim pastoral missions each year.

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