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Refugees and wrestlers The ‘slightly different’ Alpine festival

Aymann, a Syrian refugee, deftly flips his opponent into the sawdust. But the opponent just manages to turn and land on his stomach rather than his back, which would have meant losing. Urged on by the audience, Aymann tries to turn him over but can’t. Both begin to laugh. They stand up and try again. 

Swiss wrestling, known as Schwingen, is one of the many customs that the church charity HEKS wants to introduce to refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea or Sri Lanka who live in Switzerland. 

Swiss traditions are explained and passed by professionals and well-known figures, for example champion wrestlers, alphorn players and yodellers. 

The highlight of this campaign took place on June 17, National Refugee Day in Switzerland: an old-school Alpine festival outside Bern train station. People yodelled, threw flags, played traditional card game Jass and blew alphorns. 

The 700 or so visitors celebrated not only old Swiss traditions, but also intercultural dialogue and solidarity.