Swiss Christians and Jews strengthen ties

These symbols of world religions are to be found in Gerliswil cemetery, near Emmen Keystone

Switzerland's leading Christian denominations and Jewish community have signed a joint statement on the importance of working together.

This content was published on July 8, 2007 - 16:21

The signing took place in Seelisberg, central Switzerland, on Sunday - the 60th anniversary of a key conference on anti-Semitism, which was held there in 1947.

News of the "Joint Declaration for the Meaning of Jewish-Christian Cooperation" was made public by the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, the Swiss Bishops Conference, and the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities in a joint statement.

They said they had agreed to fight all forms of discrimination arising from ethnicity or religion and to be open towards consolidating relations with other religious communities.

This included calls to help Muslims living in Switzerland to integrate into society.

Other target areas for cooperation were recognition of the Holocaust, the fight against social injustice and protecting the environment.

In their opening speeches, Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities president Alfred Donath, Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches head Thomas Wipf and Swiss Bishops Conference representative Kurt Koch said Swiss Christian attitudes towards Jews had changed dramatically and that relations were on a good path.

Donath added that the religions had discovered that together they were stronger.

However, the statement said the present conflict between religions meant that there needed to be as much courage shown today as 60 years ago.

A recent survey also found that one in ten Swiss had some anti-Semitic attitudes.

Post-war steps

The original Seelisberg conference, which brought together the newly formed International Council of Christians and Jews, sought to come to terms with the Holocaust in the post-war years.

It was aimed at examining the roots of anti-Semitism and at looking for ways of improving relations. The result was the Ten Points of Seelisberg.

In their statement the three communities hailed the importance of the original Seelisburg conference as an important step in Jewish-Christian relations.

Also discussed at Sunday's meeting was the importance of the Swiss Council of Religions, which was launched last year.

This brings together Switzerland's leading Christian denominations and Muslim and Jewish communities. It is aimed at finding a common position on problem issues, as well as improving understanding and trust among the religions.

According to the Swiss census of 2000, around 42 per cent of Swiss are Catholic and 35 per cent are Protestant. Old Catholics make up 0.18 per cent.

Jews account for 0.24 per cent of the population. Islam is now the third-biggest faith community in Switzerland at 4.26 per cent.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Religious adherence in the Swiss population (2000):
Catholic: 42%
Protestant: 35%
Old Catholic: 0.18%
Orthodox: 2%
Other Christians: 0.19%
Jews: 0.24%
Muslims: 4.26%
Other religions: 0.8%
No religious affiliation: 11%
Unknown: 4.33%

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