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'Nowhere else in the world, is there such an institution at a national level.' Switzerland
Photo: Danny Sadeh
Switzerland’s new religious council inaugurated
Representatives of Jewish, Christian Muslim faith inaugurate the Council of Religions, platform for interfaith dialogue

On the 15 May, representatives of Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith inaugurated the Council of Religions, a platform for interfaith dialogue.

 

The idea of the Council of Religions (CdR), in which the three monotheistic religions will be represented, was launched in 2003 by Pastor Thomas Wipf, president of the Federation of the Protestant Churches of Switzerland.

 

In the three years that followed, the goals, members and organization of the platform were identified,

 

“Nowhere else in the world, is there such an institution at a national level, where religious representatives meet directly for dialogue”,
explains Fahrad Asfahr, president of the Coordination of the Islamic organizations of Switzerland (COIS) and also member of the council.

 

“The religious dialogue, which was until now exclusively bilateral, will be approached for the first time on a multilateral level”, adds Alfred Donath, president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish communities (FSCI).

 

Peace project

 

The new institution gives itself as a principal objective to support the dialogue between the various religious communities present in Switzerland, in order to support peace. The debates will not relate to theological questions, but on concrete topics of religious policy.

 

“We do not want to create a super-Church”, says Markus Sahli, secretary of the Cdr. “It is simply a question of trying to find a solution to inherent problems of faith and to which the society is confronted in everyday life. And that in the respect of everyone’s beliefs.”

 

For example, the representatives of the three monotheistic religions will discuss ways of raising awareness about the importance of the symbols of each religion (Islamic veil, Christian Cross, Jewish David Star)

 

This role of partner of reference for the Swiss Confederation for all that relates to questions of religious policy could form the key mission of the institution. Markus Sahli is convinced of this: “Our action could be more important if we present a single position”, he says.

 

However, the platform will not only have to be used as a bridge between religious communities and the authorities, but also between the members of these communities themselves.

 

Avoiding conflict

 

“Each confession will have a chance to be understood by others,” declares Donath. “That will contribute to a better understanding and avoid many conflicts.”

 

The recent affair of the Mohammed cartoons, which caused demonstrations in many countries, shows that the promotion of mutual comprehension between the religions is a very topical subject.

 

“If we had constituted the Cdr before this affair, I am convinced that we could - at least in Switzerland - have assumed an active role in the conflict and have found a peaceful solution by avoiding the scenes of violence”, declares Fahrad Afsahr.

 

For the moment, only the three monotheistic religions will take part in the Cdr: the Christian Churches (which represent the majority of the Swiss population), the Muslim community and the Jewish community. Markus Sahli does not exclude however that the institution could be also open in the future to other religions.

 

“We will start the organization with three main members, and then, if it works well, we will be able to decide invite Hindus, Buddhists, the orthodox Christians or Free Evangelic Churches. And why not, if our concept holds the road, also extend the concept past national borders.”

 

Reprinted by permission of European Jewish Press

 

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