Secured by the Federal Constitution, religious freedom is a right that is protected in Switzerland. Important as it is, it was nonetheless not granted until the Swiss Republic’s creation in 1848; however, even then, a select few Christian religions only were included in the law ratifying that freedom. It took another twenty six years before religious freedom in Switzerland would include most religions.
Recently, very few events which took place in Europe’s neutral nation stemmed from any religious conflicts. Statistics show that the percentage of religious believers in Switzerland is in a constant decrease. Several events have even contributed to an exchange of religious perspectives, particularly the event called “Night of Religions,” or Nacht der Religionen, in German. Every year, churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious facilities open their doors in the city of Berne, welcoming visitors to enter and inform themselves about their practices in order to create a dialogue between people wishing to share their cultural views and beliefs.
Another event, however, incited more opposition than exchange concerning religions: back in 2009, a national discussion was sparked revolving around a public initiative led by the government. A direct vote was proposed to the Swiss people, asking them whether or not a law forbidding the construction of minarets could be passed, minarets being the towers which call Muslims to prayer. Those opposing the initiative were highly concerned about Muslims’ religious freedom, and many public debates were held where people discussed whether the ratification of such a law should even be allowed, or whether it violated the country’s Federal Constitution. Finally, a majority of the people voted in favor of the law, thus instigating a wave of mixed reactions in the international press.
Switzerland still remains far from being hostile towards religion—the very fact that the country, including the government and its people, should respect each other’s cultures speaks in favor of said religious freedom today, as well as tomorrow.
by Mario D.