Westminster Interfaith: Promoting Dialogue Between People of Faith

The agency of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster for Interreligious Dialogue

Westminster Interfaith Newsletter

Issue 65 – February 2010

Minaret Ban threatens Peaceful Coexistence

The Swiss bishops expressed concern over a referendum in which over 57% voted to include the ban of minarets in the Swiss Constitution. In a communiqué, they stated that the ban "represents an obstacle and a great challenge on the path of integration in dialogue and mutual respect." The ban implies "a manifest omission to show the people that the prohibition of minarets does not contribute to a healthy coexistence between religions and cultures but, on the contrary, it deteriorates it."

Given the result, "the first challenge is to give back to the population the necessary confidence in our juridical ordering and appropriate attention to the interests of all," stated the bishops, "this calls for the collaboration of all in Switzerland, especially the authorities of the State and of the Church."

In Switzerland, at present, there are four minarets. They are not being used in the traditional Muslim "call to prayer." The referendum sought to halt the construction of new minarets, though the existing ones will remain intact.

In a previous statement opposing the referendum, the bishops requested consistency with the principles of religious liberty. "The minarets, like the bell towers of churches, are a sign of the public presence of a religion”, they said. "The general prohibition to construct minarets would make more fragile the necessary efforts to establish an attitude of reciprocal acceptance, in dialogue and mutual respect. In this matter, fear is a poor adviser."

There are about 310,000 Muslims in Switzerland out of a population of 7.5 million inhabitants. Islam is the second religion after Christianity in the number of followers.

The bishops pointed out that "the difficulties of coexistence between religions and cultures are not limited to Switzerland," and they warned about the negative repercussions that this popular decision might have in other parts of the world. They reminded citizens that the prohibition of minarets "would not help oppressed and persecuted Christians in Muslim countries, but rather would deteriorate the credibility of their commitment in those countries."

The text ended with an exhortation "to all persons of good will to increase still more their present commitment to those Christians and to be by their side."

Adapted from zenit.org

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