The current issue of the American charismatic magazine, Charisma, reports that evangelical churches are concerned that the infringement on the freedom of a minority religion could also affect them and their mission efforts. The magazine quotes Pastor Wilf Gasser of the Swiss Evangelical Alliance as saying “Restricting the freedom for Muslims in Europe to build minarets will be held against us when we demand freedom for Christians in Muslim countries… Also within Switzerland it may boomerang. Some of the groups endorsing the vote want to ban all religious symbols, including Christian ones, from the public arena.“
Gasser called the controversy over minarets a “pseudo-issue,” since there are only four minarets in all of Switzerland and these structures are not central to Muslim worship. He added that the “political marginalization” of Swiss Muslims will serve only to push them toward a fundamentalism they have so far showed no inclination for.
Evangelical and leading spokesman for the FDU Christian Weber said that the referendum was “not about religious liberties,” but was rather a vote on the country’s political system. He said that Christians would have accepted the majority vote regardless of the outcome and “we demand as much of the Swiss Muslims.”
Martin Buhlmann, leader of the evangelical Vineyard movement in Switzerland and the German-speaking countries, said Christians should stop reacting in fear to the growing Muslim population and instead seize the opportunity to minister to these people. He is launching a new initiative in 2010 in Switzerland and the German capital of Berlin, which seeks to mobilize 2,010 Christian families who are willing to invite Muslim neighbors for a meal. Buhlmann told the magazine that “The gospel is shared through relationships. Political marginalization only hardens people’s hearts.”
Richard Cimino is the founder and editor of Religion Watch, a newsletter monitoring trends in contemporary religion. Since January 2008, Religion Watch is published by Religioscope Institute. Website: www.religionwatch.com.