Swiss and Bosnian religious leaders have signed a joint declaration aimed at affirming the support of Bosnian Muslims for democracy and equality, and condemning religiously motivated terrorism.
Gottfried Locher, head of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churchesexternal link, travelled to the Balkan country last week at the invitation of Husein Kavazovic, the nation’s grand mufti and spiritual leader of Bosnian Muslims both at home and abroad. The two signed a joint declaration, dubbed the “Sarajevo Message”, which explicitly states that all humans should be free to choose their religion.
Support for democracy, rule of law, and equal rights between men and women “as it is practiced in Switzerland” were also key themes, according to a statement issued by the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches on Tuesday. Terrorist activity motivated by religion was specifically condemned.
Kavazovic said that Bosnian Muslims feel that they are a part of Europe, and are worried about the growing influence of the Arab states in the Persian Gulf. He expressed a desire to strengthen relations with the EU and Switzerland.
Locher applauded the university training provided to imams in Sarajevo: “This European Islam, supported by intellectual reflection, can be a partner for us Protestants in Switzerland,” he said. He expressed a desire to organise a symposium for pastors and Bosnian imams in Switzerland next year.
During his visit, Locher also visited a permanent exhibit on the genocide of Srebrenica, where more than 8,000 Bosnians were killed in 1995. Tensions among ethnic groups in the country remain high today, and Locher praised the cooperation between Christian, Muslim, and Jewish groups aimed at promoting education and reconciliation.
“The religious communities here have achieved something that politicians have apparently not been able to do…Muslims and Christians are in a serious dialogue here with one another. There is no alternative to this conversation, not in Bosnia and not in Switzerland.”
Albanian Muslim declaration
The Sarajevo Message comes just two months after a similar document was signed in Bern by the two main associations of Albanian Muslims in Switzerland.
At the end of March, the Albanian Muslim Community of Switzerland and the Union of Albanian Imams in Switzerland signed a joint declaration in favour of secularism. The text stipulated that no religious law should replace Swiss law, and encouraged religious and cultural centres to “participate in training on civic education, democracy and Swiss institutions.”
Respect for the rights of women, per the law and Swiss constitution, was another major theme.
Bosnian Muslims in Switzerland
There are some 14,000 Bosnian nationals of Muslim faith in Switzerland over the age of 15, according to 2015 data from the Swiss Federal Office of Statistics.
Around 325,000 Muslims live in Switzerland, and account for about 5% of the population.