This exceptional nation now also struggles with the same social and spiritual issues of nearby lands. 80% of the population once participated in this direct democracy, but now voting turnout is down to 40%. Low birth rates and an older population put pressure on the pension system, and the nation requires high levels of immigration – something the Swiss continue to resist. Over 25% of the population are now foreign-born, and the mix of new ethnic and religious groups with traditional Swiss identity often causes problems. Pray for wisdom for leaders who must guide the country forward.
The great reformers, Calvin and Zwingli, expounded the truths of Scripture in this land, but few today have any interest or understanding of real Christianity. Wealth, comfort, indifference and a vague religiosity are the norm. The younger generation explores eastern religions and the occult as much as Christianity. Many baptized as children retain no real link with a church, and enrolled membership of Protestants and Catholics dropped from over 90% to 70% in the last 30 years. Pray that the Swiss may find the true way in Jesus Christ and that the nation might be stirred again by the Holy Spirit.
Stagnation and decline have sapped the Church. In the Catholic Church, lack of clergy is reaching crisis proportions, and the spreading liberal theology undermines the faith of many Catholic and Reformed congregations. Yet changes are afoot. Modest growth continues in Free churches, an active movement for renewal lives in Reformed churches and Catholics are returning to a more conservative and traditional faith.
Renewed vision for evangelicals is bubbling up. The Swiss Evangelical Alliance, Free Churches and other agencies are working on a renewed vision for the evangelization of Switzerland. Most Christian non-profit groups have united as a more audible voice within society regarding religious freedom, evangelism and mission, aid and social responsibility, environmental issues, media, youth and others. While church planting remains an important goal, they see renewal and Christian testimony within society as equally important. Pray for increasing numbers of congregations as well as for renewal of many existing ones. Pray for newer groups, such as the International Christian Fellowship (ICF) and the house church movement, that are reaching people outside of traditional church structures.
In the Catholic cantons, predominantly in the south and centre of the country, the small evangelical witness is growing; centuries-old prejudices and religious polarizations are breaking down. Pray that many may find a personal relationship with Jesus and come to assurance of salvation, and that a living fellowship of believers may come into being in every community.
Less-evangelized peoples include:
- Cantons. The German-speaking cantons of Luzern, Zug, Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri, the largely Francophone Valais and Fribourg and the Italian-speaking Ticino are culturally Catholic with few evangelical groups, although there is increased openness in several Catholic cantons.
- The more than 100 foreign nationalities. Switzerland has the highest proportion of foreign residents of any major state in Europe. The major cities are becoming internationalized - Geneva is 45% non-Swiss! A number of agencies and churches are committed to ministry among them. Most are linked to Arbeitsgemeinschaft für interkulturell Zusammenarbeit (AgiK). Some of these minorities are highly unevangelized. Others, such as Latinos and Africans with over 200 congregations, are actually contributing to outreach in Switzerland.
- Religious minorities. Not long ago, almost every person in Switzerland would have been either Catholic or Protestant. Today, around one in seven considers himself non-religious. Muslims account for as much as 6%, with many other religions appearing and growing rapidly. Swiss society and indeed most Swiss Christians are ill equipped to handle these changes in religious population. Pray for clear and loving outreach to these new faith communities.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.