The Bahá’í Faith in Switzerland
A century-old community
The Bahá’i Faith has been present in Switzerland for well over 100 years. The first Swiss to embrace this new message, Edith and Joseph de Bons, lived in Sion (VS). Over the decades, those promoting and practicing the ideals brought in the message of Bahá’u’lláh have spread out over the whole country.
A very diverse community
Bahá’ís were present in some 300 localities throughout Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The diversity of the community is reflected in this geographic spread and in the fact that within the Swiss Bahá’í community are persons coming from over 60 countries and territories of the planet. They all strive to better understand and translate into action, in their individual and collective lives, the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.
In these efforts, the Bahá’ís of Switzerland have been, through the past century, inspired by the words of Bahá’u’lláh to “associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance” and to be “anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” They are striving to establish and refine a pattern of activity and the corresponding administrative structures that embody the principle of the oneness of humankind and the convictions underpinning it. Translating ideals such as these into reality, effecting a transformation at the level of the individual and laying the foundations of suitable social structures, is no small task, with many challenges and questions.
In addition to the current two-fold efforts to foster personal transformation and the building of vibrant and united communities, the Bahá’ís of Switzerland have, throughout their rich history, been able to accomplish notable results, both within their community and in contributing to the discourses in society on issues of vital concern. Adopting an approach where action is followed by reflection and consultation on next steps, it has done the following:
- It has played an active role in fostering interreligious dialogue in various platforms throughout the country and on the national level.
- From the beginning education of children was an important part of the community life, and have looked at how to nurture the spiritual nature of children and youth, including through the classes which emphasize the unity of the human family and the essential unity of the religious traditions of humankind and learning about spiritual qualities. Since 2005, a more elaborate programme and complete programme is in place and being offered freely by Bahá’ís and their friends for all children in neighbourhood classes.
- It has offered a perspective, and an unassuming example, on such pressing issues as world peace, the future of Switzerland, racial discrimination, religious prejudice, integration and the equality of women and men.
- In relation to the last point, and while recognizing the distance it still must traverse on the path towards true equality, it has managed to create an environment, right from the start, where women in the community share full responsibility with men. Of note is the respect is the balance of women and men serving on its 9-member elected national governing council (National Spiritual Assembly). In a system of annual elections by secret ballot, devoid of any form of nominations, campaigning, propaganda or quotas, the number of men and women who have served on this body since its inception in 1953 is close to 50% (34 women and 32 men).
- Every year for the past decades an annual winter school has been organised, where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to have meaningful exchanges and gain insight on the spiritual nature of the human being and the importance of collective action to build a better world.