The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
“As a Christian, the principle of loving my neighbour leads my way of life”, says Norbert Valley. He has received the support of the Evangelical Alliance.
The acts of solidarity towards a Togolese migrant whose asylum application was rejected have led to a sentence against an evangelical Pastor in the Swiss Canton of Neuchatel.
Norbert Valley was condemned to pay a fine of 1,000 Swiss Francs (890 Euro) for “facilitating the illegal stay of a Togolese citizen, by offering him lodging and meals several times”.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office signed the ordinance on August 15, asking Valley to pay the costs of the proceedings (250 Fr). The conviction was based on Article 118 of the Swiss Foreigners Law, which punishes those who “in Switzerland or abroad, facilitate the entry, exit or illegal stay of a foreigner; or participate in preparations for this purpose”.
“LOVING MY NEIGHBOUR”
Norbert Valley will challenge the sentence, his lawyer said. The Pastor admits that he helped the rejected asylum seeker who was staying illegally in Switzerland.
Faced with the distress of the person, he decided to offer him refuge. “As a Christian, the principle of loving my neighbour leads my way of life”, Valley said.
SWISS EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE: SOLIDARITY IS NOT EXPLOITATION
The Swiss Evangelical Alliance (RES, in the francophone area of the country) reacted to the case. In a statement, the evangelical body said these kind of convictions are not new in Switzerland, which fuel the debate around the so-called “crimes of solidarity”. Norbert Valley happens to be a former President of the RES.
The evangelical organisation “regrets the fact that a regulation of the Foreigners Law to fight against the traffic of migrants is used to condemn people who, out of motives of conscience, have acted with solidarity”.
“Such a sentence seems to indicate that there is a criminalisation of solidarity in Switzerland”, the RES says. The law should “distinguish the altruistic solidary help of a person in need from activities consisting in exploiting the vulnerability of migrants”.
POLICE ENTERED CHURCH SERVICE
The RES also criticised the “very unusual and awkward intervention of the police in the midst of a worship service”.
It was in February, when the police officers visited a Sunday celebration of the Le Locle evangelical church to ask Pastor Valley to leave to the police station to be questioned.
The Swiss evangelical representatives lament “the lack of skill of the cantonal police of Neuchatel” and “struggle to understand the logic of such an intervention during a religious ceremony”.