In a context of confusion and flashy journalism, rigour becomes a precious value.
The Evangelical Alliance writes a letter to the head of the Valais Canton education system asking for measures to make sure children are not proselytised.
Christian parents in the Swiss Canton of Valais are concerned about the implementation of Buddhist practices in some primary schools.
Several families have recently approached the Valais Evangelical Network (REV) and the French-speaking Swiss Evangelical Alliance (RES) because “pupils were offered meditation times to ‘return to calm’ inside the classroom”.
The Le Matin newspaper reported about the practice as well, informing that a Buddhist specialist is training state school teachers in “mindfulness”, and has even organided activities directly with children.
A “SPIRITUAL DIMENSION”
In a statement, the Swiss Evangelical Alliance raised “the question of whether these practices of Eastern religions has a spiritual dimension that should be debated”.
The Presidents of REV and the RES, Philippe Rothenbühler and Jean-Luc Ziehli, have therefore addressed a letter to the head of state education system in Valais, Jean-Philippe Lonfat.
“While welcoming the concern to seek the best possible way to help students learn to channel their energy, the RES and the RES question the appropriateness of introducing at school a practice that is openly linked to Buddhism”.
The letter suggests that if a religious meditation was needed at all, the Christian approach would make more sense. “As Christians, we prefer other approaches to meditation, instead of ‘emptying’ and finding answers in the inside, we would suggest to “fill” oneself, turning to God, source of our peace”, the letter says.
The evangelical representatives go on to “kindly ask to let us know which measures have been taken to ensure that the school's neutrality is guaranteed”. If no measure had been put in place, “we ask that the compulsory education service to take arrangements to ensure the maintenance of the religious neutrality in the public schools”, the letter said.
VALAIS CANTON ANSWERS
Jean-Philippe Lonfat responded to the letter in the name of the Valais Canton on November 14th. He said that oriental meditation practices have “the sole purpose of helping students to focus on school tasks ahead”.
Lonfat went further to say that “it is obvious that we cannot tolerate any proselytism and it is for the inspectorate to ensure this”.
The RES and the REV expressed their satisfaction with the Canton’s answer. But they added that “whenever parents denounce spiritual contents in these practices, we will make sure to alert the educational authorities”.