In a referendum on Nov. 29, 2009, the citizens of Switzerland voted by a large margin to ban construction of new minarets on mosques in the country.
The vote, approved by 57.5% of the voters and approved in 22 of the nation’s 26 cantons (states), was hailed as a success by some European ultranationalist groups but drew condemnation from, among others, the Vatican and the Swiss bishops.
Archbishop Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Refugees, said the Vatican was “on the same page” as the Conference of Swiss Bishops. In a statement, the bishops said the referendum was an “alarming mistake” and “a serious blow to religious freedom and integration.”
They added that it not only “complicates the issue for Christians persecuted and oppressed in Islamic countries” but also “even diminishes the credibility of their efforts in those countries.” They added that the vote also represents a challenge “to inclusive dialogue and mutual respect.”
They said the campaign, initiated by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party aimed at stopping the “Islamization of Switzerland” was filled with “exaggerations and caricatures” but has shown that “peace between religions cannot be achieved by itself and must always be defended.” They also noted the challenge “of restoring necessary public trust in our legal system” and encouraging others to “work even harder to stand beside Christians living in Muslim-majority nations.”
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