“We want to do justice to the religious background of army personnel”, the head of the army chaplaincy says. Swiss free churches describe the agreement as “historic”.
Swiss Free evangelical churches are now authorized to send qualified personnel to serve in the army chaplaincy, after Swiss Evangelical Alliance (SEA-RES) and the German-speaking umbrella organization Freikirchen.ch, signed a partnership with the Swiss army on November 2.
Freikirchen.ch is a national church association with 20 free church movements from German-speaking Switzerland, which include over 750 local churches. The Association of Free Churches Switzerland describes the agreement as “historic”.
The announcement follows a meeting between the army chief, corps commander Thomas Süssli, and the evangelical representatives, along with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland and the Evangelical Reformed Church of Switzerland (EERS). It was the conclusion of a year and a half of intensive conversations.
“The Swiss Army has now taken the first step with its military chaplaincy for all. This meeting is a sign of respect and gratitude. There has never been such a meeting in Swiss history”, Stefan Junger, head of the army chaplaincy, said.
According to Junger, “the opening of the army pastoral care to other religious communities is done consciously. We want to do justice to the religious background of army personnel. It is in this context that these partnerships were born”.
Peter Schneeberger, president of Freikirchen.ch, pointed out that they “are delighted with this partnership with the Swiss army chaplaincy. It is an important service for us for the benefit of society”.
The army chaplaincy pastoral care has a target population of 170 members. Every two years 30 to 40 new people are needed. The day the agreement was signed, 36 new chaplains entered, all of whom were recruited by the army itself, seven are from evangelical churches.
New army chaplains are required to present a referral and complete a seven-week introductory course and a three-week technical training course. “With your signature, you honor a commitment that goes with an obligation within the army chaplaincy for the benefit of all military personnel”, Junger said to the news chaplains.