Members of Zurich Central Corps (Salvation Army church) in Switzerland have taken to heart the words of Jesus, 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me' (Matthew 25: 35-36 New International Version), through a new programme to support refugees housed in the city.
Forty-five men, mainly from Afghanistan, have accepted an invitation to attend the corps every Friday afternoon for 'Coffee and Conversation'. There they are served hot drinks and snacks, with an opportunity to take away warm winter clothes that have been donated by corps members – some of whom attend as hosts and supporters, teaching the men German to help them to settle in their new home.
Franziska Bates-Steck and Cornelia Zürrer Ritter, from Zurich Central, are excited that helpful relationships are developing between corps members and their visitors from other cultures. They write: 'We meet [the men] respectfully and with appreciation. We learn from each other and remove fears and prejudices. As a result of this we show them that they are welcome in our country. We meet each other like Christ meets us – at eye level. We accomplish Christ’s assignment – and that of The Salvation Army – to be on hand for each other and to welcome strangers among us. The idea is simple and low-threshold – anyone can help.'
They conclude: 'We do not know yet where our work will lead. We do not know how long these men will be living nearby. But we are prepared to offer our time and our passion to go along with them and to care for them.'