Is Shakira a Muslim

Course for Muslims relies on high qualifications

There is hardly any specific Muslim pastoral care in institutions in Switzerland. However, the federal government sees this as an approach to preventing religious extremism. He supports a new continuing education course of the Swiss Center for Islam and Society at the University of Friborg.

Martin Spilker

Pastoral care in prisons, hospitals and asylum centers are an important field of action for the churches. But is their competence sufficient when it comes to looking after members of other religions? If Christian pastors are approached by Muslims, Muslim pastors, for example, would be called in today, explains Hansjörg Schmid, Director of the Swiss Center for Islam and Society (SZIG) to kath.ch.

Contribution to the development of an interfaith open pastoral care

With a few exceptions, there is hardly any institutional pastoral care for Muslims, so pragmatic solutions have been found. We have already gained broader experience in Muslim pastoral care in the canton of Zurich. - And here a first positive balance was drawn at the end of 2019.

© University Hospital Zurich
Muslim pastoral care is increasingly in demand in hospitals.

In the public institutions mentioned, Muslims should also have interlocutors who can meet them on an equal footing with a view to their religion and culture. To this end, the Center for Islam and Society at the University of Freiburg will be offering a continuing education course on “Muslim Pastoral Care in Public Institutions” from autumn 2020. Director Hansjörg Schmid is pleased to «make a nationwide contribution to the qualification of Muslim pastors and to the development of an interreligious, open pastoral care», as he told kath.ch.

There is a need

Addressed are people who are already active in Muslim pastoral care. Specifically, it is about imams of Muslim communities, as well as women in corresponding positions.

But the requirements for Muslim pastors in hospitals, prisons or asylum centers are high: a university degree or comparable training is required. Schmid justifies this with the required qualifications, which are provided by the state authorities and institutions, but also by the Christian special pastoral care.

The content of the training, which is initially being carried out in German in Zurich as a “Certificate of Advanced Studies” (CAS), includes basic questions of pastoral care in institutions, for example, an Islamic-theological self-reflection. The aim here is to convey the special challenges of the pastoral situation in institutions that can differ greatly from general parish pastoral care. Last but not least, the CAS orients itself towards corresponding Christian pastoral training.

"We qualify for work in state institutions."

Hansjörg Schmid

It is important for the trainers that the future pastors know the language and culture of their field of activity. That is also important for the cooperation with those responsible in the institutions, said Schmid. He also makes it clear that no imams from abroad without knowledge of the national language are eligible for this training.

«We qualify the participants for work in state institutions. These requirements are needed if the project is to be implemented in dialogue with them and supported politically, ”says Hansjörg Schmid.

Exchange on a professional level

And that's it. The new training is financially supported by the federal government, more precisely by the Federal Office of Police. And there is a good reason for that. Because in the “National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Radicalization and Violent Extremism” from 2017, training and further education for religiously active persons is listed as a measure of the action plan. "Pastoral care aims to accompany people and does not primarily serve to combat extremism, but the participants are made aware of such questions and possible signals," says the director of the SZIG.

It is also important to Hansjörg Schmid that an exchange with representatives of the institutions can take place during the training. These will lead certain educational units, but are addressed as participants as well as pastors of other denominations. Because if there can be closer exchange on a professional level as part of further training, then that would be entirely in the interests of the SZIG.

Create the basis for competent pastoral care

However, Schmid does not expect that pastoral care offices for Muslims will spring up in the aforementioned institutions. As head of a Swiss institute that deals with questions of Islam within a Christian-oriented society, he wants to make a contribution to ensuring that the foundations for competent pastoral care are in place.

Further information on the course.


© Catholic Media Center, January 15th, 2020
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