Click on the map to view a google version.
Facts about Switzerland
- Population: 7.6 million
- Area: 41,284km.sq
- Climate: Temperate/ Glacial/ Mediterranean
- Capital: Bern
- Currency: Swiss Franc
- People: 78% Swiss (Indigenous), 14% Other European, 8% Other
- Languages: German, French, Italian, Romansch
- Religion: 80% Christian (42% Catholic, 35% Reformed, 3% Evangelical, 11% Non Religious, 5% Other Faiths
Politics and economics
The Federal Constitution, adopted in 1848, is the legal foundation. Swiss citizens are subject to three legal jurisdictions: the commune, canton and federal levels. The instruments of Swiss direct democracy at the federal level, known as civic rights, include the right to submit a constitutional initiative and a referendum.
Traditionally, Switzerland avoids alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action and had been neutral since the end of its expansion in 1515. Switzerland only became a full member of the United Nations in 2002. Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as an intermediary between other states. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union.
An unusual number of international institutions have their seats in Switzerland, in part because of its policy of neutrality: The Red Cross, United Nations, World Health Organisation, International Olympic Committee, and about 200 other international organisations.
Switzerland has a stable, modern, and one of the most capitalist economies in the world, while also providing large coverage through public services. In terms of value, Switzerland is responsible for half of the world production of watches.
Geography and climate
Extending across the north and south side of the Alps, Switzerland comprises a great diversity of landscapes and climates on a limited area. The population is about 7.6 million. However, the more mountainous southern half of the country is far more sparsely populated.
The most famous mountain is the Matterhorn (4,478 m). Well known areas include the Jungfrau and Eiger, and the many picturesque valleys in the region.
The more populous northern part of the country is called the Middle Land. It has greater open and hilly landscapes, partly forested, partly open pastures, usually with grazing herds, or vegetables and fruit fields. There are large lakes found here, and the biggest Swiss cities are in this area of the country. The largest lake is Lake Geneva, in western Switzerland.
People and society
Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world. The culture of Switzerland is influenced by its neighbours but over the years a distinctive culture – with some regional differences and an independent streak – has developed. The linguistically isolated Romansh culture in the eastern mountains of Switzerland is very much alive and strives to maintain its rare linguistic tradition. In general, the Swiss are known for their long standing humanitarian tradition as Switzerland is the birth place of the Red Cross Movement and hosts the UN Human Rights Council.
Many mountain areas have a strong highly energetic ski resort culture in winter, and a hiking culture in summer. A traditional farmer and herder culture also predominates in many areas and small farms are omnipresent outside the cities. Folk art is kept alive in organisations all over the country. In Switzerland it is mostly expressed in music, dance, poetry, wood carving and embroidery. The alpenhorn, a trumpet-like musical instrument made of wood, has become – alongside yodelling and the accordion – the epitome of traditional Swiss music.
Religion and the church
Switzerland has no official state religion, though most of the cantons recognize official churches, which are either the Catholic Church or the Swiss Reformed Church.
Christianity is the predominant religion of Switzerland, divided between the Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations. Immigration has brought Islam (predominantly Kosovans, Bosnians and Turks) and Eastern Orthodoxy as sizeable minority religions.
The country is historically almost evenly balanced between Catholic and Protestant, with a complex patchwork of majorities over most of the country. The larger cities (Bern, Zürich and Basel) are predominantly Protestant. Central Switzerland is traditionally Catholic. The Swiss Constitution of 1848, under the recent impression of clashes between Catholic and Protestant cantons, consciously defined a state which allows the peaceful co-existence of Catholics and Protestants.
To add to this, in Switzerland, known as the country of peace and neutrality, some evangelical church leaders believe recent laws and the pervasive anti-Christian sentiment in Europe, may point in the direction of increased marginalisation of evangelicals, labelling them as ‘fundamentalists’ and putting Bible-believing evangelicals in the same category as Muslim fundamentalists. Officially, evangelicals are free to worship, but unofficially, they are not really. In the last few years, animosity against evangelicals in Europe seems to be growing and there are efforts to categorise evangelical churches as ‘cults.’
Latin Link's work in Switzerland
Latin Link Switzerland was founded in 1997 with the aim to recruit new members for service in Latin America and to facilitate and promote Latin mission in Switzerland. The desire was to place Latin members to work among Swiss, and members of other nationalities to work among Latins in the country. We soon found out, though, that the situation in Switzerland is such that there is no visa for Christian workers to legally enter the country for mission purposes. For that reason, Latin Link Switzerland focuses on working with, and encouraging Latins living in Switzerland into formal and informal mission involvement in their context. Out of this a Spanish-speaking Evangelical Alliance has evolved, which tries to coordinate events and training and helps Latin churches and groups to get recognition.
Mission opportunities in Switzerland
There is a lot of scope for church planting in areas where there is no evangelical witness as yet. Also the large, and growing, immigrant community (23 percent) including Latins, is a mission field in itself. Any new member from outside the EU wanting to be involved in Christian work in Switzerland needs to be aware, firstly, of the present difficulty (if not to say impossibility) of obtaining a visa and the need to look for alternative ways and permits to enter the country and, secondly, the absolute necessity to relate to and work together with the churches and Christian organisations involved in mission and migration in the country: the Swiss Evangelical Alliance and the Evangelical Mission Alliance, and – to work among Latins – COPEIS, a recognised association of Latin pastors and lay leaders.
To find out more about mission in Switzerland, please browse our opportunities or contact us.