SWISS QUAKERS

The history of Quakers or Friends in Switzerland started with individuals who discovered a close affinity to the spiritual quest and ideals of Quakers. They met through their involvement in peace and reconciliation, conscientious objection and service, and, not least, in the Civil Service Movement founded by Pierre Ceresole in the early 1920’s. A number of them had been to Woodbrooke, a Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, and were subsequently accepted as individual members of London Yearly Meeting.

Swiss Quakers held their first annual meeting in Berne in 1934, and continued meeting annually under the umbrella of London Yearly Meeting on whose authority they depended for the admission of new members. In 1938 they acquired the right to admit their own members, and in November 1939 they were recognized as a Regional Meeting. An independent Switzerland Yearly Meeting came into being in 1947.

Groups

In Geneva, a Friends Meeting was started in 1920. Three years later, British and American Friends opened a Quaker Centre for interaction with the League of Nations which after the Second World War became one of the two Quaker United Nations Offices operating in Geneva and New York.

The Geneva group known as Geneva Monthly Meeting of Switzerland Yearly Meeting is the only group in Switzerland organised in accordance with traditional Quaker structures. It is also the largest group in the country.

Other groups were started before the Second World War by former Woodbrooke attenders as well as by members of other associations with close affinity to Quakers such as the Civil Service Movement, the Religious Socialists and the International Movement for Reconciliation in Zurich, Basle, Berne, Neuchâtel and Lausanne. Groups were started in Bienne and Romanshorn at a later date.

Personalities

Among a number of pioneers of renown among early Swiss Friends were Pierre Cérésole (pioneer of the Civil Service Movement) ; Elisabeth Rotten (co-founder of the Pestalozzi Village) ; Alfred Bietenholz and Hélène Monastier (founding members of Helvetas); Adolf Friedmann (assistance to a British prisoner of war in Germany); Edmond Privat (editor of the magazine Essor).