From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Swiss Census 2000 reveals shift away from religion

From APD <>
Date Sun, 2 Feb 2003 02:53:54 -0500

January 31, 2003
Adventist Press Service (APD)
Christian B. Schaeffler, Editor-in-chief
Fax +41-61-261 61 18
CH-4003 Basel, Switzerland

Swiss Census 2000 reveals shift away from religion  
Churches lose flock
Neuchbtel, Switzerland.    The religious landscape 
in Switzerland has undergone a sea change, with a 
growing number of people moving away organised 
forms of religion. 
According to the most recent census, 11.1 per cent 
of Swiss have no religious affiliation - a rise of ten 
per cent in just 30 years. At the same time both the 
Catholic and the Protestant churches lost members.
The results of the 2000 survey revealed that most 
people in this category were aged between 30 
and 50, lived in cities and were more likely to be 
men than women.
The Federal Office of Statistics (FOS), which published 
the figures on January 30, said there was also a 
marked regional contrast, with French-speaking 
cantons claiming the greatest number of non-religious
Christianity remains the most-widely followed religion 
in Switzerland, with 41.8 per cent of the population 
defining themselves as Roman Catholics and 33 per 
cent as Protestants. However, both churches have
registered a significant fall in the number of 
churchgoers since the last census in 1990 - down 
363,000. The Orthodox churches have 130,000
followers. Jews accounted for just 0.2 per cent of the 
Swiss population. 
The Federal Office of Statistics has also published 
detailed census figures of the Protestant Free 
Churches, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 
The 2000 survey revealed 2,809 Adventist Christians.
However in the census period, the Swiss Union of 
Seventh-day Adventists had a registered adult 
baptized membership of 4,062. According to Christian 
B. Schaeffler, director for Communications and Inter-
church relations of the German Swiss Conference, the 
difference between membership records and census 
figures is the result of a reserved position of 
individuals in regard to the declaration of their 
religious convictions in public surveys. "Swiss citizens 
are still discreet regarding their income, their 
statement of bank account, and their religious 
affiliation," said Schaeffler. "The majority of people 
talk about their own Religion in strict privacy," he 
The 2000 census further displayed that the Free 
Churches, which are minority denominations, have a 
young age structure. On the other hand the quota of 
old aged members in the three national churches
(Evangelical-Reformed, Roman-Catholic and Old 
Catholic) is steadily growing.
Schaeffler said: "The Census results should make us 
think whether the Church is close to people, close to 
their preoccupations, whether we and the way how 
we proclaim the gospel actually mean something to 
Non-Christian religious groups account for some seven 
per cent of the population, a rise of just under four per 
cent since 1990. These religions include Islam, 
Hinduism and Buddhism. Muslims make up the
largest non-Christian community, with 311,000 
devotees. They include many Albanians from Kosovo 
and Macedonia. Hinduism and Buddhism each claim 
more than 20,000 devotees. The Federal Office of 
Statistics said factors such as immigration, mixed 
marriages and increased mobility had
contributed to this development. (07/2003)

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