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The sophisticated and cosmopolitan city of Zurich was the scene of a terrorist shooting at a mosque yesterday. I always admire Swiss tolerance, but know that recently they have been concerned about the immigration problems plaguing all of Europe. Zurich is my favorite city on earth, and Switzerland my favorite country. The form of government just thrills me because they leave decision making and almost all the taxes in the hands of local cantons. The arrangement is called a confederation. It was formed for the sole purpose of self defense back in feudal times. They speak 4 official languages, and typically don’t bother to learn the other three that are not their mother tongue. The exception to this rule is Romansh, a language that much resembles Latin, spoken by a few Alpine hillbillies. The Romansh speakers have to learn Swiss German to communicate with the outside world. I heard Romansh a lot when I first went to Gruadbunden in 1985. I found it easier than German because I studied Latin. It is now slipping into history, but a few pockets of speakers still use it, mostly in isolated villages. Localism is the theme and the heart of governance for the Swiss. They may have been thrust just a little too quickly into their own version of globalism.
I had some visitors last winter who teach school in Zurich. They teach German language, and speech pathology respectively. We talked about the changing attitudes toward foreign workers inside the country. The tensions they described did not exist when I spent time there. They took as many refugees as they possibly could and put them all to work. They created special businesses just to give them jobs. They are trained in language and job skills. Now the system has been strained to the maximum, and the population is changing. The strength of their currency and economy continues to be a magnet for immigrants from everywhere. My friends reported a large number of kids in school who don’t speak the language and become disruptive. They never had this kind of thing in classrooms in the past. It is a sign of some kind of breakdown.
The city of Zurich is the economic, but not the political, capitol. The nickname of the city is Downtown Switzerland because of the undeniable sophistication it has. These terror incidents can happen anywhere now, but I am shocked and dismayed to learn that a mosque was attacked near the main train station. It makes me very sad to know that even the Swiss are now living with this threat.
Hi Pamela, we were all shocked last night when the news of the shooting at a mosque in Zürich broke. Apparently the shooter was a Swiss of African background and was later found dead nearby. It was discovered today that he had stabbed a friend on Sunday. This random act of craziness, the shooting of the Russian ambassador in Ankara and the terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin all happened yesterday.
I try not to listen to rumors and gossip, we need facts especially in such difficult times.
Switzerland is a relatively small country with a population of 8,3, 24.6 % thereof are foreigners. I went to school in the Swiss German speaking part of Switzerland and it is still mandatory to learn one of the other four national languages (mostly French or German). You are right: it is a challenge to teach children with different backgrounds, i.e. languages and cultures.
We also have to differentiate between foreigners working in Switzerland and refugees. Last year Switzerland has welcomed 30’000 refugees (amongst them many young people on their own from Eritrea, families from Syria), it is a big task to integrate them.
Refugees first go through a registration process and have to prove they have legal grounds to apply for asylum, they are not put to mandatory work, they will first have to learn one of the national languages and have professional skills / certificates etc. to apply for jobs.
Barbara, my heart goes out to all of you. More details will tell more of the story. I did not know he had also stabbed his friend. I guess I did not mean mandatory, but integrated into society..a poor choice of words. I was thinking of all the free bicycle rentals run by SBB or the cities, with refugee workers I used to frequent. You all offer a program that has a much better chance of success in the eventual integration. However, with numbers so high it is a challenge to do it all with Swiss efficiency and quality. Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts today. May the lovely city of Basel remain peaceful.