Inside Switzerland’s House of Religions

By Erin Deinzer, September 12, 2017

Three years ago, in a country heralded as peaceful, tolerant and safe, Switzerland’s House of Religions opened its doors. Located on the Europaplatz in Bern, it was the culmination of a decadeslong dream to create a building to house the world’s major religions underneath one roof. When it debuted, more than 10,000 people showed up to celebrate.

As a multicultural metropolis of 400,000 residents, Bern is home to a diverse population that is one-third foreign-born—many of them members of various faiths. The House is located in the city’s western suburbs: a neighborhood many immigrants call home and where houses of worship are frequently located in backyards or basements.

From the beginning, the decision behind which religions should be represented to best serve the local community was driven by the makeup of the nearby residents. To that end, the five major religions housed in the facility are Alevism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam—but those of the Jewish, Baha’i and Sikh faiths also participate in joint events.

Meetings between those of different faiths often happen at mealtime at the ground-floor Ayurvedic restaurant, where some of the produce used comes from the on-site vegetable garden. Workshops, exhibitions, guided tours and language courses further the House’s mission of cultural outreach and religious understanding.

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