Back in October we introduced our new Geneva outpost and requested prayer for the freedom to give out free literature about Jesus in public. Stephen Pacht, who is pioneering the work there, recently sent the following report.
Many don’t believe me when I say that in some ways the law allows more freedom for evangelism in Israel than in Geneva. Some Christians wrongly believe that evangelism is illegal in Israel while others assume that there is complete freedom in Geneva. After all, citizens here are proud that Geneva was a place of refuge for Calvin and other Christians during the Reformation.
Today Geneva is a multicultural city priding itself on its international status. It represents peace and universal welfare, a platform built on Switzerland’s political neutrality. “Tolerance” is a byword for the religious and political freedom the city espouses.
But it appears that if all Swiss are equal, some are “more equal” than others. Some feel that there is growing bias against Christians in the secular media as well as increasing opposition by officials to public evangelism.
From the time we got here, police demanded that we desist from handing out our “broadsides” downtown. As mentioned in the fall, the Police Chief sent me registered letters warning that any further distribution would be met with stiff sanctions. This prompted a Christian lawyer to send a firm letter back insisting on our rights to hand out free literature. Since this letter, the police seem to be leaving us alone, while continuing to prevent others from handing out literature. We now seem to be the only ones handing out literature in the streets, giving an appearance that we are officially endorsed by the authorities!
It is important to protect and defend our rights. I believe some Christians, in misguided shows of humility and obedience, allow authorities to go beyond the law and blunt their freedom to share Christ. We can learn from the Apostle Paul, who, when under arrest in Caesarea, appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11). This was not an appeal to protect his earthly life but a plan to promote eternal life through Christ.
City centers are wonderful places for sharing Christ with diverse people and it is well worth the effort to defend our right to do so. Over the last year, thousands of Geneva residents and visiting businessmen and tourists have received our literature. We regularly have conversations with both Jews and Gentiles, amongst whom are a number of Muslims.
One young Muslim, Abra,* was intrigued by our “Jesus is the Messiah” T-shirts, written in both Hebrew and French. I just “happened” to have a book with me, entitled Jesus and Mohammed; it’s written by an Egyptian who grew up a fervent Muslim and was even a respected Imam before coming to faith in Christ. Abra willingly accepted the book and a Gospel of John I subsequently sent.
Most Jews in Geneva are very liberal in their religious views. Simon, a banker in his early thirties, finds himself drawn to Jesus, but struggles with his French wife’s old-school nationalistic Catholicism. Marc, a Jewish lawyer in his early thirties, has been willing to exchange correspondence with me. Jesse, a Turkish-born Jew who has been working in property in Geneva for over thirty years, was also keen to talk, having met evangelical Christians some years ago but having since drawn away from them. We have since met and talked further, though I am sorry to see him drawn into esoteric ideas about Jesus. But only God knows where any of these people’s stories will end. Just having the freedom to meet these people through our public ministry is an answer to prayer.
Time will tell which hearts God is touching. Please keep our work and continued freedom to evangelize in Geneva in prayer. We are sowing much gospel seed, and we pray that God will bring in the Harvest at His appointed time.
Leader, Geneva outpost
* not her real name