Norbert Valley is an evangelical pastor in a small town in Switzerland. He and his congregation were stunned when their worship service was interrupted by two policemen in February. They escorted the pastor to the police station for questioning. His crime? Offering occasional food and shelter to a homeless man.
The problem was that the homeless man was a refugee from Togo who had been denied asylum in Switzerland because he was undocumented.
Countries generally will not accept applicants for asylum unless they have some form of documented identification to prove who they are and of which country they are a citizen.
The Public Prosecutor of Neuchatel ordered pastor Norbert Valley to pay a fine of $1,000. He refused.
Valley was then offered a compromise solution. The prosecutor would suspend the fine if the pastor agreed to stop helping people who were homeless because they had not been granted asylum. Again, Valley said that he could not promise to comply.
“As a Christian, the principle of loving my neighbor leads my way of life,” said Valley.
The tenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke records the story of a lawyer who had rightly understood the first commandment is to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and the second commandment is to love our neighbor as ourself. He had posed the question, however, of “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied with the narration (it may have been a parable) of the good Samaritan in which, a priest, a Levite, and a man from Samaria had each seen a man who had been beaten and robbed lying by the side of the road. Only the Samaritan, the least likely of the three, had come to the aid of the man who needed food, shelter, and healing.
Pastor Valley candidly told the court that “If I find myself in the same situation, I cannot but help.”
Valley was to be in court this week for a final disposition in his case, but the trial has been continued for technical reasons that have not yet been made public.
Christians are facing obstacles to living out our faith in ways we have never imagined we would as we are confronted by laws, rules, and regulations that make it difficult to do what Scripture directs us to do. We are realizing the reality that we are not wrestling against flesh and blood but against spiritual darkness and rulers in high places.
This is happening with no evident ill intentions by lawmakers. The issue confronting pastor Norbert Valley is Switzerland’s immigration law. We are not criticizing their immigration law or any other country’s. Those laws are necessary but not always beneficial to everyone. Some people are left with nowhere to turn – penniless and forsaken.
Our responsibility remains the same as pastor Valley’s. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Regardless of the outcome.
God, help us to be faithful to your Word and to be “wise as serpents yet harmless as doves.”
To read more news on the Gospel around the world on Missions Box, go here.
- NBC News, Europeans who help migrants find themselves on the wrong side of the law
- Time Magazine, How Europe Turned Compassion into a Crime
- Flickr, by Leticia Bertin, Creative Commons 2.0