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Switzerland’s financial heart beats on Paradeplatz in central Zurich. Facing the square is the headquarters of Credit Suisse. On another side is UBS. A stone’s throw away are large private banks such as Julius Bär. And nearby too is the Swiss National Bank. For those who worship money, this is about as good as it gets.
But a hundred metres away lies a place of worship of a different kind. St Peter’s Church. Ueli Greminger is pastor here. And given the tens of thousands employed in the financial sector in Zurich, he thought that a handful at least might appreciate some pastoral care.
GREMINGER: “When people are in a crisis situation, they tend to retreat a bit, go their own way and it takes time before they go public and talk about it. My experience is that speaking openly can help. It can be with friends, a therapist, a doctor or family and that’s why, I made this offer.”
Now, journalists, writers, filmmakers, photographers have attended the lunchtime sessions in the hope of spotting a banker. But like an endangered species, bankers have been rarely seen. A few troubled souls have turned up, including middle management and one who has lost his job. But on the day I attended, there wasn’t a banker in sight. Instead I speak to independent film maker Matthias von Gunten.
VON GUNTEN: “I thought there would be people here who are affected by the financial crisis, have problems, want to exchange ideas. I imagined there would be one or two people from the world of banking. I thought it would be interesting to hear what they have experienced and how they feel.”
It may be that bankers are finding other ways to save and be saved. Erich Engler, pastor of Switzerland’s only online church, says his sermons are downloaded 10,000 times a week.
ENGLER: “This is the message of the hour right now about the financial crisis and we have a lot of business people. A lot of business people who download and listen to it daily because it helps them to get through the fear of the time.”
Engler, who also has a real congregation in nearby Rapperswil, says an internet church offfers anonymity and reaches a lot of people who don’t normally go to church. Perhaps with sermons just a click away, Zurich bankers don’t feel the need for any other support.