MUTTENZ, Switzerland —There is a difference of opinion when it comes to colour choice in the quilting group at Brügg Mennonite Church. For Gulschin Ibrahim, the Swiss tendency to choose similar tones and colours is a bit boring. In Syria, where Ibrahim is from, people like brighter shades, and more of them.
“She tells us we’re doing the colours all wrong,” says Margrit Amstutz with a laugh. Amstutz is in the same quilting group.
Of course the disagreement on colours is more of a joke—it doesn’t stop the group from sewing and donating quilts to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). After all, it was sending blankets to Syria that made Ibrahim, who left Syria before the war, join the group in the first place.
Though she doesn’t attend the Mennonite church, Ibrahim was invited to join the quilters after meeting Therese Broglie at an event in support of undocumented immigrants and refugees.
“Therese told me they’re doing things for Syria,” says Ibrahim. “Syria is my country and I’d like to help my people.”
The group is one of three in Switzerland making quilts for Syria, where more than 7.5 million people are internally displaced and over 12 million need assistance.
Swiss Mennonite churches worked with congregations in France to ship one container of relief supplies to Syria through MCC in January, 2013. The shipment contained 1,500 hygiene kits, 65 hand-made quilts, 294 purchased blankets, 791 relief kits and 144 pairs of hand-made socks along with other supplies like towels and sheets. They are now collecting contents for another.
But since quilting is not a traditional craft in Switzerland, people wondered why the group would use small squares for the comforters instead of making simpler blankets. “People thought we were crazy,” says Amstutz. Others said they should “just take a duvet cover or a wool blanket, and put fleece together, put big pieces and be done.”
But she told her church that the small details are significant. “I said for people in war it’s important that we make a nice blanket,” says Amstutz. “It’s important that they realize that it’s something beautiful that people made for them.”
Throughout the sewing process, quilters often think about Syria and why the blankets are needed. Those thoughts stay with Broglie even when she’s not cutting fabric or tying quilts. “What particularly reinforces this thinking about it throughout the week is that Gulschin is in our group, who’s from Syria, and we know what this war means for this family and for her and we see how they suffer even at a distance,” she says.
Quilting is a way that Broglie can show compassion for those who are suffering, even from her home in Switzerland. “It’s an opportunity to live my faith. It’s not just a construct of ideas, it’s something that is practical. To live the love that we talk about.”