For over twenty years, holistic care of body, soul and spirit has been the driving vision behind the Klinik SGM Langenthal in Switzerland, one of three recipients of this year’s Hope Award presented last week.
In 1987, the SGM (Stiftung für Ganzheitlichte Medizin, or Foundation for Holistic Medicine) opened their faith-based hospital in Langenthal, halfway between Basel and Bern, after a seven-year process of negotiations with the Bernese authorities.
The spiritual dimenson of well-being is the core vision of the hospital, which, in the absence of government subsidies, is funded through insurance schemes.
Freud and Jung, the pioneers of psychiatry, often cast ‘religion’ (toxic faith) in a negative light as producing neuroses. In response, the Klinik SGM aims to integrate a positive faith dimension with other therapies, and thus offer a scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of holistic healthcare.
Recognising that religiosity itself was not the same as a living faith in God, and can have negative influence, the staff at SGM focus on the positive healing effects of faith.
HOPE Awards are presented annually to people or projects in Europe who or which have brought hope into their sphere of influence, bringing transformation through spiritual renewal, and. promoting partnership and networking.
The award itself is an attractive 35cm high sculpture in pewter on a marble base, crafted by the maker of Holland’s premier football league trophy.
Since its inauguration during the HOPE.21 Congress in Budapest in 2002, projects from Belarus to Portugal, and Albania to Germany, have been set in the limelight in this way. Last year’s award was given to The Mall project of Youth for Christ for work among migrant street youth in Rotterdam.
Prior to the annual Hope for Europe Round Table gathering last week in Basel, my wife and I with a small delegation of HFE representatives drove across to Langenthal to present the award.
Hospital staff had learned of the award on arrival for work that day, as they read an invitation on their intranet mail to attend a special reception that morning. We were greeted by the sight of an intrigued staff seated around tables attractively laden with drinks and pastries, eager to hear more about this surprise presentation.
Dr Chris Steyn, international director of Healthcare Christian Fellowship, and convenor of the HFE healthcare network, explained that the award was being given this year to three Christian hospitals in recognition of the significa
nt pioneering work being don
e to develop alternative healthcare models in a field dominated by government institutions.
Historically healthcare had been initiated by Christians and churches motivated by the love of Jesus. Today it was widely seen as simply a professional task often lacking the heart of compassion.
Dr Steyn explained that the Langenthal Clinic, as well as the Evangelical Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, and St Luke’s Hospital, Thessaloniki, Greece had been selected to be put in the spotlight as bold initiatives that had brought direct hope to many healthcare patients. They were also examples that deserved to be more widely known across the continent as models for other healthcare initiatives.
After the presentation of the award to Dr René Hefti and other members of the hospital leadership team, our delegation was led on a tour of the hospital. A strong sense of community pervaded each department. Art conveying biblical themes decorated rooms and corridors, the fruit of collaborative efforts of staff and residents, reflecting an emphasis on art in the healing process. Names and titles on directory boards indicated interaction between psychosomatic, psychiatric and psychotherapeutical approaches within holistic healthcare.
As we headed back to Basel to meet with others arriving for the Round Table, it was with a deep sense of respect and gratefulness for these men and women of vision and faith who dared to step out into the unknown, to create an alternative, more biblical and holistic model of healthcare.
May many others be inspired to follow.
Till next week,