He should have become a legionary of Christ. Farid Enrique Ben Amor was even invited to see Archbishop Wolfgang Haas. But the American decided against studying theology. In Geneva he is committed to the “Democrats abroad”: for Joe Biden, against Donald Trump.
Alice Küng and Raphael Rauch
With a beaming smile, Farid Enrique Ben Amor opens the door to his home in Geneva. “Welcome,” he says, proudly showing his “Democrats Abroad Switzerland” T-shirt.
It shows a cow in a Swiss cross top. And a horse. It’s an election campaign. Ben Amor is doing everything possible to prevent US President Donald Trump from being re-elected.
Ben Amor’s biography is multinational. His mother comes from Santiago de Chile. His father from Bethlehem. He was born and raised in California. He has a rosary made of olive wood that says “Bethlehem”.
“Unfortunately, I don’t speak Arabic,” he says. His fiancée brings another nation with her. “Christina is Korean.”
He feels Switzerland is xenophobic
Both live in Geneva. After Trump’s election as US president, he wanted to leave his country. “Since I was in Switzerland for the first time at the age of 19, I knew that one day I wanted to live here,” says Ben Amor. He worked for a year and a half at the World Economic Forum, where he met his fiancée.
“She is a musician and studied at the Lausanne Conservatory,” says Ben Amor. The two of them have settled in well on Lake Geneva. The physicist and media scientist, who studied physics, is disappointed with the Swiss Confederation: “Switzerland is strongly fighting migration.”
USA or Japan – that will be decided tonight
Ben Amor quits his job at the WEF, wanted to apply for a regular visa. That was more difficult than expected. His application has been submitted. “But since there was no reason for it, I took the case to court and won,” says Ben Amor. His accusation: Anyone who is not a millionaire is discriminated against by the Swiss authorities.
Ben Amor and his fiancée want to leave Switzerland again. Where to will depend on the outcome of the US elections. “If Trump loses, we’ll go back to the US. Otherwise to Japan, ”he says. As a film and video game producer, he is hoping for more orders there.
Part of the Obama team
“I encourage all voters abroad to vote for Joe Biden,” says the campaigner. That would affect around eight million people eligible to vote around the world.
The democrat is familiar with political work. “After college, I worked for Obama’s election campaign and later also for the White House.”
Today he is involved in the election campaign on a voluntary basis. On social media, with phone calls – but also through personal contacts, Ben Amor tries to reach people. That can also be done from Switzerland.
From Geneva in the USA: Online election campaign with time difference
The time difference doesn’t make it easy. But Ben Amor does everything he can for Joe Biden from Lake Geneva. It depends on the swing states.
In addition to election posters and souvenirs from abroad, Christian symbols can also be seen on the upper floor of the small house. Ben Amor bases his political position on his beliefs. “Catholic and democratic values are very similar,” he says – and cites solidarity and charity as examples.
“Fratelli tutti” – like Joe Biden’s party program?
Ben Amor has loaded the encyclical “Fratelli tutti” on his computer. There the Pope calls for social justice, an open migration policy, global justice – and the abolition of the death penalty. “It reads like the US Democratic party program,” says Ben Amor.
The Catholic faith also accompanies Ben Amor in everyday life. “Generosity and openness are always in the back of my mind,” he says. Together with his wife, who is also a Catholic, he is regularly looking for an English-speaking church in Geneva.
Invitation to Wolfgang Haas and Joseph Ratzinger
It almost wasn’t a political campaigner but a priest. The legionaries of Christ took a liking to him and invited him to Europe. One stop: the Archdiocese of Liechtenstein. With an audience with Archbishop Wolfgang Haas and the royal couple.
Another stop: the Vatican – including a meeting with the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger. The later Pope Benedict.
“Every vote counts”
“I really enjoyed my time with the Legionaries of Christ,” says Ben Amor. “I still have friendships from my trip to Europe today. When I fly to Rome, I meet priests I knew from then and think to myself: Man, you could now live in the Vatican too. “
Ben Amor has chosen a different path. He firmly believes that lay people also have a mandate to shape the church and society. The Church has had to neglect Ben Amor a little over the past few weeks. Because his goal, the deselection of Donald Trump, is time-consuming.
“We can do it”
“Every vote counts,” says Ben Amor. As an American, he is an optimist: “We can do it. I am delighted that Joe Biden, a Catholic, is finally moving into the White House again. ” That would then mean: packing your suitcase, saying goodbye to Geneva – and moving back to California.
© Catholic Media Center, November 3rd, 2020
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