55 years of service for Southeast Asia

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Karl F. Appl, President of the Basel Mission (right), thanks Fredi Hirt for his extraordinary commitment. Photo: Séverine Fischer/Mission 21

On Saturday, June 22, Fredi Hirt was formally dismissed from the Board of the Basel Mission. This marks the end of an intensive and exceptionally long commitment to the work of Mission 21 and formerly the Basel Mission for Southeast Asia.

In 1970, Fredi Hirt and his wife Gritli traveled to Indonesia. The mission area was in a remote village on the island of Borneo. "There was no road there at the time and it took us three hours by boat to get to the nearest town," says Fredi Hirt in conversation.

The aim of the work in Borneo was educational work. The trained timber construction specialist from Switzerland supported the local partner church in improving vocational training. This support ultimately even led to the establishment of a timber construction school. In addition, the village's infrastructure was continuously expanded and a bridge was even built over the river.

Learning and networking

Fredi and Gritli Hirt brought new knowledge to Borneo and learned a lot themselves. The English skills they had previously acquired in London were of little use in the village. So they quickly learned Indonesian and were soon able to converse with the locals. The couple became a family on Borneo, Gritli gave birth to three children and was taken to the city by boat for each birth. In addition to the family work, Gritli was also involved in social work and thus contributed greatly to Fredi being able to devote himself fully to the project work.

After ten years, the Hirt family's time in Borneo came to an end. For Fredi, the work for Indonesia and now also for Malaysia continued. From Basel, he led the program and project work in Southeast Asia, first for the Basel Mission and then for Mission 21. He repeatedly travelled to the countries, visited partner churches and organizations and supported the projects on site. As a talented and enthusiastic networker, after his retirement he became involved in the board of the Basel Mission, which has been the supporting association of Mission 21 since 2001, as well as in overarching organizations, above all in the umbrella organization "Eukumindo", which brings together numerous aid and missionary organizations active in Indonesia.

Encounters in the learning community

Traveling was and is a great passion of Fredi Hirt. He combined this with his commitment to his work and organized countless trips to Indonesia and Malaysia. He brought interested people closer to the local culture and partner churches and made it possible to experience the impact of Mission 21's project work.

Fredi Hirt still has close ties with Indonesia and Malaysia today. Another meeting trip is planned for the fall, to the Malaysian part of Borneo. Fredi Hirt is delighted that the decades of work in Southeast Asia are continuing. Today, Mission 21 is active on the ground with around a dozen partner churches and organizations, including in interfaith peacebuilding. In view of the increasing conservative and intolerant tendencies in Indonesia, Fredi Hirt finds it particularly important that the partner organizations in particular are growing and working successfully in peacebuilding.

Text: Christoph Rácz

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