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Immanuelskyrkans blogg

Immanuelskyrkans blogg

Upplevelser, tankar och åsikter från människor i Immanuelskyrkan. Mitt i Stockholm.

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Shortly before the Swedish parliamentary and local elections, free market think tank Timbro published a book by journalist Erik Hörstadius called Vårt nya land, Sverige efter flyktingkrisen (“Our new land, Sweden after the refugee crisis”). 

The timing is impeccable. In May, an article in Expressen showed that immigration was the single most important issue for voters, according to a survey by research consultancy Demoskop. Third came integration. The (booming) economy came seventh - as can be expected. 

So how is Sweden really doing after the refugee crisis?

Almost one in five residents in Sweden are born abroad. But more than nine out of ten hold Swedish citizenship (SCB). This implies that they immigrated more than five years ago, before the so-called refugee crisis. 

The employment rate among foreign born is almost 8% lower than among Sweden born. But it grew more than twice as much than for Sweden born last year (SCB).

Reality is a tricky thing. The nationalist party Sweden Democrats grew to be the third largest party at national elections a couple of weeks ago. Foreign-born Swedes are well represented in their support-base. It tells us that there is a widely shared narrative of recent immigration and integration being very problematic.

 

Screen Shot 2018 09 21 at 23.38.37Hörstadius’ book is a more than welcome complement to the debate. He calls it a roadtrip and that’s exactly what it is. He travels the country by train. Visiting those who engage in the public debate - politicians, bloggers, vloggers - but also the refugees that fled to Sweden and those who worked hard to provide a decent reception.

He takes the debate out of Stockholm (get your google maps ready…) and visits towns that have been changed by the presence of newcomers over the past three years. He gives a voice to those who are often voiceless in public debate - the refugee, the social worker, the emergency care practitioner. Those that are emotionally falling apart because of the stress and insecurity of being in the waiting place. Those that compassionately and pragmatically care for the waiting ones. Those that need to deal with the aggression and crime related to the presence of the hopeless.

Hörstadius is not out to prove a theory or an ideology. He is simply telling people’s stories. Some of the stories are depressing and dark, whilst others are hope-inspiring. And all those who speak from experience admit - there are no easy solutions.

An interesting finding in the book is that one of the cornerstones of Swedish culture - the quiet agreement that one should not stand out, think differently or create conflict - has prevented us from having a healthy debate around recent immigration. Addressing issues that arise with the arrival of refugees was tabu until quite recently and perhaps it still is in some circles. The effect is that trust for those in power erodes and that we end up with a more racist and polarized society.

Another important question raised is whether a multicultural society is indeed something to strive for, as political and cultural elites in Sweden seem to do. Former policeman of Afghan origin Mustafa Panshiri has some sharp thoughts on this topic. He agrees that work and housing are important for successful integration, but points out that fundamental values also need to be understood. And that perhaps understanding them isn’t enough, they also need to be shared, a form of social integration. 

Vårt nya land does not present us with well-checked facts and figures, nor does it leave us with any clear-cut answers. But it does challenge us to see beyond the conversations we have within our little circle of friends and our own political opinions. It takes us right to the doorstep of people that may think very differently than us. And it portrays the people that deal with the nitty-gritty, day-to-day messiness of a changing society. For that, it is certainly worth the read.

 

Screen Shot 2018 09 21 at 23.38.13

Träffar: 1335

Some weeks ago, Christian newspaper Dagen published a survey on how Christians plan to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Sweden (to be held on 9 Sep 2018). One of the remarkable results was that the Sweden Democrats would receive 18% of votes* and become the third most popular party in this group of voters.

* In total 3,500 people participated - 500 of whom indicated that they are active in a church (80% Church of Sweden).

 

Our pastors in Immanuel Church have written (and signed) an article that calls for the church to become proactive in building a society that protects the vulnerable - including the “strangers”. It was published in newspaper Dagen today. A wonderful contribution to the political debate running up to the elections this fall. Here's a quick translation of the article:

pastors immanuel

 

Pastors in Immanuel church: We as Christians are not for sale

 

The state is not our savior. Our calling is to seek the kingdom of God first. We are called to love and show hospitality to those whom Jesus loved, pastors in Immanuel Church in Stockholm write.

 

With a few months left to the election, many are concerned that the Sweden Democrats will probably gain the best election results so far. To us it is surprising that a party with a clear xenophobic background seems to be an increasingly obvious choice among Christian voters. A deeper analysis suggests that internal secularization is taking place in the churches in Sweden - a kind of memory loss. Have we stopped believing that our unique contribution as a church to building the good and true society in the end is about responding to the call of Jesus to be faithful witnesses of the kingdom of God as the church of Christ? Are the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) not the primary “election manifesto” of the church?

 

The churches in Sweden are the body of Christ - not a political body affiliated with a party. This means that every Christian is not only called to ask the question of which party-political vision is most relevant. Together we are also called to give voice to the church's alternative and concrete narrative of reality. And its narrative springs forth out of a faithful response to the kingdom of God. It is also in this way that Christian congregations can make a real difference in their endeavor to create the good and true society.

 

A concrete consequence of Jesus' message of the kingdom of God is that the Christian congregation is not ethnically determined. That is, it is not an ethnic or national identity that gives a Christian congregation identity or constitutes the criterion of those belonging to it. A Christian theological political view stems from citizenship in the kingdom of God through baptism. Therefore, the church's parole is not to build a society where "blood is thicker than water" but to anticipate a world where "water is thicker than blood". In the early church, it was found that "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28). Being a church means being a new family, a new social body.

 

We belong to Immanuel Church in Stockholm, a congregation that worships in four different languages and with members from at least 40 different countries. The congregation strives to accommodate different theological and political strands and tries to see our differences as an asset for building what is common. We know that it is a big and difficult challenge to live together with this diversity, but it is our calling as a Christian congregation not to repeat social segregation in different forms.

 

We want to forego by example to show that it is possible to create a life together that overcomes subtle and inherited patterns of racism, exclusion and alienation. This is not easy or conflict-free, but we persevere because it is part of our mission as a congregation.

 

To faithfully testify of the kingdom of God means defining, visualizing and living out a story other than the narrative of the abuse of power, segregation, violence, enmity and disunion.

 

It should be natural to our congregation, with our knowledge, our resources and our Christian faith to not only be part of our denomination the Uniting Church in Sweden, but to also be part of civil society. We want to actively participate in seeing political decisions become reality, insofar as they contribute to a better and true society and do not counteract our calling to serve the kingdom of God.

 

Like many other Christian congregations around Sweden, we experience how difficult it is to find our identity as the church of Christ. Decreasing membership and rapid change in society pose major challenges. It is easy to be tempted to abandon the mission that Christ called us to, and instead choose "golden calves" that seem to offer quick results in a complex reality. One of these temptations is to compete in being the one with the most subtle and effective capacity to push out those who are perceived as strangers. But as the Church of Christ, we are called to love those who are at risk of being marginalized.

 

We are called to love and show hospitality to those whom Jesus loved. This means that we as Christians are not for sale. Our Lord is not a political leader. The state is not our savior.

 

As Christian congregations, we now need to organize ourselves and take a visible and clear stand on what kind of society we want to build, based on our calling. In coming elections, we need to place our votes so that those whom Jesus invited into his Kingdom first, are also the ones that are sheltered in our society.

 

Ulla Marie Gunner, senior pastor in Immanuel Church, Stockholm 

Ulf Bergsviker, pastor and PhD candidate in systematic theology

Anna Berndes, pastor with focus on diaconal care and university

Charlotte Höglund, pastor with focus on children & families and young adults

Cho Chong-Il, lead pastor for the Korean fellowship

Chris Peterson, lead pastor for the International fellowship

Claes-Göran Ydrefors, lead pastor for the Swedish fellowship

Ivani Ahlberg, pastor for the Portuguese-speaking group

Karin Fritzson, pastor with focus on volunteers and leadership

Pete Anderson, associate pastor for the International fellowship

 

Taggad i: church makt samhälle
Träffar: 1343

 

IMG 1556

 

A cold clear Saturday in November. Hundreds of people have gathered on Sergelstorg in the heart of Stockholm to protest. We are here to protest slavery. I simply cannot fathom that this is actually happening - an anti-slavery protest in 2017. Yet, we know that there are more slaves today than in any previous point in history, with more than 40 million people being exploited around the world (Global Slavery Index 2016).

Today, we are protesting the slave trade in Libya. African lives that are being auctioned for $400 as CNN reported, it obviously reminds us of two of the worst chapters in human history, the Atlantic and Arab slave trade.

Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come is sung from stage. People chime in. Different speakers, sub-cultural profiles, take the floor. Swedish politicians are accused of not speaking up. Swedish media are accused of not reporting enough. Representation is failing and important voices go unheard. The proximity principle does not apply when you are in a position of privilege.

Meanwhile, there are Swedish citizens of African origin who get a call and learn that one of their relatives is captured in northern-Africa and that a ransom is demanded. What is the price of a human life… They pay, time and again, regardless of the increase. It is easy to see how the world is more interconnected than ever before.

One speaker reminds us that even if you cannot relate through relatives, everyone can relate as a fellow human being. As someone who believes that every life is free. We are encouraged to be the voice of change, in our homes, at our kitchen tables. Because the idea that one human life would be less valuable than another’s starts in our minds, with our perceptions, ideas and prejudices.

The protest is ending and I walk home with a heavy heart. I realize that the current migration situation in the world is vast and complicated. And that the problems of failed state Libya are many. But the auctioning of human lifes is beyond any opinion or discussion. It is simply evil. And we must do everything in our power to end its practise.

 

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Two days ago, our city of Stockholm was struck by a terror attack killing four people and wounding others. Still fresh in our minds was the gas attack in Syria last Tuesday killing at least 50 people, including children.

Today, as we gathered for our Palm Sunday celebration, there was a bomb attack on two coptic churches in Egypt, killing at least 40 people. They too, were gathering to celebrate Palm Sunday.

How can we sing, dance, wave our palm branches and welcome our Messiah while our hearts are sad? In what way is Jesus really King when innocent people are slaughtered?

This is my encouragement for you today: We welcome our Messiah because He won against all the powers of darkness and destruction in our world and in our lives. Not by means of terror, power, violence, fear or intimidation. But with the ultimate sacrifice of his own blood. That is our reason for hope.

“The thief´s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” (John 10: 10-11)

...I hear you. The pain is real. The gut-wrenching anger at the loss of innocent lives. The continued presence of evil. Jesus himself wept for those that would not come to accept the kind of peace that He came to bring (Luke 19:41).

But the hope is real too. It allows us to see beyond terror, to believe in a good God and to see goodness in people around us. It allows us to be bold and fearless because we are part of a bigger narrative, one of which we already know the ending.

And as tens of thousands of Stockholmers gathered in a demonstration of love today, presenter Rickard Sjöberg found the perfect words to end the gathering when he quoted Martin Luther King: “Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that.”

 

 

IMG 1552In the sea of flowers left behind in memory of the victims of the terror attack in Stockholm on 7 April, there is a note saying "goda grannar" (good neighbors) showing a church and a mosque in the skyline.

Träffar: 1660

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