That such a large institution as the Church of Sweden gathers church collections throughout the country to support a school that spreads hatred and warmongering should doubtless be seen as enormously problematic. Pictured: Uppsala Cathedral, the headquarters of the Church of Sweden. (Image source: Jarvis/Wikimedia Commons)
The Swedish Jerusalem Society, founded in 1900, has devoted its mission to charity work in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. For several decades, however, the Swedish Jerusalem Society has been hostile to the Jewish State of Israel. The association has three official goals in the Palestinian territories:
- Strengthen the position of women
- Contribute to peace and reconciliation
- Strengthen the Christian minority
Despite these noble goals, the Swedish Jerusalem Society publishes a journal in which the content, although often about Israel, has a tone that is extremely hostile and biased. In the journal’s first issue of 2018, one can read an interview with a Palestinian school principal, in which she states:
“We have suffered for so many years, and may suffer for a few more years, but it is unfair to give our capital to anyone else. Why not share it?”
In the same issue, the bishop of the Lutheran Church in Jordan, who supports the anti-Semitic Kairos Palestine Document, says in an interview:
“The chosen people — so are we Christians, me too, not just the Jewish people. To be chosen can never happen at someone else’s expense.”
In the same issue, in an interview with Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti, he compares the State of Israel to apartheid South Africa. It is important to highlight that when Barghouti made this comparison during the interview, no critical questions were asked of him. There were also no representatives from the Israeli side allowed there to comment or provide any kind of rebuttal. Consequently, what permeates the contents of the organization’s journal is the demonization of Israel.
The majority of the board members of the Swedish Jerusalem Society have been, or still are, employed by one of Sweden’s largest institutions, the Church of Sweden – and reciprocally, the Church of Sweden has an official representative on the board of the Swedish Jerusalem Society. That an association hostile to Israel has a close relationship with the Church of Sweden is not a surprise: this author has previously chronicled how the Church of Sweden supports the false, highly distorted Kairos Palestine Document.
The main activity of the Swedish Jerusalem Society in the Palestinian territories now seems to consist of raising financial support for Good Shepherd’s Swedish School in Bethlehem. Although the school, which offers education from the first grade in elementary school through high school, is officially a Christian school, 98% of its students come from Muslim homes.
Although Good Shepherd’s Swedish School is marketed by the Swedish Jerusalem Society as a school that promotes peace, Tobias Petersson, director of the think tank Perspective on Israel, has revealed that the textbooks used by Good Shepherd’s Swedish School have jihadi content that encourages holy war against the State of Israel.
The textbooks celebrate the Palestinian terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, who was one of a group of 11 terrorists who murdered 38 civilians in Israel, including 13 children, on March 11, 1978. Also, in those textbooks, Jews are described as liars and corrupt. Petersson has reviewed the contents of the school books with Arabic translators living in Sweden. He has also verified the translations by getting second opinions to confirm their accuracy.
Maps in the schoolbooks and on the walls of Good Shepherd’s Swedish School do not show the State of Israel; instead the outline of Israel had been displaced by the identical outline of the “State of Palestine”. When the school was visited by the Palestinian Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna, he paid tribute to suicide bombers.
The Swedish Jerusalem Society, according to information on its website, collects about 1.8 million Swedish kronors a year (roughly $182,000; 167,000 euros) to support Bethlehem’s Good Shepherd’s Swedish School. In Sweden, anyone can choose to fund schools that indoctrinate children with jihadism, anti-Semitism and general warmongering, even if it is unethical. The problem is that 65% of the money given to the Swedish Jerusalem Society comes from Church of Sweden collections throughout Sweden from members of congregations who may have no interest in supporting such indoctrination, and who may abhor from all forms of violence.
Members of the Church of Sweden may not always share the hostility towards Israel that the clergy supports. Most are regular people who automatically became church members when the Church of Sweden was an official state church, before year 2000, when all citizens of Sweden became members of the Church automatically.
The Church of Sweden, which began as a state church, was an official part of the Swedish state until the year 2000. Since then, it has continued to be one of Sweden’s largest institutions, having a “special relationship status” with the state. The Church collects funeral fees from all of Sweden’s residents, no matter what religion they practice, and has a responsibility for the funeral activities, except in the municipalities of Stockholm and Tranås. Currently 57.7% of Sweden’s population are members of the Church of Sweden, which means, out of a national population of not quite ten million, that the Church of Sweden has roughly 5.9 million members.
That such a large institution gathers church collections throughout the country to support a school that spreads hatred and warmongering should doubtless be seen as enormously problematic. The practice also shows that not only does Swedish aid go to organizations that spread hate, but also that large institutions in Sweden have opened back-channels to send millions of Swedish kronors every year to schools, such as Good Shepherd’s Swedish School, that also spread hate.
To understand how harmful this situation is, can you imagine what would happen if one of Israel’s — or another country’s — largest institutions were raising money to support a school that taught children to hate Sweden and celebrate terrorists who murdered Swedes? It would, of course, be a great scandal and totally unacceptable. But in Sweden, this is exactly what is happening now.
That money is collected in Church of Sweden congregations and sent to Good Shepherd’s Swedish School through the Swedish Jerusalem Society is nothing that the Church of Sweden denies. The Church also acknowledges that there may be anti-Semitism and jihadism in the schoolbooks. When the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association had a meeting with the Church of Sweden about Good Shepherd’s Swedish School and other such schools in the West Bank supported by the Church of Sweden, the international director for the Church of Sweden, Erik Lysén said that the values conveyed in the schools outweigh the material used in teaching. He added:
“The issue of teaching materials is part of the ongoing dialogue that the Swedish Jerusalem Society has with the school’s management and the issue will be raised again.”
It is regrettable that one of Sweden’s largest official institutions, especially a church, is actually providing funds for the promotion a deadly conflict between the Palestinians and Israel by supporting a school that teaches young Palestinians to hate. A church that funds hate can never be a voice for peace in the world or an example of moral behavior.
Nima Gholam Ali Pour is policy advisor for the Sweden Democrats in the Swedish municipality of Malmö. He is author of the Swedish books “Därför är mångkultur förtryck” (“Why multiculturalism is oppression”) and “Allah bestämmer inte I Sverige” (“Allah does not decide in Sweden”).