Thursday, September 23, 2010

Swedish Bishop: ”We Are Building a Church and a Mosque Under One Roof”

A drawing of the proposed Church and Mosque center
in Nacka, east of Stockholm, Sweden.
We will strengthen a shared feeling of belonging and trust in God’s house by building a Christian church and a mosque under one roof, writes Bengt Wadensjö, a bishop in the Lutheran church of Sweden, in Svenska Dagbladet, a leading Swedish daily. “I want to highlight a completely different image of Sweden,” he writes contrasting this unique project with the fact that the xenophobic Sweden Democrat party won 20 seats in the parliament.

The new joint center of worship will be built in Nacka municipality east of Stockholm, and house a Lutheran church, a Catholic church and an Islamic mosque. Bishop Wadensjö recalls that the leader of the Sweden Democrat party last year claimed that “the Muslims are the biggest foreign threat.” This is however not the case in Nacka, the bishop writes. “We see them as an asset. We have worked for several years … towards integration and living together as good neighbors. (…) For the past few years, we have had a discussion about Nacka’s parish in the /Lutheran/ Swedish church, St. Konrad’s catholic parish in Nacka and the Islamic association in Fisksätra /a suburb/ about building a joint House of God. The people of Nacka are about to get a church and a mosque as good neighbors under one common roof.”

“A model of the planned center of worship shows a mosque and a church side by side, unified by a joint foyer,” he continues. There will be a common space with space for both the Lutheran church and the Roman-Catholic church to follow their separate liturgical traditions, while the mosque will be an open forum for Muslims and friends. “The goal is to make a joint manifestation of shared belonging independent of faith, culture and language,” he writes, adding that there are “ignorant people within both Christianity and Islam,” but rejects the notion that extremists in either side represent either religions.

The proposed religious center in Nacka will be unique, but it is not the first time a church has shared space with a mosque. Bishop Wadensjö points to the Ummayad Mosque as an example from the 7th century. The Grand Mosque of Damascus was originally a Christian basilica dedicated to John the Baptist, but became a dual-use house of worship after the Muslim conquest of Damascus in 634.

“The goal of the project is not to blend the faiths and not to proselytize. It strives to give more chances for people of different religious traditions to meet, contribute to a positive development in Fisksätra and demonstrate that religion can be a unifying force in the local society.” (Fisksätra is a development in Nacka municipality with 7 000 inhabitants, many of which are immigrants.)

“Word history is created in Fisksätra. World peace begins in Fisksätra,” the bishop concludes his article.

Hans Sandberg

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