God’s House: Coexisting in Sweden


Even as the world is still reeling after last Friday’s attacks in Norway by a 32-year-old gunman who said he wanted to “save Europe from Muslim takeover,” a house of worship for Lutheran, Muslims and Roman Catholics is being built in Nacka in the parish of Fisksätra south of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. “God’s House” is the name of an endeavor that is attempting to “tackle sectarianism,” says Swedish-English newspaper The Local.

Henrik Larsson, a pastor with the Church of Sweden in Nacka and project manager for the initiative, says that God’s House will be the first building to house a church and a mosque since the Umayyad Mosque was built in Damascus in the 600s. The idea for the project arose a few years ago as a “natural extension of the growing cooperation” among the Church of Sweden, St. Konrad’s Catholic Church in Nacka, and the Muslim Association in Nacka (Muslimska föreningen i Nacka). According to Larsson:

In 2004, the local schools came to us and asked us for help and advice in how to teach children about religious tolerance and address any problems, and the idea to do something together started to take form as we thought, “Could we do something?”

After members of the far-right Social Democrat party who campaigned on an openly anti-immigration and anti-Muslim platform won seats in Sweden’s Parliament for the first time in 2010, Church of Sweden Bishop Bengt Wadensjö wrote in a letter to the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet:

In Nacka we do not think that Muslims or immigrants should be seen as a threat, as suggested by Jimmie Åkesson [leader of the Social Democrats'. The idea is to demonstrate how people can get along together regardless of culture, language or faith.

While Swedish Democrat Erik Hellsborn wrote on his blog that the attacks in Oslo and Utøya are the result of "mass immigration" and "Islamization," Åkesson and other right-wing groups in Europe have condemned the attacks.

The Nacka project got underway in 2009 with renovations between a building owned by the Church of Sweden that rented space to the Catholic Church. According to plans for the project -- which still requires funding but is projected to be finished by 2014-- a mosque will be built on land beside the current building with a communal foyer to connect them. A long-term hope is to start a youth club and children's center. A drawing of what God's House will look like can be see at Rue89 which notes that similar projects have been started in the UK and in Berlin among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Said Imam Awad Olwan of the Muslim Association in Nacka:

"Religion has been used in such a negative way in history so this is a way of us showing it can be put in a positive light as well....

"It was easy to agree to [the project], because we have lived and worked side by side for over 20 years,” he explains.

“There are actually not so many differences between our religions, we do after all believe in one God, our children attend the same schools, and we all share similar local issues.”

Larsson notes that “God’s House” has received a lot of publicity since the project was announced, both positive and negative, the latter because, as he says, “… on both sides, we have such a strong picture of each other.”

Hopefully “God’s House” might inspire others to attempt similar projects in which those from different faiths can worship and be together.

I teach Latin, ancient Greek and Classics at a small Jesuit college in Jersey City, which is just across from the site where the World Trade Center once stood. Our students are mostly from the surrounding area in Hudson County and reflect its demographics as many are Latino/a, Pakistani, Indian, Egyptian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Polish, Irish, Kenyan, Ghanan and many other ethnicities. Muslims, Catholics, Baptists and agnostics all have class together and, while things aren’t perfect, we all genuinely take pride in being in a community together.

Coexistence is possible and one house of worship in Sweden is a quiet emblem that we can get along.


Related Care2 Coverage

Norway Sounds Alarm Bell in Europe

Can You “Test-Drive” a Religion for a Month?

Obama, Islam and Tolerance: In Indonesia

Photo by Zé.Valdi

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Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.2 years ago

All religions should become tolerant. Unfortunately, for centuries, every religion has claimed to be the only true one...

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.2 years ago

thank you

Christopher M.
Christopher M.2 years ago

There are not too many differences between our religions

WRONG AGAIN! I asked a Muslim once, and he said no one bears the guilt of your sin but you. In Christianity, Jesus does it for you. It isn't a matter of relative goodness in Christianity, like it is in Islam, based against perfection, everyone is a sinner, and needs redemption.

The danger is that people like you might actually believe it without checking the facts.

Lynn D.
Lynn D.2 years ago

Sounds hopeful but, ......think the little lambs going to get slaughtered!

bob m.
bob m.3 years ago

What did the boa say to the little lamb... sssssss...aw c'mon, your so cute ...just a little kiss.
Long term effects.....

john b.
m h.3 years ago

probably all good intention, but unfortunately i will NOT be surprised if this is just another move by muslims to play oh so kind and cute until they have enough numbers to outmanouver the non-muslims. if im wrong about my suspicions, then great. i hope i am. we see again and again though, how muslim immigrants in europe which and whine, and play along as they know they're a minority, but once they've established enough ppl in an area, they real intent comes out; occupation and the creation of their own society.

im sure many of u think im terribly negative, but im really just realistic.
anyway, it's good to see that some ppl try at least. all the best. let's hope the real islam doesnt show its ugly face. let's hope these "muslims" are of the type that do NOT follow the demands of the koran...

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Love the banner!

Ernest R.
Ernest R.4 years ago

@ Lise B—“One God for all” didn’t prevent violence in the past, it won.t prevent violence in the future. Delusionx solve nothing.

Drivin Russell
4 years ago

Was cut off:

Syncretism (AKA "Chrislam") will prove to be a DANGEROUS illusion as the 2 religions are absolutely IRRECONCILABLE, people's vain hopes notwithstanding!

READ the Bible AND the Koran & you'll SEE that Islam's "Allah" is NOT “Yahweh" & "Isa" is NOT "Jesus of Nazareth”!

We’re NOT exempt from history!........EVER!

WHY do I , an agnostic, have to tell you religious history?

“Nullius in verba.” - (Latin) ‘Take nobody’s word for it.’ motto of the Royal Society

Drivin Russell
4 years ago

NOTA BENE: the Damascene Umayyad mosk began as the great 4th C. Christian ‘Basilica of Saint John the Baptist’.

Caliph Omar's Great & Terrible JIHAD conquered Damascus in 634 CE & SLAUGHTERED most of its Christian citizens, tho’ Muslims CONDESCENDED to let the few remaining DHIMMIFIED (powerless/enslaved/2nd class) Christians have partial access to their own church, now converted into a mosk/Islamic center.

In 706 the Umayyad dynasty’s Caliph Walid I chose Damascus to be the Muslim world’s center & ORDERED a mosk be built over St John’s.

Over the ‘dhimmis’ objections, Walid DEMOLISHED it (& the mosk serves as a ‘Rabat’: symbol of Muslim SUPREMACY over its dhimmis)!

Walid DID return SOME of the stolen Damascene Christian churches to the ‘dhimmis’, but NONE could EVER be repaired/preserved without EXPLICIT permission (Cf: ‘Pact of Omar’) & FEW SURVIVE!

Syria’s Christians were killed/enslaved/converted to Islam in 200 years & are now only 10% of its population.

Now these CONNED, GULLIBLE Swedes are giving their building to the Muslims like ‘dhimmis’!

Syncretism (AKA "Chrislam") will prove to be a DANGEROUS illusion as the 2 religions are absolutely IRRECONCILABLE, people's vain hopes notwithstanding!

READ the Bible AND the Koran & you'll SEE that Islam's "Allah" is NOT “Yahweh" & "Isa" is NOT "Jesus of Nazareth”!

We’re NO