Half of all young Swedish Christians have been “humiliated or hurt” because of their faith, a new report commissioned by the Churches has found.
– Churches: Harassment so bad – including by teachers – “many young people do not express their beliefs”
The revelation is contained in a paper released February 19 by the Churches of Sweden, entitled “Young believers in society”, as SIR reports.
The Churches surveyed 393 young Swedish Christians on the occasion of the entrance into law in the country at the beginning of this year of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
That Convention includes the right of all children to a proper education and the right to express their religious and cultural identity.
In terms of the new law, the Churches asked themselves: “How can such change protect the religious freedom of children and teenagers in Sweden?”
But the conclusions of the report suggest that the humiliation and hurt young Swedish Christians experience is so bad in many cases that “many young people do not express their beliefs”.
Among the more shocking findings of the survey – apart from the fact that one in every two young believers said they “suffered violations because of their faith” – was the fact that for one youth out of four, it was a teacher who hurt or humiliated them.
– Church of Sweden primate: “Proof religious freedom in Sweden is not so obvious as we are led to believe”
In a piece February 19 in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, Sweden’s Church leaders observed that “there is a clear tendency to state that children and teenagers should be raised in a religion-neutral world”.
“Sweden is a secular country but it is not a secular society, it is largely made up of people with religious beliefs”, the Christian leaders added.
“The report is further proof of the fact that religious freedom in Sweden is not so obvious as we are led to believe”, lamented for her part Antje Jackelén, Archbishop of Uppsala and primate of the Church of Sweden.
Daniel Alm, head of the Free Pentecostal assemblies, wondered too: “What happens in the long term in a society in which young people are not encouraged to explore their beliefs and do not learn to respect other people’s beliefs?”
For his part, Cardinal Anders Arborelius, the Catholic Bishop of Stockholm, recalled that “our survey focussed on young Christians.
“There’s reason to believe for instance that young Muslims and Jews have had the same experiences or maybe even worse ones”, the cardinal deplored.
– A shock in a country known for its religious tolerance… but low religious practice
The findings of the Swedish Churches’ report on young Christians’ experiences of harassment come as a shock, as Sweden is regularly ranked among the top ten countries in the world for religious freedom.
A 2018 US Government State Department report, furthermore, found evidence of just one anti-Christian attack in the country that year, on an Afghan man who had received death threats from fellow asylum seekers for converting to Christianity.
That being said, although 58% of Swedes belong to the Church of Sweden, only 19% profess to being “religious”.
Religious practice is higher among the other Churches in the country, but together the other Christian groups – such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Pentecostal movement, the Missionary (or Missions) Church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – together make up less than 7% of the population.