Swedish churches demand meeting with government about Christian schools

22-04-2022

Northern Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

The board of the Swedish Christian Council (SKR), consisting of Daniel Alm (Pentecostal movement), Antje Jackelén (Church of Sweden), Anders Arborelius (Catholic Church), Sofia Camnerin (Secretary General) and Benjamin Atas (Syrian Orthodox Church). Photo SKR

The Swedish Christian Council (SKR) has asked the government for a meeting to discuss the plan to block independent Christian schools from 2024. The Council, in which the main churches of Sweden work together, fears that the government has only a negative look on religion in society.

This week, the SKR wrote an open letter to the Education Minister, Lina Axelsson Kihlblom.

The Christian leaders had seen last week’s proposals, in which the government announced that it will try to block the establishment of new independent confessional schools. In the long term, the government prefers a “total ban” on independent schools. “We cannot take tax money and give it to schools that use it for their religious sermons”, minister Axelsson said last week.

According to Dagen, this stop must be in place by January 2024.

Varldenidag writes that existing denominational schools will be blocked or hindered to “expand their activities”, for example with new programs or courses.

Religion as controversial issue

According to the SKR, the new plan is there because “religion in Swedish schools has become a controversial issue”, the open letter says. “We are concerned that a policy that relatively unequivocally signals that religion does not belong in the public eye is losing sight of important values that would then be lost.”

The Swedish Christian Council points to the fact that just a small percentage of the pupils go to independent confessional schools compared to other countries. There are just 70 confessional schools; only 80 per cent of them are Christian. Above that, all religious activities are voluntary.

The leaders stress that having Christian schools in a country is a right that is recognised in the European Convention. Apart from that, people are free to raise their kids according to their own beliefs and conscience, based on the freedom of religion.

At the end of the letter, the Christian leaders invite themself again to meet with the Axelsson. “We have a lot to talk about”, the letter finishes.

“Extremely painful”

Education minister Axelsson is a Social Democrat and started in the government last November. She is the first transgender cabinet minister in Sweden. Earlier, she worked in education herself and has been a school leader.

lina-axelsson-kihlblom_2.jpeg
Minister Axelsson. Photo Kristian Pohl, Regeringskansliet

Directly after last week’s presentation, the Christian Independent Schools Council spokesperson, Jan Rosman, said that he found it “extremely painful to be associated with violent extremism.”

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