Christian refugees who have fled persecution in their home countries now face the same fate in Sweden. During the last weekend of February, Swedish Radio shared the story of two Christian women from Iran who have been threatened and harassed by a group of men in a Swedish asylum accommodation.
Similar attacks have occurred in Germany, as reported by the Daily Mail on February 11, when 30 Christian refugees in Stuttgart were moved into a separate accommodation “after they had their bibles torn up and crucifixes smashed by fellow migrants.” The move was made possible only after a campaign group organized a petition, signed by 17,000 people, complaining about the abuse. “Putting them all together is to ignore the right they have to protection, and is an insult to the victims of Islamic oppression,” said a spokesman for a local evangelical church, commenting on the harassments of Christian refugees. In Berlin and Nuremberg there have been similar events. Many women who have been victims of the Islamic state have also been sent to secret locations.
Already in September of last year, deputy head of Germany’s police union, Jörg Radek urged that “Christian and Muslim refugees should be housed separately in Germany to minimise tensions following growing levels of violence at asylum seeker shelters.” The Telegraph shared the story of Radek’s comments as well as “calls from German MPs from across the political spectrum for better protection for Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities in asylum accommodation.”
While German officials show signs of willingness to help Christian refugees to safe accommodations, this is not the case in Sweden.
In Western Sweden, according to the Christian daily Dagen, a Pakistani couple had to take their situation into their own hand and moved to a church when the husband’s name was sprayed on the wall near their room calling for his death.
The same thing happened when a group of asylum seekers from Iraq and Syria had to leave their asylum accommodation in Kalmar, a city on the southeastern coast of Sweden, due to harassment, according to local newspaper Östra Småland. The head of the regional Migration Agency promised to take action, but it was not long, though, until a new incident occurred around the same city. A 26 year-old, who claimed to have fought with jihadist groups in Syria, threatened to “slaughter” and “cut [the] throat” of a Christian refugee. When the police responded to the call from the asylum accommodation, the threatened man said, “I have fled the war to avoid this kind of thing.” The 26-year-old was later sentenced only to probation for unlawful threats and fined 8,000 kronor (around $900) in damages. Hardly reassuring for victims, such a response signals that authorities do not want to act when Christian asylum seekers are threatened.
Currently, the Swedish Migration Agency denies threatened Christian refugees special asylum accommodation but has already established four private LGBT-certified accommodations. The Agency is also talking with RFSL, Sweden’s largest LGBT-organization, about special accommodation for this group, which is positive. But when Christian asylum seekers who are victims of genocide in their home countries, continue to be persecuted in Sweden, the message from the Swedish Migration Agency, according to an interview with the Christian daily Världen idag, is “You will be placed where there is room.”
Even the Minister for Justice and Migration, Morgan Johansson of the Social Democratic Party, has rejected the idea of opening asylum accommodations for Christians. In normal circumstances, women who are abused are not expected to live in the same home as the men who want to harm them. But apparently this rule isn’t applied to refugees, as criminals and victims are forced to live together. The Migration Agency has also said that they do not work to educate refugees about gender equality or Swedish law. The same conclusion was reached by a Parliamentary inquiry when MP Robert Hannah of the centre-right Liberals recently examined the Agency’s routines. There aren’t any specific requirements on the private actors offering asylum accommodation regarding conflict resolution either.
No one wants a society where people are divided up on the basis of religious beliefs, sexuality, ethnicity, or nationality, but this is an urgent situation that must be resolved. Therefore, we in the Swedish Evangelical Alliance are launching “The Christian Asylum and Safety Fund” in order to support an initiative by journalist and human rights activist Nuri Kino to start a temporary private asylum accommodation for Christians and others who are threatened. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to find out how to help and/or contribute.
Basic protection should be provided by the state, but when the state fails to protect Christian asylum seekers, Christian organizations must take action.
Jacob Rudolfsson is the deputy general secretary of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance. He has a background in journalism and politics and has also worked as researcher for the Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom. Rudolfsson received his B.A. in comparative religion from Södertörn’s University College in Stockholm, Sweden.
Photo Credit: Frankie Fouganthin via Wikimedia Commons. Syrian Refugees arrive at Stockholm Central Station by train through Denmark in September 2015.