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This week my first book in Swedish was released. It’s called Jesus was Also a Refugee and is co-authored with evangelical pastor Stefan Swärd. It develops a Christian perspective on the refugee crisis and the European xenophobic movement. Our conclusion is obviously that Christians should bless and welcome immigrants and refugees and not oppose migration from poor, dangerous countries to rich and safe countries.
One surprising finding is that many xenophobic and racist Christians have a liberal, or progressive, view on theology. This is very evident if you look at Nazi Germany in the 1930’s: liberal theologians like Paul Althaus and Emanuel Hirsch celebrated Hitler and hated Jews. They combined their Nazi rants with biblical criticism and despising any effort to follow the commands of Jesus as they are expressed in the New Testament.
Liberal Christians are also very prominent in the main xenophobic party of my nation, the Sweden Democrats. This party has neo-Nazi roots and try to appeal to Christian values in contrast to Muslim or socialist values. They have been working hard to gain influence in the Church of Sweden, by electing people who hold on to nationalism while also being very liberal theologically. (more…)
Today is 70 years since the Nazi death camp Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, and it is also the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We must never forget the horrible attrocities during the world war when approximately seven million Jews, Romas, disabled, homosexuals and others were brutally killed by the Nazi regime and their allies. And as Christians, we must never forget that many who participated in this called themselves Christians, and that parts of the church leadership supported Nazism – although there was a lot of Christian resistance as well.
A lot has been written about the religious views of Hitler himself, and it seems to be a bit self-contradictory and populistic – which isn’t too strange since he, after all, was a Nazi. I’ve heard several neo-Nazis and other racists today declare that they fight for “Christian values” while they also hate religion and, of course, revere pagan gods. This is obviously extremely paradoxical but could be explained by that for many racists religion is merely a suit, which importance is heavily subordinated the nationalist and racist values that one fights for. Hence, the Party Platform of NSDAP read in 1920:
“We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The Party as such upholds the point of view of a positive Christianity without tying itself confessionally to any one confession. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit at home and abroad and is convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only be achieved from within on the basis of the common good before individual good.”
The state-censored religion proposed here should be unacceptable to any descent Christian, but both Catholics and Protestants started to dance to the Nazi pipe after Hitler became dictator. Paul Althaus, one of Germany’s leading Lutheran theologians, wrote “Our Protestant churches have welcomed the turning point of 1933 as a gift and miracle of God”.
The last couple of days I have been busy, partly with a big evangelistic event and partly with following the Swedish elections. The result was dramatic: the xenophobic and racist Sweden Democrats party doubled their support and became our third biggest party, and since neither the progressive nor the conservative coalitions have majority because of the Sweden Democrats, our new prime minister Stefan Löfven has a lot of headaches in trying to figure out how to govern without relying on the racists.
Sweden is obviously not immune to the sad trend that has characterised European politics the last 20 years: xenophobic, racist and fascist parties are entering European parliaments and gain a lot of influence. There is basically no European parliament left without a party that wants to cut immigration drastically and that point out minorities like Muslims, Roma or Jews as a national problem. Some parties, like Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary, are clearly neo-Nazi and uses the same rhetoric that Hitler used 80 years ago against ethnic, religious and social minorities.
Naturally, many Europeans are worried that history will repeat itself, and countless theories and ideas concerning how we will stop the rise of racism and fascism have been discussed. They often contradict each other: some say we should ignore them, others that we should debate against them; some say we should be more generous towards immigrants, others that we should kick out more immigrants. What way is the correct one? How should we as Christians respond?
In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul talks about waging spiritual warfare against arguments and theoretical strongholds that are hostile towards Christ: “though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:3-5)
Yesterday’s election to the European Parliament was a shock to many people: the clear winners are the far-right, xenophobic and racist parties. Parties that want to decrease or stop non-Western immigration, and whos representatives say the most insane things about Muslims, Jews, homosexuals and other minorities:
Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of french party Front National that won a stunning 24 % of the french vote, has famously questioned the facts concerning the holocaust and has said that the gas chambers were a minor detail of world war two. And just a few weeks ago he said that the Ebola epidemic might solve the “migration problem” by killing non-Europeans. Jean-Marie led Front National for almost 40 years until he handed over the leadership to his daughter three years ago. She has distanced herself from her father’s antisemitism, instead the party is now extremely islamophobic and wants to stop non-Western immigration to France.
In the United Kingdoms, UKIP won a victory similar to Front National, and while they are not very antisemitic they are very hostile to immigrants. Their leader Nigel Farage has made racist statements concerning Romanians, he only wants to welcome Christians from Syria and not Muslims, and the party is overflowing with hostile stereotyping of non-British nationalities.
The depressing list could go on and on. The Danish People’s Party, that also had a success in the European election yesterday, wants to totally stop Muslim immigration, which obviously is clear religious discrimination. The Austrian FPÖ, which for a long time was lead by neo-Nazi Jörg Haider and which wants to stop immigration to “protect the cultural identity of Austria”, got 20% of the Austrian votes. And then we got the really bad guys: Jobbik from Hungary whose supporters say that the Roma people will die, that wants to register all Jews because they view them as a “national security risk” and that send neo-Nazis to the European Parliament. And of course Golden Dawn, who got 10 % of the Greek votes – their representatives deny the holocaust and quote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Greek parliament. And oh, their flag is very similar to the Germanic Nazi swastika.
So if it wasn’t bad enough that we almost got a new war in Europe – something that thankfully looks less probable today compared to last weekend – for the first time since World War Two there are Nazis in a European government. And because of the enormous threat of mother Russia this has been so supressed in the media flow that many people don’t even know that Ukraine’s temporary government include five neo-Nazis, that for instance occupy the ministry of defense. Not to say that the threat from mother Russia is something to play with, but the same is true for neo-Nazis who control the Ukrainian army, and I think we need a broader picture fo the situation to condemn violence and stupidity from both parties.
During the Soviet era millions of Ukrainians starved to death because of Joseph Stalin’s agricultural reforms. Stalin also made sure that Russians migrated to Ukraine and other satellite republics in the USSR to control them. Today, around one third of Ukrainians speak Russian and 17 % identify themselves as ethnically Russian, most of them living in eastern Ukraine or on Crimea.
After the fall of Soviet Ukraine has been one of those countries that has had a hard decision in choosing to be either Western or Eastern, or neither, or both, or in-between. Generally, people in western Ukraine likes to be Western, and vice versa. As we all know, the guy who used to be president until a week ago, Viktor Janukovych, was pro-Russian and declined to sign a treaty with the EU, which made pro-Western citizens in Kiev very angry and they protested aggresively, the police answered violently, people died and finally Janukovych fled to mother Russia.
Yesterday was the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day that feels extremely important to remember in xenophobic Europe of today. As Spain is going fascist, the neo-Nazi “Christian” party Jobbik has 12% of seats in the Hungarian parliament and islamophobia is growing rapidly, many are afraid that the economic crisis will throw Europe back to a similar state like the 1930’s. The period when Adolf Hitler gained power.
There is a great number of extremely simplistic solutions to how the second world war would have been prevented, the most common is probably to kill Hitler as a child. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard people dream about this “what if” scenario. Not long ago it was discovered that Hitler actually almost died as a child when he fell through the ice, but a friend, who later became a priest, saved him. The Daily Mail called it “the most devastating act of mercy in history”.
But of course, Adolf’s soul was darkened not because of mercy but because of lack thereof. The upcoming genocide in the Central African Republic won’t be stopped by people who let children die but by people who save them. Our culture is so dipped in a logic of death that we think the best way to stop a murderer is to kill him, that the best way to stop the Holocaust was to kill civilians in German cities, that the best way to stop the war against Japan was to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people with nuclear bombs.
This year is 30 years since Corrie Ten Boom went to heaven. A Dutch charismatic Christian with a humanitarian passion, she saved many Jewish lives during the holocaust through hiding them in her house. She eventually was cought by the Nazis and put in the Ravensbrück concentration camp with her sister, Betsie. God did many miracles there in the midst of extreme suffering, and even if Betsie was martyred Corrie survived and could later on share her amazing story in her book The Hiding Place. Here’s an excerpt of a review of that book:
As the Germans sweep into Holland, lives are irrevocably and forever changed. The Ten Booms begin hiding Jews in their home…some temporarily, others semi-permanently. Working in “God’s underground,” Corrie finds a strength she never knew she possessed. We live with the Ten Booms through the changes WWII brings into their lives, the chances they take, but most of all, we see the guiding hand of the Lord every step of the way.
Betsie, the sister who has been sickly all her life, has the faith, the serenity, and the complete conviction that the Lord is always there in every circumstance. This faith takes Corrie and Betsie through the hardships they endure in the prisons and concentration camps where they are incarcerated. While Corrie tends to pray for their needs, Betsie prays for their enemies, whom she sees through God’s eyes…the guards, everyone who mistreats them, even thanking God for the fleas in their bunks.
Corrie was given a Bible, a sweater, and a bottle of liquid vitamins by their sister Nollie the last time they saw her before deportation. The Bible was never taken away. It was as though the guards did not see it. (more…)
Today is 50 years since Martin Luther King‘s extremely famous “I have a dream” speech at Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. He has inspired countless people through the decades to passionately work for justice and freedom using non-violence, and also to seek the God he so zealously followed. The problems he adressed – racism, injustice and violence – still exist in various forms, and so we should take his example and keep up the good fight against it. Here are three areas I think needs special concern:
Racism and Xenophobia in Europe
The ugliness of racism sadly exists in most places arounf the world, and even though the situation for African Americans have become better it is far from optimal. Yet, as a European, I think what we are seeing here sometimes are even far worse. In Greece a neo-Nazi party got 7 % of the seats in the parliament. In Hungary, a neo-Nazi party got 12 % of the seats in the parliament. Hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, Blacks, homosexuals and other minorities are on the rise. Just a couple of weeks ago, a Muslim woman here in Sweden got beaten by a racist for wearing a hijab. The event caused a massive protest where thousands of women weared hijab in solidarity. Then, a new group of racists found the woman and beat her up again. What can we do? Use the example of Luther King: be a light in the darkness, use nonviolence in the midst of violence, be loving in the midst of hate, welcome the stranger in the midst of xenophobia. (more…)
The far right is on the rise in Europe. Xenophobic, islamophibic and racist parties and movements have gain ground dramatically the past decade, probably fueled by the economic crisis.
In Switzerland, the Schweizerische Volkspartei, the country’s biggest party, depict immigrants as black sheep that needs to be kicked out, and they have succeeded with banning minarets. In Hungary, the third-biggest party Jobbik has formed a paramilitary Hungarian Guard that marches in romani areas, and a Jobbik member of parliament recently said that it was time to “assess how many MPs and government members are of Jewish origin and who presents a national security risk to Hungary”. But the most worrying far-right movement in Europe is, I would say, the Greek party Golden Dawn.
Golden Dawn is the first Nazi party to occupy seats in a European parliament since the second world war. The party themselves denies being neo-Nazi, however, the evidence that Nazi ideology is an inspiration to them is enormous. Their party symbol, an ancient Greek meander, is often depicted black on a burgundy coloured background, which makes it strikingly similar to the Nazi swastika. On numerous occasions members of the party have given the Roman sallute, widely used by the Nazis, and one Golden Dawn MP has “Sieg Heil” tattooed on his arm.