Battling Hate with Hope: Interfaith Initiatives in Scandinavia

KAICIID, Network 4 Dialogue, Stockholm 7th Annual Network for Dialogue Meeting in Stockholm/Sweden Network for Dialogue Meeting in Sweden 2022

Stepping into the vibrant dawn of February 1, 2023, we at God’s House joined a beacon of
hope projected from the city of Malmö, Sweden – an enlightening webinar hosted by our
fellow peacemakers at Amanah, local interfaith Muslim-Jewish initiative. Aptly titled
“Overcoming Tensions and Building Harmony – Cities, Faith and Community Forum”, the
event punctuated the World Interfaith Harmony Week of 2023 with a thought-provoking

An escalating wave of discord, emanating from the fervor of right-wing radicals, has been
sweeping across Scandinavia. This disquietude, further fanned by the NATO accession of
Sweden and Finland, drove our united team at God’s House to participate actively in this

For those unfamiliar with us, God’s House represents a groundbreaking fusion of Christian
and Muslim communities nestled in the suburbs of Stockholm, Fisksätra. We are an
interfaith heart beating in harmony, breathing life into a unique community center that
marries a church and a mosque under the umbrella of a transparent atrium.
Our vision embraces the diversity of faith, culture, and values as a celebration, fostering an
atmosphere where every interaction feels like a joyful reunion with a long-lost sibling. Proud
to be part of the KAICIID-supported Network for Dialogue, our pursuit of peace is cemented
on a foundation of interfaith cooperation.

Let’s pivot towards our webinar hosts, Amanah, and their commendable journey. Born in
Malmö, this grassroots entity operates beyond political lines, brandishing knowledge and
trust as tools to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Guided by the inspiring duo of Imam Salahuddin Barakat and Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen –
both esteemed attendees of KAICIID’s European Policy Dialogue Forum 2022, Amanah is a
bastion of interfaith solidarity.

Recent events have seen the flames of extremism licking at the heels of harmony in
Stockholm and Copenhagen, where right-wing provocateurs desecrated copies of the Quran.

These calculated affronts, strategically aligned with Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO
proceedings, have triggered profound concern beyond the Muslim communities. Through
this webinar, Amanah sought to foster a dialogue that aids in countering such provocations
while nurturing unity, cooperation, and trust among diverse religious groups in Scandinavia.
Our conversation was catalyzed by a distinguished panel, featuring Rev. Peter Lööv Roos
from the Church of Sweden, the aforementioned Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen and Imam

Salahuddin Barakat, and Heidi Rautionmaa, Lutheran pastor and an expert in interfaith and
intercultural dialogue and education.

The discourse journeyed back to the eerie echos of public book burnings in Nazi Germany,
drawing parallels with the tumultuous aftermath of extremist agitation. Contemplation was
also cast upon the contrasting stances of Finland and Sweden regarding the criminalization
of such hate crimes.

Additionally, the panel explored the feasibility of barring certain individuals connected to
previous provocative desecrations of Holy Books from entering Sweden. In this delicate
dance, we aimed to balance the imperative of societal freedoms against the gravity of such

Vivid examples of Swedish religious resistance against extremist speech were illuminated,
such as Reverend Fredrik Hollertz’s symbolic bell ringing in Jönköping. A tradition reserved
for signaling impending societal danger, the bell tolled in defiance of far-right parades in
2014 and again in 2022, against attempts to burn the Quran near his place of worship.
Another laudable intervention was orchestrated by the Swedish Muslim community, who
thwarted a planned desecration of a Torah scroll in front of the Israeli embassy in Stockholm.
The leaders employed dialogue and reasoning to avert this reaction to the recent Quran
burnings in Scandinavia.

Looking ahead, Amanah unveiled their plans for a ‘civil-courage digital toolbox’ for young
minds. Designed to tackle hate speech while countering anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, we
at God’s House look forward to utilizing this resource for the enrichment of Fisksätra’s

Joao Alho, God’s House/Network for Dialogue

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