“Local cooperation against intolerance” is the title of a report recently published in Sweden by the Expo Foundation, on assignment of the Ministry of Cooperation and Labor. A “simple and accessible guide for all those who address questions on intolerance”, which brings together “good practices” experimented across the years in some municipal councils. The project falls within the Good Relations initiative launched in 2012, ongoing until October next, funded within the EU Programme for Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, aimed at combating every form of intolerance, promoting good relations between people from different cultural backgrounds. Sweden’s Minister of Labor is involved in the Community project alongside with the Minister of Interiors in Finland and the Ethnic minorities Council in Northern Ireland. Surging migration. The statistics of the national Swedish Council for crime prevention show that that 5-6 thousand complaints on hate crime, on xenophobic, homophobic or anti-religious grounds are filed to the police each year, (72% on ground of racism, 13% homophobic, 6% Islamophobic, 5% anti-Christian, 4% anti-Semitic). In 2012 the most common crimes in 2012 were aggressions and harassment (41%), violent crimes (16%), defamation (16%) and incitement to hatred (11%). Activities carried out by right-wing extremist groups (demonstrations, propaganda initiatives) carried out by right-wing initiatives especially in cities of average dimensions. Before this situations, figures by the national migrations offices show that 116.500 people entered Sweden in 2013, some with a temporary permit (79.500) others permanent (37thousand), 5% more than the previous year. To these must be added some 54 thousand that made an asylum request, 24% more compared to 2012, as a consequence of war in Syria and instability in the Middle East in Northern Africa. In 2013 there have been as many as 3800 non-accompanied minors from Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea. Sweden, along with Germany and France, is first in the classification for the reception of asylum-seekers. City by city. The projects enacted in five municipalities started by analysing the “social risks” that constitute fertile for the proliferation of intolerance. Thus in Kungälv the 1995 episode whereby an adolescent of Czech origin, beaten to death by a group of neo-Nazi youths has led the local council to adopt a long-term approach to prevent and combat extreme-right movements through education programs. In fact, the anti-democratic and intolerant positions of the Nazi movement, which originated during World War Two found vulnerable youths to be easy preys (school drop-outs, for example). The education program focused on democracy and tolerance, as well as on the future of young people and the creation of positive images for the definition of an active role in the future of society. Interreligious commitment. In Goteborg there had been repeated acts of vandalism against places of worship of the various religious confessions. The Swedish nightclub fire, that caused the death of 65 youths, with over 200 casualties, most of whom non-Swedish natives, sparked off serious tensions. The representatives of the Christian and Muslim communities acknowledged the need to promote interreligious activity to challenge xenophobia through shared activity and information. The Inter-Religious Council, set up in 2006 with the support of the City Council, has promoted initiatives on the theme of dialogue, social activity, and events related to peace building, democracy and coexistence as a contribution to the life of the city. Botkyrkavägen is the municipality with the highest percentage of immigrants (55%), over 160 nationalities represented and over 100 different languages. A project was set up in 2010 coordinated by the municipality, which envisages that all elected officers, employees and partners are jointly responsible for the dissemination of core values and be knowledgeable on the various cultures. The responsibility of sport. Xenophobia in Malmö is expressed also in sport, that involves a large number of young people. The town council has focused its efforts on the project “Football Against Racism”, to train managers and football players on the importance of ensuring that sport is void of intolerant behaviours with the campaign “Red Card to Racism”. The project involves also initiatives linked to music and art. Söderköping is a small community that over the past years has welcomed a large number of unaccompanied minors. The “Together” project, jointly promoted by the City Council, churches and associations, is cantered on theatrical and activities for children, addressed to new immigrants and Swedish adolescents for the prevention of episodes of xenophobia.
Integration projects in five municipalities. The role of religious communities