SWEDEN: RELIGION AND SOCIETY, "I SUPPOSE YOU HAVE AT LEAST THE CHRISTMAS TREE"

"I suppose you have at least the Christmas tree!": this is the ironic title of a seminar on "the Swedish fear of the religious practices of others" that is being held at Uppsala University, Sweden, on 3 July at the initiative of the Gothenburg Interreligious Centre. "Until a few decades ago, Sweden was a homogeneous society where Protestants with Christian values were a majority", Rabbi Peter Borenstein, president of the Interfaith Centre, told SIR. "No wonder then that foreign religions and cultures may look strange to people who in the past only knew what they were familiar with". Traditions such as the circumcision, kosher/halal slaughtering, the dress, worship, the muezzin, may be "difficult to understand for the majority", and these are also a problem in the relations "among minorities and between them and the majority". Key speakers will include Pastor Ann Aldén; Rabbi Borenstein; Mohammad Fazlhashemi, professor of Islamic Theology at Uppsala University; and Yasser Hammoud, Imam at the Gothenburg Mosque. "The way to integrate differences is dialogue", Rabbi Borenstein explained. "It is quite common to think that the religious practices of others are difficult to understand, but this should not make us disrespectful of the differences". When it comes to integrating the diversity, "the Swedish are unable to understand that things can be different and there exists no ‘one way’".

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