The call by some senior religious leaders in Sweden that urged the government to provide relief for asylum seekers, sparkes anger from native Swedes who claim the calls for Christian charity don’t seem to extend to the country’s own citizens.
As the Covid-19 pandemic sends shockwaves through the global economy, the Swedish government should extend special support for the homeless, asylum seekers, temporary labor migrants and those awaiting deportation, the Christian Council of Sweden argued in an open letter. The group includes Antje Jackelen, Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, as well as the leaders of several other Christian denominations in the country.
Although Sweden has avoided a full lockdown, actions taken to mitigate the spread of coronavirus have created deep uncertainty for those seeking asylum in the country, the council argued. “Legislation in several areas also needs to be reviewed based on prevailing circumstances, for example in migration.”
Although the letter didn’t get into specifics, the idea of providing government handouts to migrants stirred controversy among Swedes.
Supporters of the notion said that the Church of Sweden was protecting the vulnerable, regardless of “age, nationality or race.” The focus of this charity – and who would pay for it – elicited plenty of anger, however.
“The Church of Sweden has a great fortune. What prevents it from launching support packages for these groups?” asked one critic of the proposal.
A similarly irked observer said that the Church seemed more concerned about the wellbeing of foreign migrants than that of native-born Swedes.
The Church of Sweden has been at the center of a series of polarizing controversies. In December, a church in Malmo unveiled a new altarpiece featuring gay couples. The Church has even pushed for gender-neutral language when referring to Jesus.