The Church of Sweden as a (Contested) Actor in a Multi-religious Society: A Case Study of the Imam Debate in Public and Church Media

The Church of Sweden as a (Contested) Actor in a Multi-religious Society: A Case Study of the Imam Debate in Public and Church Media

by Johan Liljestrand – [ Journal of Dialogue Studies, Vol 3 No 2 ]

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Abstract

Sweden can be characterised as a multi-cultural and multi-religious society. One of the most prominent actors in interreligious relations is the Church of Sweden. However, such involvement is also open to criticism, both within the church and in public debate. Different expectations concerning cooperation with the Swedish Muslim community became visible in the public media and in the national church media when a congregation in Stockholm engaged an imam for a multi-religious youth project. This paper examines the arguments relating to the mission of the church as a church for Swedish people in a pluralistic society, and discusses some of the consequences of these arguments for interreligious relations and dialogue. The material is based on articles published in Swedish public media and Swedish church media between March and September, 2011. The debate, analysed through five sub-themes, focuses on the borders of what should be included and excluded by a national church in a multi-religious society and the national church’s responsibility for caring for religious minorities. The paper concludes with a discussion about issues of power regarding the church as an initiator of dialogue, and how different actors are represented in the media.