The Church of Sweden, Europe’s largest Lutheran denomination, has been leaking members at an alarming rate in recent years.
Korpilombolo church in Pajala Municipality in northern Sweden has held an Islamic prayer call as part of an event called European Festival of the Night.
The Muslim prayer call was part of the performance called “A Prayer for Humanity” with the subheading “We Are All Children of the Earth” arranged by the Korpilombolo Cultural Association and the peace movement Vox Pacis, which was founded response to the Muhammad cartoons scandal that hit Denmark in 2005 and infuriated much of the Muslim world.
Apart from the Muslim prayer calls, the performance included Sami yoik, Syrian, Arabic and Hebrew sounds, Hindu mantras and Nordic folk music, the Christian newspaper Världen Idag reported.
“We had discussions with representatives of the Swedish Church when they saw that there would be prayer calls and other religions, deliberating whether it was okay to perform this in the church. I explained that a prayer for humanity can never feel wrong in a church whether it holds a prayer call or not, and then we got the go-ahead sign from the church,” the president of the Korpilombolo Cultural Association Linnéa Nylund told national broadcaster SVT.
Pastor and Pajala congregation operations manager Åke Nordlundh saw no problems with holding Muslim prayer calls in a church.
“This is not a worship service in the ordinary sense but a diversity event, a cultural expression of a common desire for peace, regardless of religious affiliation. It contains religious expressions of various kinds. Some may be perceived as controversial, but we have reasoned and made a weighted assessment that it is possible to host it in the church,” Nordlundh told the news outlet.
The event in Korpilombolo was supported by the Stockholm Cathedral Assembly.
“It is my Christian conviction that if I practice daily to deepen my Christian faith and identity, I can be curious about what other beliefs have to add,” dean Hans Ulfvebrand said.
According to Nordlundh, “a couple people” have criticised of the event. Världen Idag also reported a negative response from the public, with people voicing their concern over the church’s diversity push.
Nordlundh assured that had it been a worship service, the boundaries would have been set in another way.
“In a Christian church only Christian services are held,” Nordlundh said.
At the same time, the Church of Sweden is leaking membership at an alarming rate of about 2 percent a year, which is sometimes ascribed to so-called “church tax” and the church’s overtly liberal attitudes to many social issues, such as LGBT issues, the migrant crisis and climate change. Earlier this year, Eva Brunne, the world’s first openly lesbian bishop, riled many worshippers by saying that she had more in common with Muslims than with the “Christian right”.“Left the Church of Sweden when I turned eighteen. Empirical experience and hindsight show that it was a very wise decision”, a user reacted to the news of an Islamic prayer call.