The Church of Sweden works in a peculiar way. Between 1536 and the year 2000 it was a state church, run by the Swedish state. The separation between the Swedish state and the Church of Sweden was never quite complete.

Yes, formally the Swedish church is independent but there are laws in Sweden that still regulate the Church of Sweden. The Swedish government agency responsible for collecting taxes collects the fees members of the Church of Sweden have to pay.

The Swedish state still funds the Church of Sweden because a lot of their buildings are a part of the Swedish cultural heritage and need maintenance.

All Swedes still pay a burial tax that goes to the Church of Sweden because the Church of Sweden has a responsibility to bury all Swedes, except in the cities of Stockholm and Tranås.

Perhaps the strangest thing about the Church of Sweden is that it is run by the same political parties that have mandates in the Swedish parliament. There are actually “church elections” held in Sweden every fourth year. The biggest party in the Swedish parliament, the Social Democratic Labour Party, is also the biggest party in Kyrkomötet, the council that takes all the important decisions regarding the Church of Sweden.

There is nothing wrong with having a democratic church, specially when the majority of Swedes are members in the Church of Sweden. But in recent years some political parties in Sweden have used their influence in the Church of Sweden to enforce some aspects of their foreign policy that are too radical to get through in the Swedish parliament.

Today the Church of Sweden is a big critic of Israel and high-ranking bishops refer to the Israeli presence in the West Bank as a “sin” and an “abomination against God.” On their website the Church of Sweden recommends that their congregations “suspend investment, impose sanctions and boycott companies and products from the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories.”

THERE IS clearly nothing spiritual about the views of the Church of Sweden regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is politicians who are using one of Europe’s biggest churches as a weapon against Israel. Sadly enough the anti- Israel rhetoric in Sweden often spearheaded by the Social Democratic Labour Party has infiltrated the Church of Sweden in a nasty way.

In the recent “church elections” that took place in September this year, we as a part of the Swedish NGO Perspektiv På Israel (PPI) tried to highlight how an important spiritual center for the Swedish people is being misused. PPI wrote a report, made a short information video on Youtube, made an inquiry regarding the parties’ stances in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and spread information in social media.

What we found out was that none of the parties that are carrying on the anti-Israel agenda in Kyrkomötet actually tells voters what their stance is in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These politicians are creating an anti-Israel church behind the backs of the members of the church. We also found out how proud the Swedish politicians in the Church of Sweden are to admit that the Kairos Palestine document, an anti- Israeli propaganda document, has been used as basis for making the decisions on how the Church of Sweden is dealing with Israel.

So called pro-Palestinians who politicize big European semi-state churches that have a lot of resources is nothing new. It has happened in Scotland and Norway. Now it is happening in Sweden too. It is a way for anti-Israeli forces to legitimize an anti-Israeli mission.

But in Sweden they are doing this in stealth mode. Swedes are smart people.

If they were aware that one of their biggest institutions was being mishandled by politicians to pursue an agenda that has nothing to do with the Church of Sweden or Christianity, they would react. Therefore it is important to talk about this and ask relevant questions.

Why doesn’t the Church of Sweden criticize Iran or Saudi Arabia? Why does the Church of Sweden have its crosshairs on Israel, the only Jewish state in the world? And why has the anti-Israel sentiment been eating its way into even traditionally pro-Israeli parties in the Church of Sweden and forcing it to become anti-Israel? Questions like these will force the politicians behind the Church of Sweden to stop transforming a spiritual center for the Swedish people to a political center against Israel. It’s up to all of us to demand of these so-called pro- Palestinians to play a fair game and have a honest debate instead of covertly stealing a church from its members.

Perspective on Israel/Perspektiv på Israel (PPI) is a network founded in August 2013 in Sweden with the aim of counteracting the distorted anti-Israel message that is spread in the Swedish media and political parties. Read more at: www.perspektivpaisrael.se.

Tobias Petersson is a Swedish free-lance writer. Nima Gholam Ali Pour is a political commentator in Sweden and has a master’s degree in International Migration and Ethnic Relations (IMER).

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger