Church of Sweden to make public apology, commitments to Indigenous people of Sweden

The Church of Sweden to present an official apology to the Sámi People for historical injustices. Issued eight commitments to reconciliation. Photo: Magnus Aronson / Icon
The Church of Sweden to present an official apology to the Sámi People for historical injustices. Issued eight commitments to reconciliation. Photo: Magnus Aronson / Icon

Jackelén: “In failing the Sámi people we have also failed ourselves and God”

(LWI) - Later this year, the Church of Sweden (CoS) will make an official public apology for its historical role in the “legitimized repression” of Sweden’s indigenous Sámi people, according to a church statement. The church has declared eight commitments toward ongoing reconciliation with the Sámi people.

Church leaders announced last week that a public apology will be made on two occasions: first in worship at the church General Synod Assembly in November at Uppsala Cathedral and next at a Sámi church conference in Luleå in October 2022.

The church will apologize to the country’s Sámi community for centuries of “mistreatment and complacency,” including the church’s promotion of “nomad” schools, an educational system that suppressed Sámi culture, language, and separated children from their families.

In 2019, the Sámi Council of the Church of Sweden, which was formed in 1996, and the central board of the church agreed that such an apology would be the first step toward ongoing reconciliation between the CoS and the Sámi people.

A paper on the historical relations between the Sámi people and the Church of Sweden, “The Sámi and the Church of Sweden” published in 2016, revealed that the church also “participated” in efforts to collect Sámi remains and in racial biological studies of the Sámi people.

“We have known for quite some time that the church has had an active hand in the colonial oppression of the Sámi people by the state. But we have found it difficult to deal with this part of our history,” Archbishop of the Church of Sweden Antje Jackelén wrote in the foreword of the research paper on historical Sámi and CoS relations.

 “In failing the Sámi people, we have also failed ourselves and God,” Jackelén wrote.

Now the long-term work of building a good and respectful relationship between the Sámi people and the Church of Sweden can begin
Ingrid Inga, chairperson of the Sámi Council of the Church of Sweden

“Now the long-term work of building a good and respectful relationship between the Sámi people and the Church of Sweden can begin. Sámi religion and living Sámi spirituality will enrich and give new dimensions to the activities of the Church of Sweden,” said Ingrid Inga, chairperson of the Sámi Council of the Church of Sweden and a past president of the Sámi Parliament.

The Church of Sweden will allocate EUR 3.9 million toward a 10-year plan to achieve the church’s eight commitments to reconciliation:

  • Preach the gospel in the Sámi languages and in a manner that is culturally relevant for the Sámi people, while respecting the Sámi spiritual and ecclesiastical tradition.
  • Make Sámi spirituality, theology and ecclesiastical tradition visible within the Church of Sweden.
  • Help strengthen and revitalize the Sámi languages in the activities of the Church of Sweden.
  • Increase knowledge and awareness of the church’s historical relations with and abuses against the Sámi people and the consequences of these.
  • Expand knowledge of and respect for the principles of Indigenous peoples’ rights within the Church of Sweden and in society.
  • Increase the influence and participation of the Sámi people in the Church of Sweden.
  • Strengthen the identity and spiritual development of Sámi children and young people.
  • Promote cross-border Sámi ecclesiastical life.

“Of course, an apology needs to be followed by action. These commitments are now well established and can make a new common future possible. The fact that the Church of Sweden is also Sámi needs to be made clearer as Sámi ecclesiastical life evolves,” says Jackelén.

LWF/A.Gray