Page 3 of 5

image Click for more images

“Therefore, we see no problems, neither in saying no to people who cannot prove that they have sufficient grounds to stay, nor in seeing that these people are sent back to their country of origin,” explained Tobias Billström, Sweden’s migration minister on a radio broadcast on 8 January 2011.

Among the more vocal critics of the deportations is Father Adris Hanna, pastor of Stockholm’s Syriac Catholic community. Though he believes Swedes are overall well informed and sensitive about the plight of Iraq’s Christians, he is surprised and outraged by the Swedish Migration Board’s insistence on deporting Christian Iraqis given recent attacks.

Father Hanna is deeply concerned about the fate of Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East and believes violence against them will only intensify in the near future.

Since his appointment to Stockholm in the late 1990’s, Father Hanna has emerged as a fierce advocate and media–savvy spokesperson for Sweden’s Iraqi Christian community. In 2010, Dagen, Sweden’s largest Christian daily newspaper, named him role model of the year, citing his efforts to console the dozen families in Sweden directly affected by the October bombing in Baghdad and his work keeping the press corps abreast with regular commentary and eyewitness accounts.

Father Hanna spends much of his time and energy assisting newly arrived Iraqi Christians. His parish often provides them with financial and other material support. The church also serves as a postal address for many families, especially for those whose asylum applications have been rejected and who are hiding from the authorities.

“I think it is a human act to help them,” explains Father Hanna. “During the Second World War, hiding Jews was considered a crime. However, if you look back, no one would say today that it was the wrong thing to do morally.”

Each Sunday, Iraqi families from all over greater Stockholm gather at the Syriac Catholic church, located in a southern suburb. On this frigid Sunday morning, Father Hanna cheerfully greets the families as they trickle in one by one.

Icons adorn the small chapel’s nave; wafts of incense envelope the pews. If not for the structure’s typically Scandinavian light pinewood beams and bleached brick walls, the church’s interior might pass for one in Iraq.

Parishioners fill the pews, discreetly chatting among themselves. Not until the altar servers vested in white robes enter the church does a hush fall on the congregation. Moments later, Father Hanna appears holding up the Scriptures and the liturgy commences.

Among the regular parishioners are Nadia Jarjis and Sahir Alslivi. Originally from Mosul, a city in northern Iraq, the married couple now lives in a nearby suburb with their four children.

After the liturgy, they head home directly to join their children for Sunday brunch. The dull gray concrete of their low–rise public housing project matches the overcast winter sky. Artless graffiti tarnishes the building’s elevator.

Once inside the family’s apartment, however, a warm coziness quickly supplants the building’s institutional quality. Thick, colorful oriental rugs cover the floors. The apartment’s windows offer splendid views of surrounding wooded parks and lakes.

Post a Comment | Comments(0)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

Tags: Iraq Refugees Immigration Assimilation Sweden