The Church of Sweden, although no longer a state church, remains an important force in Swedish society. In a time when Sweden’s political, media, and academic establishment are eager to jettison pretty much everything that makes Sweden Swedish, no institution plays a more central role in the preservation of the nation’s cultural heritage than the national church. Yes, ethnic Swedes have become overwhelmingly secular, but, like their cousins elsewhere in Scandinavia, they still look to their national church as a bearer of tradition and a setting within which they wish to baptize and confirm their children and hold their weddings and funerals.
Yet, even as the other key players in Swedish society have adapted to the rise of Islam within the country’s borders, so has the Church of Sweden. The church’s primate – its equivalent of the Pope or Archbishop of Canterbury – is a 62-year-old woman named Antje Jackelén, who holds the title of Archbishop of Uppsala. Popes and archbishops traditionally have official mottoes. Pope Francis’s motto is “Miserando atque eligendo” (“mercy and choice”). It was his motto as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and he chose to retain it upon his elevation to the papacy. If you look at Jackelén’s Wikipedia page, you will see that her motto is “God is greater.” In Swedish, it is “Gud är större.” In Arabic, it is “Allahu akbar,” the words that muezzins in mosques around the world shout from the tops of their minarets. These are also, of course, the last words that are heard by many people around the world before they are blown to bits by suicide bombers or run over by jihadists at the wheels of trucks. Some might argue, to be sure, that the Muslim deity is different from the God of Christianity, but Jackelén is not one of them: she has said explicitly that the two deities are one and the same.