Twitter-loving archbishop-elect in Sweden has to fight hate messages

(Photo: REUTERS / Bob Strong)The archbishop elect for the Church of Sweden Bishop Antje Jackelén is not the first Lutheran cleric who believes in good inter-faith relations. Imam Awad Olwan (R) and Bishop Bengt Wadensjo walk outside the Church of Sweden in the Stockholm suburb of Fisksatra September 24, 2010. Olwan and Wadensjo were working on a plan to build a joint House of God featuring a church and mosque side-by-side as a place for worship and for people in the community to meet.

When the Church of Sweden chose Bishop Antje Jackelén to become its first female archbishop from 2014, she got many message of congratulation via social media.

But after her election she also began to get hate messages and even death threat on social media in a Sweden that has shown recent signs of growing nationalist extremism.

(Photo: Church of Sweden / Jan Nordén)Bishop Antje Jackelén photographed in 2014.

A fervent advocate of multi-faith tolerance, Bishop Antje, who is 58, was born and raised in Germany, but spent much of her working career in Sweden as a Lutheran priest and church leader.

"I was not prepared for this spite and hatred. It's clear that I am being personally referred to, it is hard to protect yourself when there is so much aggression," Jackelén told Sveriges Radio P4 Kristianstad.

The Swedish online English-language newspaper reported that Jackelén was an early advocate of social media and that the regularly on post Twitter and her number of followers doubled to 5,600 following her election triumph.

Some church members told Ecumenical News that she had received death threats on her social media which had been removed.

One online attacker said Jackelen should be burned at the stake, the medieval punishment for witches and heretics.

"Choose Muhammed instead so we can be spared from your ugly old man's haircut," a message on an online board said, referring to the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam.

She told the Swedish national broadcaster after the threats, "BThere are two recurring themes in the harassments. Nationalism and a hatred toward Islam."

During her campaign during a question session Jackelén was deemed by some critics to be too to Islam.

The current Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, Anders Wejryd, noted that Bishop Antje was elected with a large majority to take over from him in mid-year 2014.

He called on fellow Lutherans to, "Let her know that confidence in her is great! Let everyone know that those who support and respect her are infinitely greater than those who spread hatred and threats."

Some 68 percent of Sweden's 9.5 million people are registered as members of the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden.


The U.S. Department of State's International Freedom of Religion Report of 2009 says that approximately 5 percent (450,000-500,000) of Sweden's population is Muslim.

The report notes, however that the officially sanctioned Muslim Council of Sweden, for government funding purposes, reported only 106,327 active participants.

Jackelén was elected bishop of the diocese of Lund after in 2007 leaving her position at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, where she had taught systematic theology.

The Local reported that the archbishop-elect stirred past controversy for being seen as unclear on her views on faith and saying there is no contradiction in believing in God as well as evolution.

The newspaper also reported that the bishop "suggested that the virgin birth was a metaphor rather than an actual event, which is understood to have angered some in the Swedish clergy."

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