Sweden’s Sámi have received a second apology for church abuses | Polarjournal
Sunday’s church service in Luleå Cathedral featured the participation of prominent Sámi members of the Church of Sweden, as well as artwork created by Sámi artists (Photo: Svenska Kyrkan / Magnus Aronson / Ikon)

For the second time in less than a year, the Church of Sweden has apologised to that country’s Sámi population for historical abuses it carried out against them. The second of two planned apologies was delivered on Sunday in the city of Luleå — in the Sámi homeland of Sápmi — by Archbishop Antje Jackelén, the church’s leader. It comes after the initial apology last November in Uppsala, the church seat, for centuries of “legitimised repression” and “mistreatment and complacency”. “We recognise this today. And for this I apologise on behalf of the Church of Sweden, Archcbishop Jackelén said.

In the apology, Archbishop Jackelén said: “When we apologise today, we do not have control over how you will receive this apology. It is not up to us to demand notification of when an answer is given and what the answer should be.” She added that, in making the apology, the Church of Sweden had no expectation that the Sámi were prepared to forgive.

“The person who asks for forgiveness expects that the other party is both able and willing to forgive. We ask God for forgiveness because we have the promise that God forgives. No such promise can be asked of a people who have suffered under oppression. An apology is uttered; it can be confirmed and accepted. But first and foremost, it is an acknowledgment of the moral responsibility of the erring party — without the other party being expected to respond by forgiving.”

The first apology was issued in Uppsala Cathedral (pictured above) in November (Photo: Svenska Kyrkan / Magnus Aronson / Ikon)

The church’s plans to apologise were announced last June in a statement that also laid out measures it would take over the next ten years to reconcile with the Sámi, as well as a planned 40 million kronor (€3.65 million) budget to carry them out. These include showing respect for Sámi spiritual and church tradition, contributing to strengthening Sámi languages and increasing awareness of indigenous rights.

The Church of Sweden said it would also review how it manages church-owned forests in the northern part of the country. The church is one of the largest forest owners in Sweden and managing them in a manner that is not at odds with reindeer herding is in keeping with its efforts to seek reconciliation, Åsa Nyström, the bishop of Luleå, told SVT, a broadcaster.

The apologies are part of a reconciliation process that began in 2011 and came about after church leaders consulted with the Sami Council of the Church of Sweden in October 2019. “We need to accept the dark history. Even if it hurts.” Archbishop Jackelén said at the time.

Kevin McGwin, PolarJournal
Featured image: Svenska Kyrkan / Magnus Aronson / Ikon

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