Opinion piece by Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister and Alice Bah Kuhnke, Minister for Culture and Democracy
Opinion piece in Svenska Dagbladet on International Holocaust Remembrance Day by Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister (S) and Alice Bah Kuhnke, Minister for Culture and Democracy (MP)
Hédi Fried, author and Auschwitz survivor, wrote: "Can anyone say when something begins? Grains of sand are added to grains of sand, and before you know it there is a pile of sand in front of you."
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we remember one of humanity's greatest crimes against itself. But knowing the terrible things that humanity is capable of compels us to do more than just remember. Racism, anti-Semitism, antiziganism, hate against LGBTQ people and prejudice against people with disabilities are still an ongoing scourge. This misanthropy limits freedom for the individual and cohesion among us all. It finds expression in everything from physical violence on our streets, to threats and conspiracy theories on social media.
It also exists in Swedish politics. There are members of the Swedish Riksdag who openly question whether Jews can be regarded as Swedish. Proposals, motivated by anti-Semitic notions, have been submitted to limit the freedom of the media. On an almost daily basis, political actors are exposed for spreading racist ideas, openly or in secret. Grains of sand are added to grains of sand.
The principle of the equal value of all people must never be compromised. Democratic values in Sweden must be defended, deepened and strengthened for the future. The Government is therefore implementing a national plan to combat racism, as well as similar forms of hostility and hate crime. The Living History Forum is rolling out an extensive educational initiative to reach Swedish schools and professional groups, such as employment agents, social workers and police employees. The Swedish Research Council has begun a survey of racism in the Swedish labour market. The Research Bill outlines major investments in research involving racism and xenophobia, and faith communities are receiving increased support for interfaith dialogues around the country.
At the same time, more work is required to strengthen security for vulnerable groups and people. Everyone must be able display their religious affiliation or identity openly and proudly in public. This is the duty of democratic society. Religious communities will therefore receive extra funds for security-enhancing measures to strengthen security around religious and cultural activities. The Swedish Police Authority has also been tasked with strengthening efforts against hate crime, and now has the capacity to investigate and combat hate crime in all regions of Sweden, with special hate crime groups in the three metropolitan regions.
This work must never stop. Therefore, we are today presenting three further measures:
- Greater security at schools. School must be a secure place for all pupils and staff, regardless of religious affiliation. Children should never have to worry about hate crime or intolerance at their school. The Government will therefore further support security at schools identified as having a threat situation.
- More effective measures against anti-Semitic hate crime. The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention is being tasked with conducting an in-depth study of anti-Semitic hate crime. Using this as a base, efforts against anti-Semitic hate crime will be strengthened and made more effective.
- New international forum. Two decades will soon have passed since the major Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust which, in the Stockholm Declaration, set out the basis for international cooperation on remembering the Holocaust. Never forgetting means always reminding ourselves. The Government therefore intends to host a second international forum in 2020, 20 years after the first, to honour the victims, follow up the work and, together with other countries and organisations, continue to develop the initiatives to prevent new crimes against humanity.
Finally, we want to underline that your efforts are also needed. Never tolerate hate or threats, regardless of who is targeted, question conspiracy theories and false rumours, seek understanding where others try to spread contempt. The defence of democracy is a responsibility shared by all democratic citizens.
Those of us who live in Sweden must be able to feel secure and free, regardless of which culture we are part of, which god we believe in, or who we love. We must therefore see every grain of hate and intolerance in Sweden, and prevent them from ever gaining a foothold. Today, and every day, those of us who defend democracy have a duty to remember the Holocaust and through our actions say: "Never again."
Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister (S)
Alice Bah Kuhnke, Minister for Culture and Democracy (MP)