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Neo-Nazis spark first church alarm since WWII

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Party of the Swedes supporters march in Jönköping on Thursday. Photo: TT
09:21 CEST+02:00
UPDATED WITH AUDIO: The churches in Jönköping rang their bells in warning for two hours on May Day as neo-Nazis took to the streets. The alarm marked the first of its kind for the central Sweden town since World War II broke out.

"We chose to ring the bells because we think it's a threat to our open society when our streets play host to messages that do not respect every person's value and dignity," Swedish Church (Svenska Kyrkan) priest Fredrik Hollertz told The Local on Friday. 

"We wanted to use what we used in the days of old." 

Listen to the church bells courtesy of public service radio:

The church bells usually ring on Sunday for up to two minutes, but as the neo-Nazi Party of the Swedes set off on their planned march on Thursday, the church bells rang for two hours. The demonstrators were forced to reroute past the church after the march encountered a sitting protest on the planned route.

The Swedish Church, the Pentecostal congregations, the Salvation Army, and the Catholic Church in Jönköping welcomed members to an outdoor service, with Muslims and Hindus also in attendance.

The service had been planned at the last minute, Hollertz said, which meant they did not have time to organize an official inter-religious ceremony, but the organizers told non-Christians that they were welcome to attend. 

"We were right in the heart of what was going on," Hollertz said. "It was a good atmosphere, we had fighting spirit, but many people were of course very distressed and some were afraid." 

The Jönköping church bells haven't been used to warn of danger since Wold War II broke out in 1939. 

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Hollertz said many of his congregation members and Jönköping residents at large had decided to stay clear of the neo-Nazi march last year.

"But this year we felt we couldn't be silent," he said. 

A passage from Leviticus was part of the service: "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt."

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