“It’s important to have a values-based foreign policy and a values-based development aid policy and that means criticizing religious fundamentalists no matter what church they come from,” Ohlsson told The Local.
Ohlsson’s comments come following claims by Pope Benedict XVI in connection with a recent trip to Africa that condoms make the AIDS problem worse.
“You can’t resolve AIDS with the distribution of condoms…on the contrary, it increases the problem,” said the Pope, according to CNN.
Also infuriating for Ohlsson was Vatican support for a decision by Brazilian archbishop to excommunicate Brazilian doctors for performing an abortion on a nine-year-old rape victim.
As part of a strategy to draw attention to the issue Ohlsson, a Riksdag member and foreign policy spokesperson for Sweden’s Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), launched Facebook pages in Swedish and English.
The Swedish site, “Rott Kort Vatikanen” (‘A Red Card for the Vatican’) boasts nearly 17,000 members, which the more recently launched English site, “Papa Don’t Preach”, already has more than 2,500 members.
“In starting the campaign we thought it was important to put together a powerful network quickly,” she said of her decision to launch the Swedish Facebook page.
“We then heard from a lot of people outside of Sweden who suggested that we launch the page in English as well.”
According to Ohlsson, the Pope’s claims that condoms don’t help combat AIDS undermine the goals of Swedish development aid.
In 2007, Sweden set aside 1.5 billion kronor ($187 million) to finance projects to fight AIDS. According to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency(SIDA), promoting safe-sex is one of the cornerstones of its strategies for combating the disease.
Ohlsson has also written a letter to Sweden’s foreign minister demanding that formally take up the matter with the Vatican.
“What measures is Foreign Minister Carl Bildt planning to carry out so that Sweden’s government can launch an official protest with the Holy See for its views on sexual and reproductive rights which undermines Swedish development efforts?” Ohlsson asked in a letter sent to Bildt last week.
She said she is disappointed in the Swedish government for not taking a harder stance against the Pope’s statements.
“A lot of other foreign ministries in Europe have reacted much more strongly than Sweden against the Pope’s comments,” she said.
“The Swedish government should be tougher.”
Besides the Facebook pages and letters to the foreign ministry, Ohlsson hopes to continue the campaign with a separate website with an eye toward the European parliamentary elections in June.
“It’s an opportunity to put pressure the Pope and his gang in the Vatican for a message that damages the human rights of millions of people around the world.”