Cheryl Jones Fur – An American voice in Swedish politics

Parliamentary candidate, Cheryl Jones Fur, talks to Peter Vinthagen Simpson about her climate commitment; why as an American she likes the diversity of Swedish politics; and how to tackle the integration debate head on.

Cheryl Jones Fur - An American voice in Swedish politics

Cheryl Jones Fur moved to Sweden from Oklahoma in the United States over 20 years ago. She joined the Green Party and decided to run for office in Sweden because she sees politics as everybody’s business and not just the reserve of the political classes.

“I wasn’t involved in politics in the United States, but I became fascinated with the Swedish system. Politics is something that everybody is responsible for,” Jones Fur told The Local on Wednesday.

The 50-year-old American-Swede, also appreciated that she was able to choose from a spectrum of parties in Sweden, finding her ideological home with the Green Party.

“I like the fact that in Sweden there is a diversity of parties, where I come from there are only really two, and I have always been interested in environmental issues.”

Jones Fur told The Local that, in comparison with the United States, she found Swedish politics more accessible and would welcome more new Swedes taking up the challenge.

“In Sweden there is a lower threshold to getting involved. All of the parties, except perhaps the Sweden Democrats, have a vision for how they want to improve Sweden, I would encourage all to find their own vision.”

Jones Fur, who is a trained zoologist and self-employed translator, admitted to finding it hard to secure a job when she first arrived in Sweden, but that in many ways her experience differs from other new Swedes.

“In some ways (I see myself as representative for new Swedes), but with my background being from the United States, I have had it a lot easier than some groups and it is very hard to compare my situation with political refugees, for example.”

She identified jobs and learning the language as the keys to finding your feet in Sweden and sought initiatives to break down the barriers to the workplace.

“We have to ensure that new arrivals don’t have to wait to get into the jobs market – if they start working, they meet Swedes and they learn the language.”

Jones Fur does not consider emergence of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrat party as an indication of the failure of mainstream politics, but would like to see the party engaged in a more open debate.

“We need to discuss their policies and break them down on their merits, or rather lack of them,” she said, expressing faith in the resilience of Sweden’s democratic discourse and political system.

“I think it is appalling that they (the Sweden Democrats) are being attacked when they conduct their meetings,” she added.

Jones Fur, who tops the Riksdag list of candidates for the Green Party in Kronoberg county, feels that the environment has taken something of a back seat in the political debate recently and identified the need to “get Sweden back online for the climate issue”, as a core issue in the upcoming election.

“To actually do something and not just use pretty words, we need action on suggestions to tackle the problems that we face,” she said adding, “we need to development incentives to make it cheaper and easier to continue living and to stop living unsustainably.”

Cheryl Jones Fur agreed that the 2010 general election stands to be something of an historic election for Sweden, with the prospect of a second term centre-right government for the first time.

“It could possibly be a major change if this government remains in power and continues on its path of more privatisation and individal responsibility. This excludes a lot of people who can’t handle the responsibility and increases the differences in society.”

While recent opinion polls indicate that the Sweden Democrats could gain seats in parliament, and several politicians warn of political instability as a result, Jones Fur sees little scope for a cooperation between the Green Party and an Alliance government.

“At previous elections we have looked into the possibility of forming a government with the centre parties, but that hasn’t worked. If you compare our manifesto with the Moderates, we have only VAT in common – I just don’t think that they have much to offer us.”

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Bishop’s sermon at the opening of the Riksdag

Stockholm bishop Eva Brunne's sermon addressing racism at the opening of Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, on Tuesday has been the topic of intense discussion. Here is the full text of her words in English.

Bishop's sermon at the opening of the Riksdag

Editor’s Note: The speech was delivered to the assembled members of parliament, the King, Queen and other dignitaries in Stockholm Cathedral on Tuesday, October 5th.

During the speech, the leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats and his 19 parliamentary colleagues stood up and left the church in protest at the subject matter addressed by the bishop.

Åkesson later apologised to the King, but claimed that Brunne’s reference to anti-racism demonstrations held across Sweden the night before left the Sweden Democrats with no choice but to leave.

Brunne later explained that the speech was not specifically directed against any particular party but reflected an interpretation of modern events and developments using the gospel.

Here is the speech, translated in full:

(Texts: The Wisdom of Solomon 7:15-22, I Thessalonians 5:16-24 , Luke 19:37-40)

Congratulations on your mandate. Congratulations to you who have been chosen with confidence. Almost 85 percent, or slightly more than six million people, consider you to be the best equipped to shape a positive present and sound future for us all. It is a great thing to be carried by such a confidence. And the task is given to you collectively. Not for each and every individual. Once chosen you are part of a context where your combined efforts are worth more than the will of each and every individual. After all, is that not how democracy works? It is about raising your gaze from your own interests and put to the public good. To take in Bastuträsk, Tomelilla, Göteborg, Grästorp, Husum and Visby. Politics, in one sense, is taken to mean living together in a city. Then it is also about raising one’s gaze still further, because we do not live only within ourselves. Our task and our responsibility is greater than the borders of the nation. There is a world which needs us – our solidarity, our money and not least our eyes and our voices.

There is much that is demanded of you, but do not lose heart. We are behind you, we who have given you your mandate, to speak on our behalf. Because is that not how democracy works?

We have to listen to the gospel. It was not the Swedish Riksdag that Paul was adressing, but a group of people in the city of Thessaloniki. To them he said: We exhort you to value those who have the heaviest burden among you, those at the fore. Show them respect and appreciation. And he continued with the advice: Don’t quench the Spirit, test all things, and hold firmly to that which is good. These are words also for all of us who have voted, and for all you who have been elected with trust.

Salomon in his wisdom neither wrote of the Swedish Riksdag, but the words could also be addressed to you: God is the guide of wisdom. God leads us on the correct path. For both we and our words are in his hands, as are all understanding and professional skill. Wisdom – she who with her craft has shaped everything. Words of mercy more than of demand. Everything does not rest on myself, nor my party.

When Jesus approached Jerusalem and the disciples allowed their happiness to be heard, a group of farisees asked if Jesus could silence his disciples. One wonders why they could not address the disciples directly. They were, after all, adult human beings. And the answer they received was thus: if these remain silent, the stones will cry out.

What was it that they had experienced on their way. Yes, among other things, a blind man was cured and could live his life fully and whole. And then the meeting with the despised tax collector Zachaeus. He who climbed the tree to be able to see, but perhaps also to hide. To the blind man, Jesus said: What do you want me to do for you? To Zachaeus he said: Come down from the tree, I want to visit your home. The meeting, face to face and eye to eye, in conversation, which made a lifelong impact on the the blind man and Zachaeus. This was what the disciples had experienced. The massive change for the two people. This was why they could not keep their joy to themselves. And if they had been silenced, then the stones would have cried out over the importance of this great change. The transformation which literally became of decisive importance.

It is these changes for people which are a large part of your mission. And in that you should never move far away from us who gave you your mandate that we are unable to you meet face to face, that you never cease from calling someone down from the tree and saying: I want to talk with you. To hear someone’s cry and say: What do you want me to do for you?

We who believe in people’s dignity and equal value, regardless of the country in which we are born, regardless of which gender or age we have, regardless of how our sexuality is expressed, we believe and hope that you continue to have the ability to say: I want to talk to you, and the enduring desire to ask the question: What can I do for you? And feel the great pleasure in the change that this can achieve.

Yesterday evening thousands of people gathered in Stockholm and in various parts of the country to make their voices heard. To call out their disgust at that which divides people. The racism which says that you don’t have as much worth as I do; that you shouldn’t have the same rights as me; aren’t worthy of living in freedom, and that is the only reason – that we happen to born in different parts of our world – that is not worthy of a democracy like ours to differentiate between people. It is not possible for people of faith to differentiate between people. Here it is not sufficient to give a couple of hundred people a mandate to speak on our behalf. Here we have a joint mission. And if anyone remains quiet or is silenced in the fight for human value, then we have to see to it that the stones also cry out. We do this with the help of God.

We have much to do. Cunning, courage and care are required. Feel joy in the mission. Feel the gravity of the mission. Feel the mandate from us. Test all things, and hold firmly to that which is good. Don’t differentiate between people. Feel the grace to rest in the God who created us.

With that in mind, we continue the present, towards the future.

Eva Brunne

Bishop in the diocese of Stockholm

Translation by The Local