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Sweden gets its first cemetery free of religious symbols

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Sweden gets its first cemetery free of religious symbols
Josef Erdem at the neutral cemetery. Photo: Private
11:43 CEST+02:00
A new graveyard in Borlänge in central Sweden is the country's first ever burial place completely free of religious symbolism.

The idea was the brainchild of local teacher Josef Erdem. 

“There's a place on this earth for everybody and we shouldn't be limited in how we choose to live or how we choose to be buried,” he told The Local. 

He sent in a formal application after discussing the idea with local Church of Sweden representatives.

“They approved it and it is they who will maintain the graves,” he said. 

But that's where the church's involvement starts and ends.

“People can decide for themselves what their graves should look like, but the cemetery will be free of all religious and nationalist symbols,” said Erdem. 

He also stressed that the cemetery wasn't just for atheists. Believers too could apply to be buried there, as long as they were happy to keep the religious element of their identity out of sight.   

Located close to the city's Stora Tuna church, the cemetery remains empty for now, but several locals have expressed an interest.

“I don't want a burial place with a stone that needs to be cared for. I also don't want a church burial because I'm not a believer so this suits me great,” teacher Gunnar Lindgren told broadcaster SVT. 

Erdem grew up in Kurdistan where he said his worldview was shaped by having friends from an array of faiths. 

“I've spoken to a lot of people about this, many of them religious, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. 

“In fact the reaction has been positive from religious and non-religious people alike across the country.” 

Anyone opting to be interred in neutral ground in Borlänge can rest assured they'll be in good company: Jussi Björling, one of the 20th century's greatest tenors, is buried in the adjacent church cemetery.

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