Peace, Justice and Human Rights.

Friday, October 23, 2015


In scenic southern Sweden, the global city of Malmö is just across the Øresund bridge from Copenhagen, Denmark.
It's a lovely, bicycle-friendly place with a great beach, lush green parks and romantic waterways.

Historic buildings contrast with modern architectural developments.
The landmark 'Turning Torso' is the tallest building in Scandinavia.
But look a bit deeper.
Malmö is a connection point for refugees arriving at the harbor and central train station, displaced from war-torn countries like Iraq and Syria. The Swedish Migration Agency is registering nearly a thousand new asylum seekers every day.

Tolerant, liberal Sweden took in many refugees from Sarajevo.
The Swedish Red Cross "White Buses" rescued Jews from Nazi concentration camps.

Some Jews say they are leaving Malmö because they no longer feel safe.
More Swedes are becoming uneasy about the rapid increase in refugees.
There has been a rise in racially motivated violence, including arson attacks on shelters. 
The Migration Board has announced that as many as 190,000 refugees will arrive in 2015.

About 20 percent of Malmö is now Muslim, many settling in the neighborhood of Rosengard.
Sweden grants asylum to Syrians.
Despite concerns about integrating refugees, people have rallied to help the new arrivals.
Reading news stories on the radio about refugees from Syria risking their lives to escape the fighting is one thing, but seeing it first hand at a check-in station deeply affected me.
I met a group traveling from the Syrian city of Kobani, where civilians are being massacred.
We had a language barrier, but just looking into the shell-shocked eyes of a young woman with two small children, bundled up, and heading out into the cold night, and on to an unknown future said much more than words.
That is what I will remember most about my trip to Malmö.
 I wonder where that young woman is now.


  1. Great post, Karen. Malmo is beautiful- and not just because it is scenic (it is scenic). It's also beautiful because of how its become a welcome place for refugees. I've never been to Malmo, but I too have heard about how it welcomed refugees during the Holocaust and is welcoming refugees today. I know that there is tension though. As you mentioned, some people have left and there has been violence too. The same has happened in Germany in recent months with attacks on places that hold refugees. Nonetheless, it seems that there is still a welcoming environment overall. What we must remember is our common humanity- and have compassion for one another.

    I also agree that it is one thing to read or hear about what is happening. It's another thing to meet people who have been through the unimaginable. When I visited DC last year, I met a Syrian named Raed Fares. He was shot while in Syria (and his shooter is widely believed to have been an ISIS gunman) and has seen so much. Yet, he continues to smile and is very courageous, as well as strong. I felt in awe at meeting him- and it was a feeling that was indescribable. I felt sadness about what he went through, but also was blown away by his strength. I also felt honored to meet him. I can't imagine how you felt about meeting a young woman from Kobani. I can't imagine also what she went through- both in what she saw in Kobani and the dangers that her and her family endured while escaping. I hope she is all right and I wish her the best....

    Thanks for sharing Karen. I pray for peace in Syria. May peace come.
    I also want to visit Malmo...

  2. Wonderful commentary. Beautiful photos. That is a heart-warming and heart-wrenching story about the woman from Kobani. I hope she is somewhere safe and that she and her family like their new home.


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